Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How does India’s goalkeeping fare on the international scene? Part 4



Another aspect where India struggles in its goalkeeping department is one of simply not having a quality brand to sell within its own nation. Where England has Monarch or Mercian, Germany has TK, Holland has Brabo, New Zealand Obo (and Obo covers most of the world though!) and so on, but there is no quality, international standard kit manufacturer for India, so kit is outsourced instead. Where goalkeepers are going to get injured unnecessarily and having to play with a worse standard of protection for a level it is not suited for, it is not going to do the goalkeeper any favours when they fear being hurt pointlessly. At the national stage especially, but even at lower level, a talented young goalkeeper could be put off for life for fear of the ball speed and lack of confidence in the kit they are wearing that is supposed to prevent this from happening.

So there needs to be a development of equipment and suppliers in their own personal market base, for India to provide all-round protective kit for every level of hockey played in the country. So that “grass roots” (coming from the term relating to amateur football, although low level recreational hockey is still played on grass, or even at NCAA level in America!) goalkeepers are happy with the kit supposedly guarding them from harm. If they are not confident their kit will protect them, then they will not be confident putting themselves in harm’s way every game they play, in the first place! I remember getting own series of bruised toes playing in kit that wasn’t nice each week, and it almost put me off continuing; if I hadn’t eventually been given better kit to play in, well, I don’t want imagine that for how my career would have otherwise turned out (it probably would have been quite short lived)! Just as India needs to make sure its home talent is protected in the HIL as it is doing so well at, with its youngsters allowed to develop versus bringing in externally drafted talent to play, it also needs to work at a literal protective development in the world of foam padding and protection!

Ultimately, what India really needs is a recognised and able goalie coach to come in, develop and establish a programme that will draw out the natural talents of India’s goalkeepers and push the talent base to , for decades to come, rather than a short term gap filler. As is the case in any sport, the quality of goalkeepers is often determined by the elite skills they have to work with. To be an elite goalkeeper the goalkeeper needs to be an elite athlete; with incredibly fast reaction speeds, great hand eye-co-ordination, strong decision making, quick footwork and an agile pace of movement around their D, an intelligent mindset that can read the play in front of them and deduce what will happen ten steps ahead or be able to put a rebound back into play away from danger, bravery, presence, leadership skills and so on. Some things cannot be taught and perhaps India needs to scout within its ranks, looking far and wide for untapped natural talents that can pave the way for India’s new game, like Simon Mason did for England. It takes time and investment to develop a great goalie, and if they want this to be a reality, then India needs to be patient and strongly analytical at the same time to make the most of what they have available to them.

And at least India’s hockey management is aware of this need and is actively looking for someone to fill this role. Well respected goalkeeper coach David Staniforth, who has worked with the HIL team Ranchi Rhinos, could offer a chance of saviour for India and its goalies, if he is allowed to develop a long term, rather than short term, plan for India and its goalkeeping ranks.  As stated, the ex-South African Olympian was working with the Ranchi Rhinos and showed signs of implementing a strong system for coaching their goalkeeping talent, where he impressed enough to be given the chance to work with India’s U21’s for the upcoming Junior World Cup to be held there in December. There is therefore a lot of hope for the future if  is planned properly, otherwise good intentions that are not held accountable won’t doing anything to stop the gap between Holland or Australia’s best and India’s best.

In reflection, I feel that India does not lag too far behind its peers in the sense that it can reach great heights again if it so desires and puts in the hard work and grafts, but if change and development does not come soon and appropriately, not much will change sadly and they will still be behind the pack. Indian players have the desire and fervour for hockey, so I can’t see why this, India having great goalkeeping talent again, cannot become a reality once more. Hockey is in India’s blood and life force and its people want change to occur. They have the player base and the talent to do so, with youngsters playing almost all day every day in the places of schooling. It is simply a case of when and the time being right (conquering empires put in solid foundations before they triumphed, and the same in sporting legacies!), so whilst the fruits might not be seen straight away, if they can get everything right ahead of future development, then India’s goalkeepers should be able to challenge any would-be international competition like they did half a century ago. 

Feel free to leave your feedback and opinions through the comments section or discuss on Twitter via @Grim_GK. To read more of my writing, especially goalie related analysis, you can check out my blog at http://grimsgoalkeeping.blogspot.co.uk/

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