The Indian men's junior hockey team begins its FIH Junior Hockey World Cup title defense on November 24. India have been placed in Pool B and the Vivek Sagar Prasad-led team will take on France in their first match on November 24.
They got a big boost when Graham Reid, who guided India to a historic bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, was given the charge of coaching the junior team at a camp at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus in Bengaluru.
Graham Reid worked in tandem with junior coach BJ Kariappa at SAI Bangalore before shifting base to Bhubaneswar.
Speaking to journalists during a virtual interaction, Reid said the focus was on trying to instill some of the values that the Indian senior men's team possesses.
"It's about putting the icing on the cake, trying to instill some of the values that we have in the senior team, the structures that are put in place," said Graham Reid. "It's more icing on the cake than having to rebuild anything."
Graham Reid mentioned that he is more like a relationship coach with the Indian men's junior hockey team, building a good cameraderie among the members.
"To be honest, in the last month, I've definitely been a relationship coach," he said. "Having good relationships with each of the players is really important so that when the chips are down, those things can come to the fore."
Junior hockey team looking at more practice matches
The Indian men's junior hockey team is short on match practice as the COVID-19 pandemic halted all competitive games. The only practice the boys got was when they helped the Indian senior hockey team by playing some practice matches before the Olympics.
With the Junior Hockey World Cup fast approaching, Graham Reid said the Indian senior team will be camping in Bhubaneshwar to help the junior team out in their practice sessions.
"If you recall before going to Tokyo, they had practice games against senior boys which was valuable for both the teams," he said. "The senior men's team's national camp will be shifted to Bhubaneswar so that the juniors can have more practice matches."
Speaking about the pressure of entering the World Cup as defending champions, Reid said everyone must understand that the current junior team is entirely different from the one that won the World Cup four years ago.
"When you are the reigning champions, there's already some extra pressure," he explained. "But what people will understand is that it's a completely different team than what we had four years ago. We have to make sure we trust each other's preparation and that's what we will be doing."
India are placed in a relatively easy pool with France, Canada and Poland.