Karan Prashant Saxena
On March 14th, India women’s hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne was set to go home to the Netherlands to spend some time with his family. But with the coronavirus pandemic causing travel restrictions across the globe, Marijne decided to stay back at Sports Authority of India centre in Bengaluru with his team. A couple of weeks later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a nationwide lockdown in India, with Marijne, along with his team, still at SAI center in Bengaluru.
Being at the camp for nearly nine weeks now, Marijne says he is eagerly waiting for the lockdown to lift so that he and the players can visit their families. In an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, the Dutchman opens up on how the team is keeping themselves positive away from families amid lockdown:
HT SPECIAL – TOP SPORTSPERSONS TALK ABOUT LIFE IN LOCKDOWN
Here are the excerpts:
How have you been holding up in Bengaluru amid nationwide lockdown?
We have been doing very well here at Sports Authority Center in Bengaluru. It has obviously been a long time that we have been here, therefore everyone is just waiting for the lockdown to get over, so we can all go home to a well-deserved break.
You were on your way to the Netherlands before the lockdown, but you changed your mind. What happened there?
Well, we had a very good National Camp between February and March, and I was really looking forward to seeing my family after four weeks. However, then I decided not to go because of the travel restrictions that were already in place due to the spread of the coronavirus. Even though I would have loved to have spent that week with my family, I am glad that I did not go, otherwise, I would have been stuck in the Netherlands away from the team for so many weeks due to the travel ban.
In these uncertain times – how challenging it is to stay apart from your family – for you, and for them?
Well, as you can imagine, it is very difficult for me and for all the players, as well, staying away from family for such a long time during these trying circumstances. But we also understand that everyone has their own difficulties in these times and so this is the best solution for us right now – that we stay here.
Of course, I stay in touch with my family every day – we use FaceTime. They are used to me being away because, in my job, I have to spend lengthy periods away from home. But speaking over video calls helps us to stay in contact. They are all doing well, and slowly the lockdown is getting lifted in the Netherlands so that gives them distraction as well, and something positive to look forward to.
How do you spend your time – heard you were writing a book?
We are currently involved in Hockey India’s Coaches Development Sessions where we are giving courses to coaches online. We also have individual meetings, mindfulness sessions with our players, and then there is administration work (planning for this year and next year).
Apart from that, I have been, indeed, writing a book about my experiences here in India in the last three and a half years. It involves talking about what my way of working is with the teams I have been working with; which chances we made; what were the struggles; and how to create a high-performance team. I believe a lot of things we are doing can be used in business life, and at the big corporates. I like to share my way of working – about leadership for instance. I think both worlds can learn a lot from each other and hence, the writing of this book.
What advice are you giving to the players – since they are also living away from family amid uncertain times?
This is the part where we use mindfulness and try to stay in the moment. We try to teach the girls how to only be busy thinking and doing what you can control, and the rest you must not be busy with because it brings negative energy. We cannot control when we will be able to go home so we don’t try to be busy with it. This doesn’t mean it’s always easy, and you may feel miserable, but we can try our best to always having a positive mindset.
How do you keep yourself and the girls motivated?
At the moment, the players and the support staff are really motivated by the crowdfunding activity that was initiated by the team. This involves crowdfunding for poor families who don’t have food now. It makes you aware that some people are in a far worse environment than us, and also makes you realize what you do have and not what you don’t have.
Fitness has been a crucial reason for the rise of the team. How are you still working on it amid restrictive protocols?
Well, fitness is obviously one of the most important aspects of the modern-day game, and we are ensuring that the players are working on their individual programs. Our Scientific Advisor Wayne Lombard makes a weekly competitive schedule for the players to keep them involved and motivated, and that way they can maintain their fitness levels.
With Tokyo Olympics postponed – has there been a change in your plans?
Well, of course, everything has changed now because of the postponement. But currently, as we speak, nobody knows what will happen in the future, so we are just being pro-active and preparing ourselves in the best way we can for all possible scenarios.
What are your plans to do after the lockdown?
The first thing we want to do is get back home. We have all been at the National Camp for nine weeks now, so we all need the break. I am also very happy that the girls are doing so well, but I also feel that they need to see their families.
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