Olympic qualifiers: how life has closed a circle for Janneke Schopman

BHUBANESWAR: More than a decade ago, the then defender of the Dutch women's hockey team Janneke Schopman I learned more than one trick or two of Sjoerd Marijne during his time as a visiting coach in his national camp.

Schopman, now the coach of the USA women's side, will look to put his teaching to use as her team takes on Marijne-coached Indian outfit at the FIH Olympic qualifiers starting here today.

With her team being first-time visitors to India, Schopman, an Olympic gold medallist, spent the last couple of months gathering information on the team and conditions which they will be up against. Schopman, known as much for a skill as for her flair, is leaving nothing to chance.

On his association with the Dutch Marijne, the 42-year-old woman told TOI: When playing for the national team, our coach Maximiliano (Caldas) invited Sjoerd, among other coaches, to camps during centralized training camps. How do I know him better? He is a very experienced coach who knows how to improve players.

For the American side the challenges are plenty and a lot of planning has gone into this trip. Immediately after the qualifiers were announced, Schopman got down to business. Among the first calls she made was to coach Caldas, the Dutch men's coach who was in Bhubaneswar for the 2018 World Cup. Also on her speed dial was the USA men's team that competed in the FIH Series Final in June this year.

We received a lot of information from our men's team, which was here in June. In addition, since I am from the Netherlands, I also obtained information from the Dutch national team. I called my former coach Max (Cladas) and asked him what to expect. That said, it is very exciting for me to be in a country that loves hockey.

Among the main obstacles for the visiting side, ranked 13, is the lack of exposure to Asian teams.

Usually, we do not play frequently in Asian countries. Obviously, everyone watches (opposition) videos, but the real experience of playing in an Asian team is challenging and one wants to experience that. We have many players that have never played in India. We have tried to prepare them as best we could.

The weather is another factor that the US unit had to counteract, especially since they trained in Pennsylvania, where winter is approaching.

At home it is quite cold and it rains regularly. On the other hand, it's hot and humid here. We make sure to train in warmer clothes than the necessary weather, but according to the results of the research it really doesn't help. Once we arrived, he made sure the girls spent a lot of time outside to get used to the weather.