Hockey India (HI) will start giving specialised training on drag-flicking and goalkeeping to Under-16 boys and girls as part of its new and ambitious grassroots development programme starting later this month.
HI president Dilip Tirkey said that former India drag-flick experts like Rupinder Pal Singh, V R Raghunath and Birendra Lakra could be part of the programme to train the youngsters under the programme which will kick-start on March 19.
“Drag-flick and goalkeeping have become very important areas in world hockey. I don’t think enough training is being given to the players (in these two areas) at a young age in the country. We need to imbibe these two important aspects of the game to Under 16 boys and girls,” Tirkey said during a virtual launch of Hockey India’s Grassroots Development Programme.
“Now, we will give specialised drag-flick and goalkeeping training to Under-16 and Under-19 players, both boys and girls. A group of ten men and women goalkeepers and drag flickers will be selected initially and trained under Indian as well as foreign coaches.” Of course, other aspects like fitness and skill level will also be considered.
Asked if he had spoken to former India drag-flickers and goalkeepers to train the youngsters, Tirkey said, “We have spoken internally (in HI) that we will take help of retired players like Rupinder, Raghunath, Lakra and former goalkeepers to be part of the grassroots programme.
“We will also bring experts from abroad (for training the youngsters).” Under the Grassroots Development Programme, which is designed to unearth and nurture young talent, develop players of specialised positions and improve the bench strength of the national junior and senior teams for men and women, Hi will conduct zonal championships at the sub-junior (U-16) and junior (U-19) levels.
A Grassroots Development Committee will identify locations for the players’ training and adequate facilities will be provided for conducting specialized coaching camps with the support of Hockey India.
The programme aims at finding the most talented players in each of the zones — north, south, east and west.
The first zonal tournaments will begin on March 19, with an expected 30 state teams participating.
“Core groups of U-16 and U-19 boys and girls will be selected (after the championships. There will be qualified selectors at zonal level. 45 to 50 core group players will be under HI and the selectors and coaches will monitor them,” said Tirkey, one of the world’s best defenders of his time.
The programme aims at tracking the development of players from the age of U-16 and monitor their progression throughout their career. This will enable HI to identify the skill set of each player and focus on honing and polishing them.
HI is also looking to have U-17 and U-19 Indian teams and send them for domestic and foreign exposure. Finally, U-23 national development squad will also be integrated into the ecosystem to serve as a feeder for the India senior team.
Under the programme, each zone will have its own selection panel, consisting of at least three members. The selectors and the coaches of the zonal teams will be responsible for monitoring and skill upgradation of all the players.
A special coach’s panel is also being formed for the Inter-Zonal Championship, which will consist of coaches who hold a minimum FIH Level 1 Certificate. This panel will not only coach the teams participating in the championship but also ensure the development of their fellow domestic coaches.
Along with coaches and players, a panel of match officials will be formed to officiate the grassroots tournaments.