Harendra Singh has denied any disappointment at being overlooked by Hockey India for the role of senior men’s coach, instead welcoming the chance to work with the women’s team. “No, there’s no question of disappointment,” he said at the SAI here. “If anybody wants to serve the country and he’s a coach he should not look at what the job is. He should volunteer and come forward to serve his country. When this job was offered, I did not hesitate even for a second. I instantly said yes. India is looking for women’s empowerment and I want to start with the hockey team.”
Harendra, who had led the Junior men’s team to World Cup victory on home soil in December before his term ended, stated that he did not see his current role as inferior in any way. “I don’t know how we look at it in India but in the rest of the world, women’s teams and coaches have a lot of importance. We need to change our mindset. All the top coaches in the world have come up coaching women’s teams. The method of coaching and the philosophy, there’s not much difference (between men’s and women’s teams),” he said.
There was no dissatisfaction that he did not continue as Junior coach following the World Cup, Harendra remarked, adding that the time away from hockey had left him feeling refreshed. Hockey India High Performance Director David John was confident Harendra was the right man, even if he had never coached a women’s team before over his 19-year coaching career. “He has done his apprenticeship with the Junior men and this is one promotion. And obviously the next promotion will be the senior men. It’s the natural progression,” he said.
The Australian added: “There was obviously some apprehension from the girls because there was a change. I said, ‘No no, Harendra has a daughter who is 22. He will treat you with the same respect and love as his daughter, maybe a little more discipline.’”
Harendra smiled. “The day I accepted the offer, my daughter was waiting for me at home. She hugged me and said she was proud of me for finally coaching the women’s team. She’s going to be 22. Most of the girls in that team are in that age-group,” he said.
Harendra’s first assignment with the women will be the Asia Cup (Oct 28-Nov 5, Japan), the squad for which will be selected based on trials here on October 4 and 5. On Tuesday, HI named 33 women’s probables for the National camp.