After more than two months, India’s hockey teams returned to the pitch for training on Monday as the country began the next stage of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic – Unlock 1.0. They are the first team sport to resume practice since the lockdown was imposed in India.
A report in the Indian Express states that players were just happy to be able to train again and as a player put it, ‘at least we could feel the ball hitting the stick again.’ It was largely just about that.
The hockey teams, who have been in SAI in Bengaluru may have begun training by May but the wait got extended after a SAI staffer passed away and tested positive for the coronavirus. After spending nearly two weeks in isolation since that incident, the players were at last allowed to step on to the field again.
Social distancing protocols mean that the teams have been divided into two groups. Half of them resumed training on the hockey turf while the rest began the ‘unlockdown’ with some fitness drills.
A group of women players, for instance, spent their morning on the football ground where they performed tasks given by physio Wayne Parnell. The men, too, followed the same pattern. On Tuesday, both groups will swap their tasks.
Divided groups meant full-fledged training wasn’t possible but basic passing and receiving drills were also part of the session which last about 90 minutes.
“That was the only thing possible because of the distancing norms. Initially, that’s what our training will look like,” the report quoted a source.
The coaches and assistant coaches of both teams, too, had to maintain a distance from the players. That meant they could only observe and give instructions from the touchline and not be involved in the action as they usually are during training. After each session, the turf was sprayed with disinfectants.
The teams are likely to begin full training only after SAI and Hockey India give them the green signal.
Hockey India, on their part, in the Standard Operating Procedure for the national teams, had in fact suggested full-contact training for the teams since they had been in quarantine.