Having come in with loads of experience and a fair amount of understanding about Indian hockey Graham Reid is still coming to terms with the ‘culture’ here since taking charge two months ago. That is a word he repeatedly goes back to when trying to explain the Indian team, the players, the system and the challenges he faces as coach.
“I still need to come to terms with the Indian culture. Culture is a really important part not only of any country but also the team. And you can also have a sub-culture which is different from the outside culture. We need to build a culture of being comfortable enough to perform when it matters but also understand that your performance affects others in the team. We will work that out in the next few months on what we stand for. The team first mentality is what you need,” he said in an exclusive interaction with Sportstar here on Saturday.
The cultural challenges are the crux of his plans for the side, both on and off the field. They are also one of the reasons he is still trying to sort out the switching on-switching off issues in the side, something he struggles to explain but has realised are the biggest hurdle to winning consistently.
“Back-to-back games are the hardest because the result of the previous game lingers on. It could be a loss from which you can bounce back and go full on in the next. But sometimes, after a big win, you just dismantle.
“Against Poland, one of the difficult things I had to get them over was the previous result between the two when India won 10-0 (against Russia). So a lot of players were still in that mindset. Switching off happens when you either take it too easy or are distracted from what you need to be doing at that time,” he tried to explain.
Indian players celebrate the 3-1 win over Poland. Photo: PTI
It was all in the mind, he insisted, but wasn’t sure about engaging a full-time psychologist for the team just yet. “Sports psychology is more about getting the guys to understand they can count on each other when the chips are down. In Australia, the mateship is inherent in the culture. Here, I need to work out who we can get and how we can work with them but we have to ensure they fit,” he said.
The one thing he did agree on with his predecessor Harendra Singh was the emphasis on education. “Doing only one thing does affect. There are definitely things on the table. If you build a better person, you build a better player because they are more able to handle different things thrown at them.”
Missing Pro League not a deterrent
Asked about India suffering due to lack of top-level matches by not playing the Pro League, Reid went back to his Australian experience. “As coaches, our job is to create a training environment that is equal to the top level of competition. Before the 2014 World Cup we were training by ourselves in Perth and our training matches were 40 per cent above what we actually ended up playing, that’s the level you need to be training at,” he insisted.
Reid felt any of the nations from the ongoing Pro League and India can win the Olympics but cautioned there were no guarantees. “It could be a top-four target but it’s such a difficult thing. Only around 60 per cent of world champions win an Olympic gold. I want it to be achievable but it is important to get people to believe that we can get there,” he signed off.