Asian Games 2018: Harendra Singh imposing his brand of 'punishments' to weed out callousness, enforce discipline in hockey team

Bengaluru: At the upcoming Asian Games, expect the Indian men's hockey team to be as disciplined as an army battalion. That's because of the unique ways India coach Harendra Singh is employing during the national team's camp to enforce discipline and weed out callousness.

Penalties for infringements at the men's national camp range from doing push-ups for a foul during training to walking around with a player on your back for other indiscretions.

There are also steep financial sanctions for things like wearing the wrong training jersey or coming late to sessions. While most of the sanctions are Harendra's ideas, some of them come from former Australian drag-flicker Chris Ciriello, who works with the Indian team as the analytical coach.

Simranjeet Singh dons the rooster hat during a team lunch. Image courtesy: Amit Kamath

Simranjeet Singh dons the rooster hat during a team lunch. Image courtesy: Amit Kamath

"Doing something wrong carries a severe penalty of Rs 500. This doesn’t just apply to the players. Even support staff are fined for such errors," says Harendra, who says till date he himself has had to cough up Rs 2,500 in fines.

"If training starts at 8.55 am and I reach at 8.57 am, I have to pay," the Indian national coach says.

Explaining the rationale behind the punishments, Harendra says, “It’s not just to discipline the players. If 10 of your teammates are doing something right, and you are doing something else, then this serves as a reminder that you have to act as per the team's thinking."

But the most creative sanction seems to be the rooster hat — Harendra’s own creation — which erring players will have to wear in public at all times when not training during national camps.

“The rooster hat is something I had enforced in the junior Indian team as well. Agar aap kuch funny karenge ya aisa kuch karenge jo team ke environment ke liye theek nahin hain ya jane anjane main kuch karte hain, toh aapko ye hat pehena padega jab tak koi aur kuch funny nahin karta (If you do something comical in training or do something that is detrimental to the environment of the team, or make a funny mistake, you get to wear the hat until someone else does the same. Then you pass on the hat to them),” says Harendra.

"We make the players wear this so we can tell even from a distance that this player has done a bewakoofi wali cheez (something stupid) today," he says.

Harendra gives an example of what ‘bewakoofi wali cheez’ can earn you the rooster hat. "The other day, one of our players was going to start the play. But the ball went in one direction while the player went another and fell. On video, the incident looks comical, but it cost his team the possession and hurt the side."

"Yeh topi hasne ke liye bhi hai, aur seekhne ke liye bhi (This hat is a way to laugh at mistakes, but also learn in the process)," says Harendra.

Even being absent-minded can earn one the hat. “If I ask you a question during a team meeting or a session and you answer something completely different, you get the hat," Harendra says.

Perhaps Simranjeet Singh, who currently wears the 'crown', would disagree, but the rest of the players claim to enjoy the punishments.

India captain PR Sreejesh says, "Harendra is a typical Indian coach. He knows how to scold a player. But he also understands when he needs to support or motivate a player. If players feel that training sessions are going to be easy, players will relax and won't focus too much on training. But if the coach is strict, players realise they need to step up their seriousness."

"The logic behind the push-ups bit is easy to understand. If you foul someone during a game and you get a card, you will be out of the game for two or five minutes. But your teammates will have to pick up the burden and slog in your absence. We're trying to explain to players that if you foul someone and get carded, the rest of your teammates will have to work for you. So, this is a small punishment for the mistake," Sreeejesh says.

"If you keep repeating mistakes, you have to do front rolls and push-ups. It's not a punishment. All the players are enjoying it. Our biceps are getting bigger," veteran Sardar Singh adds, flashing a grin.

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Updated Date: Aug 17, 2018 14:12:22 IST

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