It is a testing period for the Indian hockey men’s and women’s teams as the entire squad has been advised to stay on at the Sports Authority of India’s sprawling campus in Bengaluru amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Having been cooped up inside the area, the venue for their training camps, neither the players nor the support staff have been allowed to meet their families. It was especially tough for Indian hockey men’s team striker SV Sunil.
The 30-year-old could not meet his daughter on her birthday despite his residence being not too far from the SAI campus.
“I would have loved to be with my daughter, but circumstances are beyond our control,” SV Sunil told The Times of India.
“I could not risk my family coming over either. As athletes, we are always prepared to make such sacrifices.”
His sentiments were echoed by his head coach, Australian Graham Reid, a former hockey player himself.
“I remember before I headed off for the Olympics in 1992, my then-girlfriend and now wife Julia telling me I was very selfish,” he recalled to the Indian daily.
“I actually realized as athletes we are selfish, we are so focused on training and performance that we learn to compartmentalise our lives. In that sense, we are seasoned early.”
Sticking together in perilous times
The Indian hockey women’s team head coach, Sjoerd Marijne knows he has to be practical even at such demanding times and has asked the squad to get through it together.
“I can’t tell them beautiful stories. Everybody struggles in circumstances such as this. The situation is for real and we have to deal with it. But the girls know we are in this together and we stick together,” said the Dutchman.
Graham Reid felt becoming closer to one another during unusual periods like these is a natural instinct. “What tends to happen is that everyone shares the same concerns,” he admitted.
“When you hear about unfortunate circumstances across the world, it makes you want to bring the chickens closer. As coaches and support staff, we ensure the players are in touch with their families regularly and if they have any concerns, our doors are open for them to come and have a chat with us.”
With some players having been away from their homes for over a month now due to their schedules and training camps, it is a nice gesture from experienced people such as Reid and Marijne to be there for the squad and lend a helpful ear.