Supriya Saxena, New Delhi:
We are too close to the royal onset of CWG 2022, the players and the coaches the mentors are all set to execute the best of their learnings, and to share this with us we have with us the Indian Hockey team coach Janneke Schopman, Defender Monika Malik and Nikki Pradhan, the midfielder…welcome to the show…
My first question is for Mona: Please take us through the memory of the world cup, that Newzealand where all of you were in tears, u played outstandingly…was it the real Chak de moment emotionally..take us through the whole campaign.
Answer: I would say as we played from the first match very well as we are very combined and we play as a team from the starting from the beginning of the tournament with England and with china and further and I just say with the New Zealand match yeah it’s very hard to match and we all know that New Zealand is one of the good teams so we fought very well in that match and unfortunately we didn’t score in the pieces we have a lot of pcs and very much we are very much in their circle more than them and as you saw the matches and yeah we will work on our pieces then that’s it I think the performance was very good I think.
My second question is with Nikki: Hi Nikki, so how is the mood and spirits of the team as we are now heading towards CWG Again?
Answer: Right now we have had a good performance in the tournament. We played our game aggressively in the tournament. Our passing was good. We just couldn’t score. We are definitely working on that.
moving on to my next question to coach Janneke: very quickly can u take us to the performance in the world cup, especially the penalty corners, ur loopholes on which u need to really work?
Answer: I think our performance in the world cup was in terms of outcomes not good enough because we created actually a lot of pcs which is good and that is something that we are also not used to but our execution failed. I think there are many reasons that we struggled with the field a little bit with our injections. I think it’s a different field than we typically train on and that’s something we had to adjust to and I don’t think we adapted that well and then I think it has to do with just being perfect in your execution and that’s something we look to focus on in the next couple of weeks also prior to the start of the commonwealth games saying that it’s we’re not the only country struggling so the field I do think had a major role in it.
I think the Netherlands only scored their tenth penalty corner in the semi-final. so yeah that there is there was you know a matter of circumstances but saying that I take full responsibility saying it needs to be better and we need to train it differently so we can execute better.
Question: Coach did the absence of senior players like rani had an impact on the overall caliber of the team?
Answer: I don’t think it’s a very relevant question, to be honest players that aren’t here yeah I can’t comment we talked about it before the tournament and I was very pleased with the 18 and 20 actually that was at the world cup and of course, their performance is not always consistent and there are improvements needed but I feel that the group that was there performed to the best of their ability.
Question: When you spoke about better execution and better results how do you ensure this?
Answer: I think like as with every skill it’s about a multitude of things I feel that we did focus on the areas already it’s just about fine-tuning it and understanding a little bit better individually where we are at with our individual skills understanding a little bit better how we have to play against teams that are playing defensively you see a small transition happening when we play. Teams now that these teams prefer to play more defensively than in the past where we would maybe be the team that played more defensively and the other teams would attack and we had actually a lot of space to attack but you see in the games actually against china but also against England and later in the tournament against Canada also that these teams are quite happy just defending their own 25 and that means there are 11 people around the circle and I think as a team we have to get used to it mentally that. we have less space to attack so we have to learn that if we have more of the ball how we can uh do more with it as well so overall I think this tournament has shown us that we’re on the right way but that yeah we have to now fine-tune some of our skills in relation to how other teams approach us.
Question: Tough campaign, we heard u say that learning how to deal with pressure, is the biggest takeaway for u for the tournaments.
Answer: Yes for sure I think uh you know when you come into a tournament and we’ve trained very hard uh you never know what pressure does to you as an individual I think as a team we dealt with it really well and that is something that I think yeah i’m quite happy with the other end there is pressure on you as an individual especially if the performance that you have envisioned maybe for yourself at the start of a tournament is not really how it’s going so finding those solutions and understanding that this is what I can bring to the team and this is a little bit more difficult uh I i felt like um yeah or players actually individually made some good steps during this tournament figuring out you know what actually yeah happens to me as i said in that huddle what does pressure do and I thought that Canada game for example was an example where yeah of course we struggled because we were disappointed after the the pain game um but we had to show up and we did and we didn’t give up and i think that’s something that I uh i was very proud as a coach.
Question: Coach: in terms of taking learnings from the Spain match and then applying to the Canada match…and now CWG….how u keep analyzing and working on mistakes?
Answer: I think we had a little bit less time preparing and of course, you have to deal with the disappointment and I think I speak for myself but you can ask the players also like disappointment was huge because again in the pain game as in actually every game in the tournament we also had the opportunity to win and not by luck but just because of how the game developed. So what I take away from the Spain game is yeah the few or the few chances we have for some reason in this tournament we struggled to convert whether it’s a penalty corner or it’s a field uh chance we defended quite well except maybe in that last a few seconds in the game and the only the thing you can do then is get yourself back up again so I told the players also look you’re sad I’m sad I was also very sad after the Spain game and you can be disappointed but look we have to play again in 24 hours and we said now and tomorrow morning we’ll focus on Canada and that’s tough but we can do these things we know how how to play and we know how to fight together and we’ll show that we can keep going.
