Class of cultures

The post-match routine at Uttar Pradesh Wizards follows a pattern. After every game, the players note down the lessons they've learnt or the mistakes they've made in a diary. Coach Roelant Oltmans insists that even the most trivial incident on the pitch needs to be put in black and white. Every player be it the uncapped Indian Pradeep Mor or the game's living legend from the Netherlands Teun de Nooijer does his 'homework' studiously. It's like going back to school all over again.

Elsewhere in the Wizards camp, the team's video analyst Roberto Tolentino goes about getting his stuff in order. Tolentino is Oltmans's shadow; their partnership goes back a couple of decades. For his slick video editing skills, a few in the hockey world call him Roberto 'Tarantino.' The Dutchman goes through the match video he has recorded, prepares a slow-motion copy of the important events, makes an individual edit for each player, labels it and hands it over to them.

Team dinner follows. Then, it's back to business. The coaching staff, including Oltmans, Tolentino and Dhanraj Pillay, sits individually with every player and his performance is thoroughly analysed. The players are in awe of Tolentino ('video sir', as they refer to him). He has introduced them to something that they never knew existed. By simplifying the complex game, the players learn more about themselves everyday. But watching themselves in slow-mo with the coach right next to them is terrifying as much as exciting for the young Indian players. Here, even the smallest of errors (like keeping the head down for two extra seconds after receiving the ball, giving the opposition a chance to steal it) get magnified.

The criticism is constructive, though. The players are asked about the strategies they prefer and feedback on the tactics implemented, making them think about the technical aspects of the game. "It's become a ritual and everyone looks forward to these meetings," says halfback Pradeep Mor. "I have used up 20 pages of my diary already and it consists of the A to Z of my game. It's the kind of thing I have not heard or done before."

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