India women hockey team veteran Vandana Katariya says during the lockdown period, the focus of the players and the management is on maintaining fitness level and analysing their opponents from around the world.Also Read - Madhya Pradesh: Two Foreign Return People Test Covid Positive; Sample Sent For Genome Sequencing

“Obviously the main thing for all of us is always to play hockey on the field, but this time has given us the chance to focus on other key factors which make a team so successful,” the striker said. “We haven’t been able to be on the pitch, but our minds are always on the pitch. We are trying to maintain our fitness levels as best as we can, so that when we are back, we are sharper than our opponents.” Also Read - Flying to UK? Country Tightens Travel Rules As Omicron Looms | Deets Inside

“Another aspect which has been talked about is how we are able to analyse different teams from around the world. We are watching various footage and with the help of our coaching staff, we are able to gain a lot from that,” she added. Also Read - Omicron Scare: How Uttar Pradesh is Preparing to Tackle New COVID Variant | Key Points

The 28-year-old says the game has changed vastly since she started her professional career and to keep up the pace of international hockey, she has had to evolve as well.

“”When I had started off at the age of 15, I was always very fearless. I would try to use my skills, retain possession for as long as possible and then aim for goal. But with time, I realised that you can’t play like that, especially when the sport has evolved so much. I also had to evolve, and I have actually enjoyed playing for the team and my teammates,” Vandana, who has represented India in over 240 International matches, said.

She is also using the knowledge gained over the course of her 13-year-carer to mentor the younger members of the squad.

“Now with experience, and with the influx of so many young players in the team, especially in the midfield and forward-line, I really enjoy the mentoring bit. I know I have the experience which can be helpful to the younger players, and I keep talking to them about different situations that they will face on the field, and what all they can do,” she said.

She continued, “It is not as if I want them to follow exactly what I say, but I try to make them use their vision and think for themselves about what decisions they can make,” said the striker who hails from Uttarakhand. “For instance, when you are inside the circle, even as a striker, it is not always the best thing to shoot at goal, you have a split second to make that decision, and sometimes passing the ball to your fellow player or just winning a Penalty Corner can be a better option.”

The lockdown period has also seen the players taking initiative to raise funds for the poor and needy.

“Our coach Sjoerd Marijne has been very vocal about having mindfulness, and that has also made us realise a lot of things. We feel we are at a stature where we can end up helping other people too which we did through our crowdfunding initiative, and we are of course also lucky to have such great facilities at our disposal. We understand that not many people are blessed with this, and therefore it is a chance for us to make full use of what we have,” she said.

“It was amazing to see the response that we got for the crowdfunding initiative, and we are all very delighted to have been able to provide over 1000 underprivileged families with meals. We are hopeful that the situation improves soon,” Vandana signed off.