Young players in India will have a chance to learn hockey skills from two of the game’s greats – ‘Boom-Boom’ Bovelander and Teun de Nooijer are they headline in a new project between Hockey India League newcomers Dabang Mumbai and the hugely successful Dutch club HC Bloemendaal.

Between them, the two players have won more than 600 caps for their country, and have three Olympic gold medals, two World Cup gold medals and countless other trophies to their names. They will be joined on the project by other coaches from HC Bloemendaal and will be working with junior players and coaches from across three Indian states – Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat.

The premise behind the Dabang Mumbai/HC Bloemendaal project, is to develop Indian hockey from the grass-roots level. Both Boverlander and de Nooijer are fans of the immense skill that Indian players bring to the game, but feel that a more structured approach to coaching will help develop depth to the game in India.

“India is doing quite well at the top, winning the Asian Games gold, which gives them direct entry into Rio Olympic Games men’s hockey, but it is a little bit empty under the top,” said Bovelander.

But the raw materials are definitely there as Tim Jenniskens, another coach from HC Bloemendaal who has worked on the project, wrote on the club’s website: “If you ever find yourself wondering why Indians possess the basic techniques such as stop and hitting so well under control, this is partly due to the different types of surfaces that children at a young age start practising on. It is not an obstacle for them not to train on artificial turf because with a ball and stick you can play hockey on the street, grass or sand surface.”

The Dabang Mumbai hockey franchise is owned by DoIt Sports Management, and the company has agreed that the two Dutch stars will work with juniors and coaches twice annually during the vacations, starting with children from Mumbai and coaches attached to schools, then spread further afield across the Dabang Mumbai catchment areas to work on grassroots development.

Boverlander explained his coaching philosophy when conducting coaching clinics. “The kids should learn not just skills of hockey, but also skills of life. Hockey will teach them to play by the rules, commitment and this will result in their development. In Holland, that is how we look at development. Our intent is the same here.”

During the first four-day visit by the delegation from the Dutch club, three workshops were held for more than 30 local coaches. The workshops were a mixture of practical and classroom-based work. There were also several heavily subscribed hockey clinics for the young players, featuring not just the coaches from HC Bloemendaal, but many of the stars of the Dabang Mumbai Hockey India League squad. Jenniskens reported that more than 120 children excitedly participated in the first of these clinics.

Speaking later to the Hindu, Bovelander said: “Hockey is more than just sport. Playing together in a team, bonding with each other, learning to celebrate wins and coping with defeats and the self-belief that comes on field – these are things you learn when you play a team game. It gives you an identity and helps you work your way up in life.”

Source material: FIH.CH

Photograph: The Netherlands hockey great Teun de Nooijer presented with Dabang Mumbai jersey by team owner Radha