Indian men's hockey coach Graham Reid said that keeping the players focussed and putting distractions down to a minimum amid the raging global crisis caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 is one of the top priorities for the staff. The contingent is currently at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bengaluru as part of the four-week national camp.
"I'm not sure the world has seen anything of this kind, everybody is in uncharted territory," Reid told IANS. "With social media there is a lot more information but with it also comes misinformation so it is really important to keep things in perspective, trying to minimise the distractions for the players is definitely important for us.
"From the point of view of the Indian hockey team, we are training in Bengaluru and we are two weeks into a four-week camp. SAI has limited access to the campus and that seems to be getting stricter and stricter.
"We are planning things like volleyball and tennis tournaments. We of course have some good facilities here in SAI for that. As you know, the younger generation is very comfortable with their IPads and the Internet so that's good. The food is first class, the staff is screened whenever they come back after going out for any purpose. From a coaching point of view everything is good."
Reid said that organising tournaments for sports outside of hockey is one of the ways they are trying to keep the players on the ball considering the fact that they are away from their families for a prolonged period. However, he also feels that the Indian players are better adapted to this aspect of the situation than those from other countries.
"They are used to being in this sort of situation -- being away from family, speaking to them through phones," he said. "We have two or three in the group that have kids. It is not really new territory in that way. These guys are much more used to this kind of a situation than those from other countries.
"We also need to keep coming up with different ways to keep them amused which is why we are planning stuff like volleyball tournaments."
India's preparation for the Tokyo Olympics revolves around the matches they get to play in the 2020 FIH Pro League. India are scheduled to play two matches against Germany in Berlin on April 25 and 26. However, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) announced that it has put all matches until April 15 on hold to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic has also put a question mark over whether the Olympics itself can be held as scheduled from the end of July in Tokyo.
Reid said that the coaching staff last week analysed the various scenarios that they could be faced with in the coming months. "Last week we sat down and worked out a few scenarios -- if we don't go to Germany or Spain what does our programme look like. It could lead to changes in periodisation which means for example instead of a tough week, we might design an easier schedule and leave the tough for later. The lack of competitions is always a concern but the good thing is that everyone will be in the same boat," he said.
Reid said that the Indian team is better off compared to the situation with other teams. "I'm in constant touch with Maximiliano Caldas, the Netherlands coach; they don't even have access to the team because they are in quarantine for three weeks. At least for us we can still be training so when the Olympics go ahead in July we are hopeful that we can be prepared for it," he said.
Reid said that holding inter-squad matches becomes important in this situation and the staff is planning to hold a tournament which replicates the schedule at the Olympics. "Coming up over the next month or so we are planning a tournament to replicate the Olympics -- playing 8 games in 13 days and we'll be picking four different combinations for that," he said.
Currently, they are trying to show the players how important the inter squad matches are. "We can make these games as competitive as normal matches and so we will be trying to ramp it up. We have 32 players in the squad which means we can have two full teams," he said.
For now, the squad are training with the assumption that the Olympics will be held as scheduled. The hockey tournament of Tokyo 2020 will be held from July 25 to August 7 with India facing New Zealand in their first match on the opening day.
"If or when they make a decision on the Olympics, it will change in a major way then," said Reid. "For now, the only thing we can do is go forward on the basis of information from the IOC and the Indian government and Hockey India. As a coach it is really important that you paint the picture of what your training environment should look like. We have to keep that positive outlook on everything. The scenarios or the schedule if needed will change as and when we keep getting more and more information," said Reid.
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