Indian hockey has seen many up and downs -- from staying unbeaten in the Olympics between 1928 and 1956, to the present turbulent times. The national game of the country needs to get its pride of place among the international teams and for this to happen, new talent has to emerge.
That is why schools should make sports a part of the curriculum, says hockey champion Sardar Singh, who has won many laurels for the country. The youngest hockey player to captain the Indian team, Sardar Singh told ParentCircle in an exclusive interview that children need to give a lot of importance to hard work and dedication to excel in hockey.
Excerpts from the interview --
Q. You’ve been nominated for the Khel Ratna award. It must be a very proud moment for your family.
A. It is a very high ranking award in India and that is why, it is a great honour to receive this award. I would like to thank the Sports Ministry and all the others concerned, who thought that I deserve this honour. I am feeling very happy and my family is also very happy about the award.
Q. Olympic medal coming soon? How close do you think is India to winning an Olympic medal?
A. Yes, in the last three to four years, the hockey team has been giving good results. I am sure that if we continue our hard work, we will definitely bring home the Olympic medal.
Q. You became the youngest player to captain India. Did leadership skills come naturally to you or you picked it up while playing hockey?
A. There are many little things that have brought me so far and one of them is playing for the Naamdhari team earlier. Even then, there was a dedication to win the match. I was also fortunate to play with noted players like Dilip Bhai and Dhanraj Bhai, and have learnt a lot from them.
Q. In your own words, “The day you think you are satisfied; you won’t be focusing on training and matches.” How important is dedication for a professional?
A. It is very important, that is why today I am still able to continue my passion and my game.
Q. You have seen many ups and downs as an Indian hockey player. You lost your captaincy because of controversies. How important is parental support when you face issues?
A. We all face ups and down in life but it is because of my family’s support in every phase of my life that I have managed to cope. They asked me to leave the pressure at home and focus on my game. My friends were also very supportive. When you don’t have any negative influences or thoughts nearby than you have a better chance to perform well and you always go up. So I would like to thanks my friends, family, coaches and hockey lovers who supported me a lot. My target is to bring more laurels and medals to the country.
Q. What is the right age for a child to start playing hockey? How do we understand that a child is interested in hockey?
A. According to me and from what I have seen while playing for foreign leagues, 8-9 years of age is the best time for a child to start. We need to check the interest of child and only parents will be able to tell that because they are the first coach for any player.
Q. Wins and losses are a part of sport. How can one teach a child to cope with disappointments?
Ans: Winning and losing come naturally in everyone’s life but it is important how you overcome these situations. Focus on giving your best and believe in yourself. The Almighty God is with you and one day you will get what you want in your life.
Q. What kind of a role players and mentors need to play in shaping the career of a young hockey player?
A. They play an important role, as they are the ones who help in shaping the career of junior players. So many young players come to me and I only say to them, just keep working hard and one day you will achieve your target.
Q. Do parents need to dedicate lot of time and effort for the child? Or should they leave it to the coach?
A. The effort has to come from both parents and coaches, as a player spends 5-7 hours on the field and rest at home.
Q. Should Physical Education classes in schools focus on multiple sports, instead of just running and drills?
A. Yes, I would say that sport is also education and in the last few years, sports is coming up in a big way. This is the new trend in the country and hopefully it will continue.
Q. What should the child do to gain stamina for a physically demanding sport like hockey? What are the diet requirements? Can a vegetarian become a hockey player at the highest level?
A. Vegetarians can become hockey players. You have to eat good organic food, which has high protein.
Q. Hockey is a team sport. How can we teach the child to be a team player?
Ans: Initially, it is tough. Individually, you may put in a lot of hard work but you will get the result only by working as a team. Especially in hockey, where there are 16-18 players and everyone has a different mindset. It is hard work that counts. But, you get to learn a lot as a team and when there are ups and downs, you cope together as a team.
Q. Your message for all the children who want to take up hockey.
A. My message is that there is no shortcut to becoming a good hockey player. You need to focus and work hard, and God will take you to your desired destination.
Q. ParentCircle is a magazine imparting an important message – sports is an important way of life. What’s your message for the readers of ParentCircle?
A. My message to all parents is that they need to support their children in all obstacles and motivate them to do well.
Hall of Fame
- Youngest player to captain India (2008 Azlan Shah Cup)
- ‘Player of the Tournament’ in 2010 and 2012 Azlan Shah Cup events
- Highest paid marquee player during the first edition of the Hockey India League
- Included in FIH (Federation of International Hockey) All-Star teams in 2010 and 2011.
Check out these hockey academies for your child:
Kodava Hockey Academy
Where: Vasanthanagar, Bangalore – 560 052
What to look for: It is the apex body on the sport in Coorg
Whom to contact: The Secretary, Kodava Samaja Recreation Club
Dhanraj Ballal Hockey Academy
What to look out for: Training on artificial surface, under flood-lights and with proper kit, with support from the Karnataka State Hockey Association
Whom to contact: 8041134031
Amritsar Hockey Club
What to look out for: Free education including books, stationary, study materials, aids, IT facilities is provided to selected candidates
Whom to contact: +91-183-5010889
More details: http://www.amritsarhockeyclub.com/
Sri Shakthi Hockey Academy
Where: Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
What to look out for: Hockey coaching under Olympian Vasudevan Baskaran (completely free)
Whom to contact: +91 - 9280802018, 9790344422
More details: http://www.siet.ac.in/hockey/
Jude Felix Hockey Academy
What to look out for: High performance coaching course powered by Bovelender Hockey Academy
Whom to contact: +91 97423 52717, +91 96322 08678
More details: http://jfha.in/
In our Learning with the Masters series, also read our interview with shooting champion Gagan Narang here: