Hockey

Hockey India Must Shift Focus Towards Nurturing Talent At Grassroots Level: MM Somaya

The Indian women's team, which finished a creditable fourth at the Tokyo Games in 2021, could not qualify for Paris after disappointing outings at the Asian Games and the Olympic Qualifiers

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Players in action during a Mt. Carmel Rink Hockey Tournament match in Bandra, 2022. Photo: X (Viren Rasquinha)
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Disappointed at the women's team's failure to make the Paris Olympics, former captain M M Somaya wants Hockey India to primarily focus on grassroots, including launching academies and competitive leagues at the U-12 level. (More Hockey News)

The Indian team, which finished a creditable fourth at the Tokyo Games in 2021, could not qualify for Paris after disappointing outings at the Asian Games and the Olympic Qualifiers.

"Our focus must shift towards nurturing talent at the grassroots level. Establishing academies and competitive leagues for aspiring players should ideally commence at the under-12 stage," Somaya said in the latest episode of 'Hockey Te Charcha'.

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"Many existing academics initiate programs only at the under-16 level, which is a delayed start. We must prioritise evaluating the performances of young talents identified at the age of 12 when they reach the under-16 level, emphasising continuous improvement strategies."

Somaya was a member of the Indian team that won the gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, while captaining the squad in the 1988 Games in Seoul.

"Another crucial aspect of talent identification is the geographical concentration from limited regions, primarily Haryana, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab.

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"However, numerous untapped pockets across India are rich with talent. Ensuring equal opportunities, exposure, and proper coaching becomes imperative.

"To address this, we must expand our reach from the grassroots, casting a wider net and engaging players at a younger age. This comprehensive approach is vital for long-term development and success."

Somaya expressed disappointment over the missed opportunity but stressed on addressing some areas, like penalty corner conversions and injuries to the core players.

"We boast a talented lineup of players, yet a critical aspect that warrants attention is our performance in crucial moments, notably during the Asian Games and Olympics Qualifiers.

"Finishing, particularly in penalty corners, has been an area where we fell slightly short. Despite facing the setback of missing key players in the Qualifiers in Ranchi due to injuries, we acknowledge that this should not serve as an excuse.

"It underscores the need for focused improvement and strategic planning to address these challenges effectively.

"However, I believe, women's hockey has come up in leaps and bounds over the last four to six years. Even after the Tokyo Olympics, where they finished fourth, they have played some very good hockey," he said.

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