Question: Coach: we know how integral Sharmila has been to the attacking setup of our team, but last few months she has struggled in terms of output..ur thoughts.
Answer: I think you know every player when you start your career you you can do anything wrong and you don’t expect anything of yourself and I think shamila is now in that phase where she’s played 30 40 caps where everything doesn’t come naturally anymore and she starts thinking about things and when you start thinking about things then it not doesn’t necessarily go well and she’s now in that struggle where I think every player has been and she needs to learn how to get out of her struggle and i think her teammates are helping her a lot by supporting her and and encouraging her and yeah during throughout the tournament, I’ve had a couple of talks with her and spoke to her and asked her to really start thinking and investigating okay why do I you know feel what I feel and yeah we had a very productive meeting at the end of the world cup and I feel like you know the solutions will be there uh how quickly they will uh show let’s see uh but shamila’s always someone that works also very hard for the team and the mindset change also has to be in our team like we work hard yes everyone needs to work hard but that is not a qualification for playing uh to your strengths so playing working hard is something everyone needs to do and she always does and I’m very happy with that but her mindset change is also like just working hard doesn’t mean I’m playing well i need to do more and I think she’s getting there.
Question: On the same note, my next question to Coach: what have been ur preparations for CWG since u have reached the UK…your first step.
Answer: The players might be better to end so we’re literally here not even 12 hours or maybe just about 12 hours 24 hours I mean it’s hot yeah it’s hot it’s 35 40 degrees but um you know it is what it is and we’re used to it we’ve trained in uber nash why we played games in that heat with worse humidity and we haven’t seen the actual field in Birmingham because we’re in Nottingham right now so as always we’ll make the best of the circumstances whatever they might be.
Question: do u retrieved any positives from the world cup?
Answer: I think there’s a lot like I said I think before the tournament we knew we were in a tough pool and that everyone can beat everyone but you know disappointing to see where we finished but for me, we’re 90 95 where we want to be as a team and like I said I was very happy with this to see how the team in every game um played as a unit and fought together and they never gave up and that is something that for me is so so important and I think that we yeah one of the players said to me after the tournament we win as a team but we also lose as a team and very often what happens in teams is that if you lose then it becomes an individual thing and I feel like we’ve come stronger together um the girls have put everything in what they have and you know as a coach then it’s just about uh accepting that you don’t always get the outcome you might want or you do want and and and let’s keep it in the middle if we deserve it. I think we’re very close to winning in any of the games we played in not one game we were definitely the team that should be the losing team and yeah that means that we’re getting close to where we want to be and hopefully in the future we win more games than we lose but in the end, we can’t always control the outcome but we can control our performance and while we leave it out there on the field and I’m very happy with what we’ve shown and look there’s always stuff to improve but I’m really happy with um with what we showed and how he showed up.
My next question is with mona could u plz tell me how is ur preps going on for CWG and ur learnings?
Mona Answer: Yeah definitely like we played in the world cup we just keep doing the things as we did in the world cup we did a lot of good things there and how we learn a lot of things after losing the pre-quarters how to play under pressure with the pressure games and we did a lot of good things in the world cup how like the attacking game we are playing now we are more times as compared to the other opponents we are more numbers in their circles and we create a lot of pcs yeah definitely we work on our pc attack and where we can like with the field also like janekke said already there is a failed issue but now we just see here how are the field and we working on our pc where we can execute more as individual skills and the same spirit as we played in the world cup we are going through the next tournament in the CWG games and yeah we are just staying on our principles whatever we learn from the previous world cup and where we work on we showed in the next.
Question: coach you are a straight shooter so what is your hockey philosophy and how did you develop it is there any ideal form to the way you want your team to play hockey or do you rather look to adapt the players you have?
Answer: Well thank you for the question it’s very interesting and I think your observation is very accurate this is who I am. I am a straight shooter you can ask the players now what I said is for me I like to think of myself as a team player and someone that you know does whatever it takes and currently I’m the coach and I’m a facilitator for them so I need to do whatever I need to do to make sure they can perform to the best of their ability. at the same time, I expect the same from them so i think uh it doesn’t matter if you’re junior senior I want you to learn more about yourself I want you to leave everything out there on the field and if you feel like you can’t do anything I think you still can and I’m encouraging and supporting them to really you know show up and show what they have in them and then what is the interesting part is that they really start understanding this is my strength this is what I’m good at this is what I should contribute and if that is using your 3d skills to eliminate someone that’s what you should do if it’s winning the ball from the other opponent because you’re a good defender that is what you should do and with all that for me the DNA of Indian hockey is crucial and that the girls play the way they want to play because that’s court to their heart and its core to their senses and I hope that that’s a little bit what you start seeing because I do think we’re good on the ball we can play some very nice attacking hockey at the same time we’re also very resilient in our defense and yeah I want to play to you know India’s strengths and the girls strengths.
