BLOG #1 Incredible Hockey India

For everything is a first time in life. The first time writing a blog, the first time being a Technical Director at a hockey academy, the first time travelling to and living in India, the first time really being part of a different culture and the first time finding out that India is quite dirty after all. Indians do clean, but not really as I as a western am used to and they don’t do maintenance either. Plastic in a trash can? “What is a trash can?” is then the counter question. Unfortunately, everyone here throws everything on the ground, while nature is really beautiful!

My name is Sjoerd Woelders, 35 years old and throughout the years I worked as a trainer and coach in the Netherlands for various youth teams at the national level, coordinator of the youngest youth, founder of a hockey school and coach of various senior teams at different levels.

When I had the opportunity to go to India for a year via Bovelander to support two academies in the organization as technical director, but also to get the most out of the coaches and players, I did not hesitate for a second. It was a challenge and adventure! The two academies are part of the Naval Tata Hockey Academy, a joint initiative of  Tata Steel and Tata Trusts.

In this blog I will keep you informed about my adventures every month. I also regularly post something on Instagram. My account is Slinkstersxm, here you can also leave your questions for me if you have any!

As with all things new, you feast your eyeballs and at the same time it is still a bit exciting. The arrival at New Delhi airport alone was quite an experience. I had 2,5hours to pass through customs, buy a phone card and catch the domestic flight to Ranchi. You would think ‘that’s easy, enough time…!’ However, that turned out to be quite a challenge. Customs took forever, the phone shop employee didn’t succeed in activating the SIM card, the international terminal is a 10 minute drive from the domestic terminal and there are no shuttle buses at 6am, so ‘dropped off’ (literally and figuratively) by a taxi was the only option. Twenty minutes before the flight I finally reached the domestic terminal and was able to check in, but since I was late, I had to get this done manually. Five minutes before departure I was in line for security, but I forgot to take some stuff out of my pockets so that had to be done twice. Completely stressed out and sweating I reached the gate, assuming I had missed the plane, but this too is India. Nothing departs here on time and everything is possible last minute. The plane had ‘waited’, and even had a 40 minute delay, but no one complained about this! After a short last flight (the whole journey lasted 24 hours, door-to-door) I arrived at Ranchi, an area where few “western” people come. With my height of  1.96meters, blue eyes and blond hair, I was immediately an object that the Indians easily stared at for several minutes. The drive to Jamshedpur (where one of the academies is located) was 3,5hours. I’m not going to explain here what it is like to drive in a country where driving left or right does not matter, but long story short, officially it is left, you should press your horn every time you maneuver, overtaking is always possible, even if it is not possible and the road can just become a dirt road in a blink.

The first 2 weeks Lennard Poillot (a highly experienced Dutch coach who worked with the coaches for a month earlier in the year) and I worked together on getting coaches and trainers started, applying structure and having sessions with them on how to train the kids in accordance with the vision of the academy. You can imagine this were some pretty intensive days lasting from 5am to 10pm So a nice and spicy start, but the energy we got back from the trainers and children made it worthwhile. Two things caught the eye, the trainers are eager to learn and they learn quickly, the same applies to the children.

In my next blog I will tell you more about the level of hockey and how hockey is experienced here.

Until next time!

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