Handling Pressure Will Be Key In Asian Games': Women's Hockey Coach Janneke Schopman
women's hockey coach Janneke Schopman believes handling pressure will be crucial for her team as it will enter the upcoming Asian Games as one of the "favourites". "I believe the mindset the players have as individuals and as a team will make the difference. Can we perform under pressure and deal with the circumstances handed over to us? "We have talked about this over the past couple of months and what it means to not be the underdogs like we were in Tokyo but being the favourites," Schopman said on the latest episode of Hockey Te Charcha, a podcast series launched by Hockey India.
"We have spoken about the expectations from this team. We have also addressed what dangers are out there that might cause distraction, and trip us up, and how we can deal with the same." The Dutch coach said if her team plays to its potential, it can win win the gold in Hangzhou and qualify directly for next year's Paris Olympics.
"It is important to enjoy the journey as well. I hope we win; I think we can win but it's life and we might not," Schopman said.
"As long as we know we were able to control what we can and we were able to play as well as we can as individuals and as a team, then we have to accept the outcome. This is what we are trying to instill in the girls that we just have to play hockey and find a way to work around the pressure."
India are placed in Pool A of the Asian Games along with South Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore, while Japan, China, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Indonesia are clubbed in Pool B.
After their opening game against Singapore on September 27, India will face Malaysia on September 29, followed by South Korea on October 1 and Hong Kong on October 3.
Schopman stressed upon the importance of maintaining communication in the set-up to fix the tiniest of issues.
"We have obviously spoken about our targets from the tournament but eventually it comes down to nerves and pressure. We have no idea what the Games village would be like, what challenges we may face that we cannot influence, how the food and weather would be like. We have to deal with everything that comes our way and our team is good with that," she said.
"This is why it is important to talk about the smallest of things before each tournament. A player might feel something small but they can be like 'I am not saying because it is tiny', but I have to be like 'just say it, because it might be small now and we can solve it now. But if we don't address it now, it might become big and then we may have a problem'."
Schopman, a former Olympic and World Cup gold medal-winning Dutch player, has already guided the Indian women's team to a bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
She was also at the helm of affairs when the Indian team won a gold medal in the inaugural FIH Nations Cup last year.
But Schopman has never experienced the pressure of competing as a player or a coach at the Asian Games and is eager to face the challenge.
"This is going to be my first time competing in an Asian Games as well. I try to emphasise that you can either go into every tournament believing it is the most important one or believing it's just another tournament.
"It does not matter whether it is your first time in a tournament or the last time - what matters is that you are here now and you have to make the most of the opportunity and make it count. As a team, that is what we will try to do as well," she said.
Schopman defended the team selection for the Asian Games.
"For selection of the 18 players, we cannot just take the ones with the most caps. I try to look at the team and try to see what each individual can bring in and how they can complement each other," she said.
"Some of the junior players have developed tremendously in the last couple of months and hence, have become a part of the team."