5:30 am alarm buzzing; I got up quickly and was looking forward to the Fitness Test in the National junior hockey training camp Lahore, we had no idea which test is coming up, well after the warmup, we divided into groups where we were going to complete twelve rounds of a hockey pitch in 12 mins which will decide our overall fitness, anyways my test went well, and it could be better if I know about the basics of S&C (Strength and Conditioning) and sports nutrition.
In the entire training camp what we do in the morning session is distance running and running 40 laps of the hockey pitch with the pace and every day one lap increase. The training load is increasing not the rest time or calories intake the same general food we use to have at home, no pre-post training meal or any supplements.
Well, the camp is finished, and luckily I have been selected to represent Pak Jr Team for the first time and you know what we have won this five-match series against England with my goal in the final game.
In my Int-playing career, I have been coached by so many coaches, but unfortunately, I never got a chance to be coached by S&C or any other fitness professional who could educate me, identify my weak areas, help me to improve my athletic abilities and allow me to understand my potential.
Well, I have played a few years for my country and in those years what I have seen is every coach have a different hockey philosophy which I found very interesting. Still, the funny thing was their fitness philosophy which always made me confuse.
A lot of people know my story about how I was dropped from the system. I can’t tell you how depressing it was when you are giving your best in everything. You have shown your improvement through your performance and how I become a victim of the bogus system where no one helps you to bring out your best, I have been in the system for 7 years and I have seen what this bogus and fake system does with the senior players and I was pretty convinced that I’m not going to try again in this slavery system. and I want to enjoy my hockey and I want to become a sports professional and that was the one reason I put my self in coaching and fitness studies.
I’m not the only one who has gone through this terrible phase there is a long list including Sohail Abbas, Salman Akber, Shakeel Abbasi, Kashif Jawad, Zeeshan Ashraf etc when I see these names then I feel my pain is nothing as compared to theirs, how sad is that after playing more the 100-300 games for your country these player’s career ended with disrespect.
Unfortunately, from that time onwards we had no S&C (Strength and Conditioning) specialists who could give us basic knowledge and educate us on how to identify our weak areas and how to improve our TOTAL FITNESS which will help to bring the best out of us and prolong our playing career.
Experience in any sport counts a lot, Roger Federer, Glenn McGrath, Teun de Nooijer, Delmee, Brent Livermore, Jami Dwyer, Barry Middleton etc. Are having a successful and long career. Oh, how I forgot the wall of ARG man’s Hockey team Juan Manuel Vivaldi, he is 40 years of age and still representing his country since 2001 he is fit and still maintaining his total fitness with the help of their S&C professionals.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan when players become experienced, and they have got a better understanding of the game then our selection committee starts raising questions on senior player’s fitness and compare them with 18-24 years old players, I mean how they can do that when they never brought any system or a basic understanding of human performance how sad is that when player ready to serve and utilise their experience and exposure, this system chucks them out. I have witnessed how they disrespect the senior players in the front of their juniors and the worst part is this system even don’t bother to say goodbye with respect and appreciate their services.
This is one of the reasons behind Pakistan hockey’s downfall.
A lot of people will not agree with me that Pakistan Hockey federation focused a lot on modern or FIH high-performance hockey system which is good. Still, they have failed to create a right balance between High-performance hockey and human performance. I’m not going to open the overall development programme because we never had any as our Ex Olympians and few politicians think they can bring Pakistani hockey back with their so-called talent hunt schemes etc. and one sector believes we should bring the League model, I’m not against these suggestions but my mind is not buying these ideas at all because, in the end, we need a system, we need a structure, we need those professionals who have an understanding of talent identification and can develop this talent in the right way but what we do with these 1000 of talented players? would you like to hear the bitter truth? We do nothing we set high hopes with them and start expecting too much from them, resulting in significant pressure on players which killed their talent.
“Talent win games but not championships.”