Question: Coach few weeks before the commonwealth games it was the world cup given a short span of time how do you reset yourself?
Answer: I’m honest and I think the players can also inform you like it’s tough because you don’t get what you want but i felt like you know as a team I was really happy how we how we finished that tournament and then it took a lot of energy and effort but against japan you know it was a good team performance and also a good individual performance where I thought that all our players were showing themselves so for me what was really crucial is that the two days three days after that i took some time for myself and I purposely had the players also have some time for themselves and to do and hit that reset button because yeah individually I felt like I was tired i was mentally a little bit you know yeah all over the place for the lack of a better word and I really needed two days to just get my head wrapped around things and start focusing again on the commonwealth games so yeah then you know after two-three days we had a meeting and we discussed in detail individually and as a team this is what we want to do this is how we’re going to do it and you know the the the girls are great that way and they want to work work hard and then they’re ready to go again and I know they can.
Question: Mona and Nikki if you can talk about the psychological and mental strength training you guys get how did it help you rebuild yourself from a great loss?
Monika Answer: Like we learn from janekke also like I can say that we learn a lot of things even off the field from janekke like she’s very very very strong like I cannot compare with the men also like she is pretty strong and we learn a lot of things with from her like how she taught like whenever we play a match and now you can see the girls are playing fearless like they don’t have any fear when they get the ball in the middle and we like you saw the previous matches we just go from sidelines and we entered the circle with the like very less so now we can play in the middle any girl like every player is able to play fearlessly in the middle of the field and we can transfer the ball. How we are connected with each other and these things like we built it starts from the camps where we learn these things like sometimes we are not good enough in the training also then we have an invention meeting with the coach and she taught us a lot of things like how do you have to deal with these things like as a senior player or as a junior player and she how she tells us how to connect with their with our teammates like some seniors and juniors now we have a good bonding with each other we don’t have like these things like seniors and juniors now we are all on the same page and we connected. even in the Spain team also like we played a lot of very good match and they just keep defending in their circle like janneke already explained to you like many teams are just depending with their 11 in their 25 so we have very less time to take a shot so we can create PC and we did there and these are the big things like after losing Spain match we bounce back like we that time we are very very upset with the things like with lost and but after that night we just hit the button on like we have to go for the next match with Canada.
Question: Coach If we look forward to the Asian games given that you played china and japan and what’s your biggest takeover for the commonwealth games?
Answer: Yeah look I think you know coming into uh into Asian as a into Asia as a coach myself i always feel like Asia versus Asia is a different dynamic and I’m slowly getting used to it I think you know the last game against japan i think was a huge improvement from when we played them in oman and not necessarily just in terms of um outcome but also in terms of mindset and I feel that the biggest thing for us is that we play from our own strengths and start understanding what the other teams want uh whether it’s china japan or korea and that we need to learn maybe to also be yeah looked at maybe as the highest ranked team in Asia and maybe yeah play to our strengths and not being busy with oh what can they do I do think china has certain strengths that are very difficult to defend same with japan but like for me in this world cup it showed that you know china was quite happily just defending and when they scored that one goal you know it’s going to be tough but in that game, we were able to also fight ourselves back into that game and against japan, I think the same thing they scored the first pull but actually afterward and before also but we start playing Moki and we create enough and i think that that’s the key lesson for us is that if we play to our strengths it doesn’t really matter and and we can be better than than than the other teams in Asia despite their strengths.
Question: Coach recently you spoke about penalty corners execution is this a matter of putting more minutes before the match and training sessions to improve?
Answer: I do think that under pressure like against New Zealand we played two or three variations that didn’t we didn’t execute well and for me, that as a coach is very frustrating because I think we spend enough time in training doing it at the same time in training there’s no pressure and then you see that with critical parts uh like a penalty corner the pressure can be of influence whether it’s me not trapping a ball versus i I actually completely forgot what my role is in this penalty corner um so with that respect I think we talked about it and the girls actually came themselves with a lot of good solutions to improve and and whether it’s focusing on your individual skill to train it more deliberately with defenders to yeah looking at our skills like I said and saying look I’m actually not comfortable doing this variation or maybe it’s better that good learn to say I need this trapper and I need this inserter because then I know that i perform better and I have more confidence that my fleet goes on wall at the same time it’s all about taking responsibility and I think um yeah grace did that in the japan game in multiple ways and converting her penalty corner so there’s growth there as well and there’s more to come especially because of the pressure part.
