The Khelo India U-21 Women's Hockey League is not short of experience on the sidelines. Prolific coaches, team managers and former players keep an eye out for future talent.
Simanta Krushna Mohanty is not only the most experienced person sitting in the dugout during his team’s matches, but is also one of the most observant.
The head coach of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) B team, which concluded their campaign in the first phase of the tournament at the Major Dhyanchand Stadium in New Delhi on Monday, is all praise for the competition.
The SAI B team finished their campaign in second position in Pool A with 13 points, just two points adrift of the leaders, the Indian junior hockey team.
Mohanty, a hockey coach since 1991, commenced his coaching career with the Maharashtra state hockey team.
Speaking about the evolution of grassroots level scouting, he said the facilities helping coaches scout players have improved by leaps and bounds.
“Previously, during the Special Area Games (SAG) Scheme of the SAI, scouts used to go to interior villages in Jharkhand and Odisha to spot talent. There wasn’t much promotion of talent during that time and there were no hostels or academies back then. However, now there are so many centers and a lot of talent scouts. Not only have facilities improved, but diet, strength and conditioning and all other aspects are taken care of now. I haven’t seen this kind of facilities in terms of equipment, manpower support and exposure in the last 30 years of my coaching career," he explained.
The experienced hockey coach said that although there is no dearth of facilities, the scouts have to stick to the basics.
"Having said that, our focus should continue to be on developing the fundamentals and grassroots feeding centers and work systematically along with experienced coaches. This will help in the long term development of the players," Mohanty added.
Hockey coach banks on experience
After his team’s initial matches at the Major Dhyanchand Stadium, Mohanty stressed on finding the right combination for his team and getting the best out of the girls in terms of attack and finding the best of teamwork.
“The girls in the SAI B team come from various SAI centers and my priority is to get the right combination and make them play as a unit,” Mohanty said.
The coach, who has been a part of SAI Gandhinagar, Kolkata and Mumbai centers, said the Khelo India U-21 Hockey League will help budding players a lot.
“This league will immensely help these kids. This is a brilliant opportunity for them to showcase their talents. They are getting a chance to showcase their talents against the best of academies and teams. It cannot get better for them,” he added.