English lessons for Sardar & Co
It's a known fact that most Indian hockey players find it difficult to communicate well in English. But is it one of the major stumbling blocks that's holding the team back from competing at par with the best in the business today?
Indian Hockey High Performance Director, Roelant Oltmans, certainly feels so, and is keen to improve the English language skills of his players. “To make sure you understand your fellow players, coaches, umpires and opponents, it is important that you understand English well,” Oltmans told MiD DAY.
“We observed that sometimes the players found it difficult to communicate adequately with umpires especially for video referrals,” he added. “That’s very crucial. You need to ask specific questions to get right answers from people you are speaking to.
We are already in talks with some English training institutes who will help our players improve their skills.” Oltmans said the picture will be clearer by the end of June when the High Performance Committee discusses the issue, and its implementation will be taken care of thereafter.
“We have spoken to players and told them how important it is for them to understand and speak English. They have understood our point of view and are keen to get a better understanding of the language,” he said.
To lay greater emphasis, he added: “See, if you are working with an Australian coach and your understanding of English is not good, it becomes difficult for both parties to communicate.” Having said this, Oltmans felt the understanding between players on the pitch was excellent as they conversed in either Hindi or Punjabi.
But things took a dramatic turn when it came to communicating with officials who didn’t know these languages. Indian skipper Sardar Singh too supported Oltmans’ views, saying: “I think it is going to be very helpful. It will help us communicate with officials better than what we are doing at the moment.”
Michael Nobbs, the Indian coach, said: “English is the language of world hockey. This is the language that umpires, players and officials understand and speak. Even teams like Holland, German and Spain lay a lot of emphasis on speaking the language.
Oltmans is a very experienced coach. His idea is very good.” Interestingly, Spaniard Jose Brasa, India’s coach before Nobbs, had spent considerable time learning Hindi to communicate better with the team!