Dear India. There are no shortcuts!

Dear India,

There are no shortcuts to a lasting success in sport… or life for that matter. So please get your act together. The world of hockey does not need you… but we do want you to be a part of the success of our sport.

no shortcuts

Recently I wrote a piece about “What is happening in India” when they pulled out of the HPL. And years ago it was also pointed out, the HIL is great to get talented youth, knocking on the door of international hockey, the much needed experience rubbing shoulders with the world’s best in order to grow. Australian journalist Morrison also wrote an interesting piece recently trying to pinpoint where it went wrong.

But if you really mean business, and this goes for every country (and sport) in the world, you tackle grassroots hockey at the same time. It is never a case of either one or the other. If we want Indian hockey to thrive they need to fix their game both at the top as well as on the grassroots level…

Recreational hockey is the foundation

Top hockey needs recreational hockey and vice versa. Not only in European countries or India. This is a universal truth 😉

So when I read this article about the great work being done by a German hockey player Andrea Thumshirn with her project Hockey Village India I am sad. Not only because it seems to tell us Hockey India is not doing enough for our sport at this level. It also reveals developing the sport will need to go hand in hand with education. Besides Hockey Village India we also know about the One Million Hockey Legs project with he support of among others Dutch hockey player Floris-Jan Bovelander which seems to be doing good work. This is the kind of development Hockey India as well as the FIH should focus on. It might take longer (a lot longer) compared to high profile media-friendly top hockey projects to see results… But results are more likely to be lasting, durable results if not dependant upon the goodwill of one or two individuals or organisations.

Of course I understand different countries have different challenges in setting up and organising sports. In my countries (I’m Dutch living in Belgium) we are very lucky to have both the wealth and infrastructure that comes with it. As well as being smaller countries it is easier setting up leagues and travel is less of a challenge. But I strongly believe the saying “where there is a will, there is a way”. If countries can not manage set up national leagues for recreational hockey, do it regionally. And once these run smoothly think about doing the inter regional stuff. But start locally and build from there. You do not build a house without strong foundations neither, do you?

Top hockey is the inspiration

Recreational hockey needs top hockey and vice versa. Not only in European countries or India. This is a universal truth 😉

So when I read about the recent decisions made by Hockey India, I am sad. Their inability to adapt to changing circumstances with the HIL. Their failing political power games resulting in leaving the HPL even before it starts. Followed most recently by firing yet another coach from their national team. It shows the people running the sport in India still have not understood. Their focus is still on results from the past and all kinds of awards for individuals in a team sport, their impatience resembling the need for instant gratification of a spoiled toddler. Harsh words probably but it is clear to anyone in the world of hockey it is the administrators who are the most difficult hurdle for Indian hockey to get over and move on to modern times. With respect for all cultural differences and everybody’s right to do it their way, no one can escape these universal truths in the world of sport:

  1. Topsport needs recreational sport and vice versa.
  2. Results, especially lasting results, in topsport come to those who work hard, smart with lots of discipline and… patience.
  3. Champions train, losers complain.

When Hockey India will get administrators who love the sport instead of the attention, they will reclaim their spot among the top nations. If these people love the sport enough to focus their attention also on establishing local academies, regional leagues and understand the patience needed to build for lasting results the world of hockey will smile and be happy.

There are no shortcuts

Don’t get me wrong… I love the concept of the HPL. I think it’s a great idea to guarantee every participating country several home games in front of home crowds and promote our sport.
I love the concept of the HIL. I think it’s a great idea to guarantee talented youth to experience the true life of topsport and different views from players and coaches from different countries.
I love the concept of the HWL. I think it’s a great idea to offer all countries all over the world the same opportunity to get a taste from international top hockey and slowly but surely build towards realising their own ambitions.
I love the flavour “Incredible India” brings to hockey. I honestly believe everybody in the world of hockey would love to have India and some other Asian powerhouses among the top nations in our sport.

But the foundation for lasting success and making us better people through sports comes from recreational hockey and strong domestic leagues and academies: local, regional or national depending upon the country. Educating our youth (and adults) about the values of sport.  It comes from hard work, discipline and… patience. It comes from always focussing on what you can do yourself to make it better.

So get your act together… There are no shortcuts in sport, nor life to lasting success or happiness!