If you see some stats of Pakistan hockey team, then you will see foreign coaches made a massive difference in the team performance in a short period of time. If you collect some data from their tenure, you will realise that they have focused on Team and individual’s TOTAL FITNESS including physical assessments, tracking their fitness and performance, feedback system, remodelling eating habits, giving knowledge of sports nutrition providing an awareness of mental fitness, the utilisation of team and group video sessions (Visual Teaching Methods), creating a learning environment where players asking questions without any fear or hesitation because players know they are accountable for their given jobs, and make a balanced relationship between the coaching staff and players, creating a trustworthy environment which allows players to learn and play without fear of mistake and start enjoying when I say enjoying it means they are improving their performance and TOTAL fitness the most important they give respect, When we assemble all these little pieces and go to the books, then we will find the fundamentals of training principle, of team sports and Coaching. #Professionalism
I know I just knocked on the door of a massive debate; Pakistan has a couple of highly qualified, experienced and well-reputed coaches but they are working with other national or domestic teams how sad is that I have already explained this matter in my previous blog, there is no room for professionals in Pakistan hockey because of Olympian mafia.
Let’s get back to the topic if we see our neighbour India, they are doing well in the region at the moment their men’s team in the top 5s, they have won the recent Junior World Cup and their Women’s team qualified for the Olympics. So, I was looking at their overall structure and system I was amazed I didn’t find any Ex Olympians/Politician or selection committee drama in the current system, they are following the philosophy of “Team Behind The Team” professional setup and which linked to each other following the long term approach, I’m not going in the debate of local coaches vs foreign coaches this is another topic.
If we go back in 2008-9 Hockey India appointed Spanish Coach Mr Jose Barca what he did, he spent months on their basics only (including dribbling), he changed Indian dribbling into rolling the ball, and guess who is in the camp? Sardar Singh, SV Sunil etc. imagine how frustrating for players like Sardara, meanwhile, Mr Barca brings Jesus Garcia Pallares the Spanish human performance analyst, who is helping and educating players, he spent hours and hours to work on the techniques and training systems, since then hockey India appointed so many foreign coaches and each coach bring one fitness experts but I found very interesting the appointment of Mr Robin Arkell the Head Strength and Conditioning coach of Sr. Men Hockey India, and the second appointment was Wayne Lombard Scientific Coach (FAP) who is working with their Women’s team, I admire both of them especially Robin who has been working with the rugby team earlier before taking the charge, he adjusts himself in a new culture quite well and utilising his top rugby experience in their system, he is the man who created a right balance I mean he transformed the players fitness which makes a huge difference and makes hockey coach’s life easier, I think he got the one advantage the players have a solid base of S&C understanding because they have been working and learning from different fitness experts which really helps him to take this group to the next level.
The second thing I would say is PHL and HIL where top players around the world were mixing up in the different teams and playing with the Indian players which allow Indian players to take their hesitation out and bring their confidence up while playing in the same team and against, also make a great relationship with them. Where they can enjoy hockey and discuss and share their hockey culture, this environment gives a boost of the confidence and players start believing in themselves.
In the same time, Indian media playing their role too I mean they making players bigger they bringing players in a lime lite and if I compare Pak sports media is working hard to get a tour from PHF and there are some decent sports journalist who still trying to play their role but this olympian mafia is quite strong that’s why Olympion mafia always in a lime lite rather then-current players.
When I present this Indian model then the argument came “Hockey India has huge funds” then I say what about Japanese Hockey Success? They are the real dark horse in the region they are Continent Champions and they have qualified for the Olympics on their performance which shows there is some system is running successfully.
I agree finance is an essential aspect, but what happened to the Malaysian side then? they spent huge funds recently.
Oh! Quick reminder Iran men’s indoor hockey team won the bronze medal in the recent indoor World Cup, and what about Southafrican Hockey team where players use their own funds when they travel with the national side, common please look at the Ireland Women’s hockey team’s journey of recent World Cup.
In short, I think, we need to be very honest with our national game, tell the truth and accept the reality, there is no other way to bring Pakistan Hockey back on track until we start telling the truth to this nation, we should get rid of all those fake and unprofessionals people from the system who are continuously misguiding the authorities with the help of their political or other influences.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result” Albert Einstein
I firmly believe if we start from scratch and develop a robust structure with low funds with long-term approach than we can get there where we want to be, this isn’t rocket science at all.
In my next blog, I’ll explain the advantages of the physical and skills assessment and Identification of talent, where I’ll share my personal experience and give you some suggestions and ideas how we can start building a solid base at a grassroots level.