The Dutchman became the coach of the Indian women’s hockey team in 2017.

It is very rare to see a drag-flicker in the Indian women’s hockey team. Gurjit Kaur has not only proved herself worthy of that title, but she has also established herself as an integral part of the Sjoerd Marijne’s side in the last few years.

A penalty corner specialist, Gurjit has impeccable abilities and scores the most vital goals for her team. The Indian coach also rates her highly and believes that she is one of the best drag-flickers in the world.

“When I came in 2017, I saw Gurjit dragging but her skills were not on the international level and also her running and Physical side, but the first thing I saw was her drag-flick. In women’s hockey, you don’t have many girls who can drag-flick. You cannot learn every drag-flick; you have to have a kind of natural skill for that. So, we work on the physical side and our scientific advisor Wayne Lombard did amazing work with her,” says Sjoerd Marijne.

He remarked, “Her footwork is improving and because she has played so many matches, she has adjusted to the speed of the game and now you see she also score goals in the matches. I also don’t need to change her because she plays well but she needs to keep on working on her game and her drag-flick of course. We have one of the best drag flickers in the world and I think if you have a good pc, a good goalkeeper and structure in defence then we can do a lot of things.”

India qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, which have been rescheduled for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after defeating the USA last year. However, it was not a smooth victory for the Indian team as they survived a scare in the second-leg and won the tie 6-5 on aggregate.

Sjoerd Marijne said, “It was not the pressure from the USA, but what made us do those mistakes was our pressure. We created pressure on ourselves because if we didn’t do well, we didn’t win the three and fourth quarters, we were not that good but at the end of the match is changed. In the past, that was different, when I came to India if it was 1-0 behind we lost the match already. So that’s a big step forward and that way I am looking on the positive side.”

“We have to learn from those things, so we are working on that and I am kind of happy that it happened and I am happy that we won because know we can solve the problem and we have a lot of time for that. It’s difficult to play four good quarters and you see that in men’s games as well. If you see the Australian men’s team, they play the first two quarters really good and then they go a little bit down. So it happens to teams and we want to control it more and more.”

Sjoerd Marijne also hailed analytical coach Janneke Schopman’s contribution to the team and said that she has added a new dimension to the team’s preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games.

He explained, “She helped us very much. She is an Olympic gold medallist and knows exactly what is necessary at the Olympics to be good. As you said she has the experience, she does a lot of meeting with the girls and they feel very comfortable with her. In the last three years, they have only heard my voice but now they are hearing someone else as well. For me, it is also good because now I can share my plan with someone and someone can say maybe we can go moreover left or we go over right. We can make a few adjustments.”

“In the past, it was always my idea and that was it when we were playing and in the coaching staff, you need to have discussions because it’s not always that one coach is right. So these things are really good and as I said as a player she has a lot of experience playing with the Dutch team. She brings all that knowledge in the leadership, Rani talks a lot with her to know how she worked as a leader.”

Sjoerd Marijne added, “As a leader, you are not always the nicest person but the job has to be done and how are you doing that with your player, sometimes you have to be nice sometimes you have to be a little bit more direct. She is helping in all kind of ways and of course, analyzing about the opponents because she knows about all the countries, she played in the pro league last year and because she analyze them really well. So that is helping us very much and I am very pleased to have her with us.”

Currently, the Indian women’s hockey team has been stuck at the SAI Bengaluru due to the nationwide lockdown. They are now allowed to train on the pitch and in the gym, so the coach is making the girls do everything individually to make sure their training isn’t compromised.