Indian hockey teams, both senior and junior, were often guilty of buckling under pressure in big events and senior national team captain Sardar Singh on Monday called for roping in a qualified psychologist to work on the mental preparation of the players.
The just-concluded Junior World Cup in New Delhi was the recent example of Indian players' weak mental conditions as, despite being tipped as a semifinal contender, the hosts crashed out in the pool stages to eventually finish a disappointing 10th. Asked if he felt the urgent need of a psychologist in the team, Sardar said he hoped the senior national side gets one before Hockey World League final round to be held here from January 10-18.
"I feel we definitely need a psychologist with the team as early as possible. We even discussed this thing with (Hockey India's high performance director) Roelant Oltmans. When we were watching India's Junior World Cup matches from the stands, the players looked to be under pressure," Sardar told reporters during an event of his Hockey India League side, Delhi Waveriders in New Delhi on Monday.
"I felt that they were finding it difficult to handle the pressure of playing in front of home crowd," he said.
"Last time Hockey India said that they will try to rope in a psychologist and I am sure Oltmans will tell Hockey India our views. I hope before the Hockey World League Final, we will get the services of a psychologist," said the star midfielder, who is also the skipper of Waveriders.
"In the Dutch league, my team Bloemendaal lost first four games. Then the coaches there analysed why we lost and took one-on-one session with all the players. After that we won five games in a row," added Sardar, citing the example of his European club side.
Sardar said the pressure of expectations did not help the Indian youngsters at all in the Junior World Cup.
"It was not their level. They are much better players."
Sardar said with a number of big events lined up, including the Senior World Cup and Champions Trophy, 2014 is a big year for Indian hockey.
"Our present focus is on Hockey World League Final and we hope to do well there. 2014 is very important year for us and we will try to give our best," he said.
India will be under the guidance of newly-appointed coach Terry Walsh in the Hockey World League Final and Sardar said the team was trying to adjust to his style of coaching.
"We have been training hard under Terry since the last one month. He has joined us just a month back and we are trying to adapt to his style," he said.
"Every coach has different style but in Terry we have got one of the best coaches in the world."
Bollywood actor John Abraham, who was today announced as a co-owner of the Waveriders team, was also present on the occasion, where the Delhi outfit named a completely new support staff for the second edition of HIL.
The Waveriders have appointed former India international Cedric D'Souza as the chief coach, while Berkhout Hendrik Bortel will be his deputy.
Among other important appointments, David R Schieffelers of Netherlands has been roped in as physio while South Africa's Robin van Ginkel has been appointed as the physical trainer.
Former India player Dhananjay Mahadik has been named as the video analyst and Ram Kishan as the team's masseur.
Meanwhile, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Monday officially launched next month's Hero Hockey World League Final to be played at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi.
FIH president Leandro Negre termed the inaugural Hockey World League as a "big success" so far and once again identified India as the hub of hockey for the next couple of years.
"Hockey World League means open doors. the tournament means opportunities to all member nations of FIH.
"In the inaugural HWL, four continents were involved and 14 events were held. 60 nations and more than 200 players participated. 350 matches were played with 500 hours of hockey. I think this competition was a big success," he said.
He also lauded India's organisational capability.
"We just finished the Junior World Cup and now the Hockey World League will be held in mid-January followed by second HIL which is starting at the end of January. Only one nation has this kind of organisational capability and this country is India," Negre said.