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Bengaluru, March 21, 2020
The Indian Women's Hockey Team's upswing in recent performance is thanks to a "change in attitude", believes striker Navneet Kaur who played a vital role in team's tour to New Zealand earlier this year.
"Earlier, we feared playing against top teams like Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. We lacked that match-winning confidence and this was perhaps why many teams even considered us as underdogs," explained Kaur, who hails from Shahabad Markanda, Haryana.
But over the last two years in particular, there has been a major shift in how the team prepares against a tough opponent. "Apart from winning important matches, I think there are a lot of other factors that have contributed to this change and one of them being Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne's style of play. He likes aggression, he has instilled that belief in us that we are a team that can play with good speed in our attack," she said.
"The Chief Coach always tells us it's not over until the last whistle. Even during the half-time of the Olympic Qualifiers, he said we will begin the third quarter as though the scores are 0-0. We have been instilled with that fighting spirit," she explained.
Fitness had been one of the key factors in the team's recent performance and Kaur says the team has great awareness about fitness, recovery and diet.
"I also believe our improvement in fitness has been another big factor. Every girl (including newcomers) are aware of the importance of fitness, recovery and diet. Apart from this, small things like support staff encouraging us to improve internal communication, point out openly in meetings about what we can do differently in training sessions etc, these things make us feel bold and confident," added Kaur, who scored a total of 10 goals in 2019.
The team is grouped in Pool A for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games where they will play against top-ranked teams like The Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland apart from South Africa.
"We will play our first match against The Netherlands at the Olympics and quite frankly, we are really excited to play against them because we have not faced them in the past. We don't fear playing against these teams and are focused on preparing well. We are currently undergoing a week-long recovery which involves light gym session, stretching and swimming pool recovery. Resting well is also emphasised before we resume intense training from next week," she added.