New Delhi, 18 September: The Indian Women's Hockey Team Chief Coach Janneke Schopman on Sunday asserted that her team will have to convert even half chances and make them count at the Hangzhou Asian Games,
In a candid conversation on the latest episode of Hockey Te Charcha, a podcast series launched by Hockey India the coach also talked about whether the tag of favourites puts additional pressure on the Indian Women's Hockey Team ahead of the new assignment, which begins on 27th September against Singapore.
"I believe the mindset the players have as an individual and as a team will make the difference. Can we perform under pressure and deal with the circumstances handed over to us? We have talked about this over the past couple of months and what it means to not be the underdogs like we were in Tokyo but being the favourites," Schopman said, before adding, "We have spoken about how people view us and the expectations they have from this team.”
She further said, “We have also addressed what dangers are out there that might cause distraction, and trip us up, and how we can deal with the same. Sometimes, with all the stuff happening around, you forget as a coach and a player that you are just there to play hockey. It is important to enjoy the journey as well. I hope we win; I think we can win but it's life and we might not. As long as we know we were able to control what we can and we were able to play as well as we can as individuals and as a team, then we have to accept the outcome. This is what we are trying to instil in the girls that we just have to play hockey and find a way to work around the pressure."
India are placed in Pool A for the Asian Games along with Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong China and Singapore, while Japan, China, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Indonesia form Pool B
With a chance to secure a direct qualification for the Paris Olympics, India are aiming to finish the tournament with a Gold medal.
Coach Schopman also admitted that the team might face unexpected variables during the tournament but stressed the importance of maintaining communication in the team set-up to fix the tiniest of issues.
"We have obviously spoken about our targets from the tournament but eventually it comes down to nerves and pressure. We have no idea what the Games village would be like, what challenges we may face that we cannot influence, how the food and weather would be like. We have to deal with everything that comes our way and our team is good with that," she said.
"This is why it is important to talk about the smallest of things before each tournament. A player might feel something small but they can be like 'I am not saying because it is tiny', but I have to be like 'just say it, because it might be small now and we can solve it now. But if we don't address it now, it might become big and then we may have a problem'," Schopman opined.
"This is going to be my first time competing in an Asian Games as well. I try to emphasize that you can either go into every tournament believing it is the most important one or believing it's just another tournament. It does not matter whether it is your first time in a tournament or the last time - what matters is that you are here now and you have to make the most of the opportunity and make it count. As a team, that is what we will try to do as well," She said.
India will be entering the Asian Games with a squad that includes veteran players like Deep Grace Ekka, Captain Savita, and Vandana Katariya, among others. However, several newcomers, including Deepika, Vaishnavi Vitthal Phalke, and Bichu Devi, have been given the opportunity to compete in the prestigious multi-sport event for the first time.
About team selection, Schopman said, "I think it's a testament to the entire group of 34 players who were part of the National Camp that it is always difficult to select the final squad of 18 players. The Senior players are still consistently performing and the Junior players are constantly knocking on the door. Hence, every time we have to select a team, it gets tougher," Schopman added.