Question: coach’s next question is you said once new Zealand is an unknown quantity do you think that somewhere it affected the game in the world cup?
Answer: I don’t think so I’m not really any way I think New Zealand was just very good in what they were doing and we yeah made some errors and in that game uh, for example, our penalty corner defense was not where it needed to be and um that’s unfortunate because um I think overall we defended quite well so I wouldn’t say that we know their style and we know how they want to play but I think in the third and fourth quarters we were all over them and I yeah in another game you use for one or two more and days for well hopefully one or two less from their few chances and it’s a different game so no not really I think new Zealand is a very good team they’re a very dangerous team I always have thought that they’re they don’t need many chances to score and you know they’re hard to contain because they like to play and make the field very big and they love to play with a lot of turnover moments so it’s very hard to control that game.
Question: How important will the performance of Savita be in the team and which Savita is better captain Savitar or goalkeeper Savita?
Answer: First of all I think you should ask that question to the players as she is their captain but I can only comment that everyone’s performance is important so savvy is also important and she knows as I told her many times that first, she’s a player and then she’s a captain and it’s also about her performing to her own ability and she knows that very well and I think this savvy is better just because we’re a year ahead and she’s learning and she’s growing and she’s becoming a better player and she’s a good leader.
Question: Nikki you have been with the team for a longer period of time so your experience.
Answer: Our defense in this World Cup was very good. We defended well throughout the tournament. We will continue this further.
Question to Coach: Once said that you hate losing so how hungry is this team the India men’s team has talked about they have a history they have medals they have had a lot of success in the past but the women’s team is at the starting point in a sense so are they even hungrier for the success
Answer: I know again it’s a better question to ask the player I hate losing but I think you have two players in this press conference that also hates losing and you know they can get quite grumpy uh if it doesn’t go their way whether it’s in training and we’re playing to win in competition day or in a normal game I think it’s it’s part of life and um as I said you can hate losing and we do everything we can it’s just we need to make sure that we’re not afraid of losing because then that’s where it’s going wrong so we just have to play and yeah we can lose its part of the sport so but we want to win always.
Question to Coach: but you hate losing so what’s your vision for the team this time?
Answer: well listen I hate losing so I want to win so I’ll do anything in my power to make sure the team is in the best position to win and for me, that means that I have to prepare them well in training mentally physically but also yeah for me my role in the game is to call the right penalty corners and I also said like in a New Zealand game at one point I also got frustrated with myself more or less not with them with myself that you know I just wasn’t calling the right pc and I wasn’t helping them and it’s yeah that’s on me and I know that plays a role also so yeah I have to take responsibility to make sure that they can uh be in the best position in a poor position to have a win in whatever game it is.
Question: Coach do you think that the midfield has to be more aggressive?
Answer: No I don’t think so like i said I think or midfielders the same way are trying to have we had Jyoti and sonica by the way playing their first major tournament and I was actually quite happy with how they did and but they’re also on this learning curve and as is every midfielder and I think slowly but surely everyone starts understanding what their strength is and if you ask Monna she’ll know what her strength is and what she needs to bring to the team regardless of the game and yeah that is also part of it part of it is aggressive but if i would look at my midfield and say it’s not aggressive enough not my I wouldn’t agree I would say no I think we did a lot of things well but I think every player whether it’s Monna and avni, sunny jyoti, salima they know what their strengths and how they can put themselves in the best position to contribute to the team and i think the world cup was definitely not a wasted opportunity because with all these games we learned more about ourselves and we learned more about our team and we’ll be the better for it and unfortunately when there are 16 teams in a tournament only one is going to win and in women’s hockey very often it’s still the Netherlands so uh you know and i do believe talking to all the other coaches that the rest of the world is quite close and yeah maybe next time it does and maybe it is not and we have to be honest and we have to be better and we’re trying to be better.
Question: are we ever going to see the Netherlands being toppled in the future?
Answer: It’s anything up to me and our players i think yes but listen they’re good and I think if we played to the best of our performance in the commonwealth it’s still possible that we lose because Australia has a good team because other teams are also good we can’t just say oh we will beat them or we will win a medal like i said I think Netherlands is beatable but they have a lot more talent on average than any other team in the world and that means that they don’t have to be perfect to win when they’re perfect they win and for us it’s the challenge to be better and to become closer to perfect and then we can challenge them for sure and I know for a fact that the Netherlands doesn’t really like to play us because it’s different than what they’re used to and I think that’s the complements left and right sometimes we got from other countries also there is progress we’re making progress and yeah it goes with ups and downs and uh I’m happy where we’re headed as a team and as an individual as well.
Thank you so much for your time the trio Janneke Schopman, Defender Monika Malik, and Nikki Pradhan. Best Of luck for the commonwealth games.