Having worked with India custodian Sreejesh P.R.
Having worked with India custodian Sreejesh P.R. for the last three years, Dave Staniforth, the goalkeeping consulting coach of the Olympics-bound national side, has seen the skipper evolve into one of the top hockey players in the world.
The former South Africa international believes the hard-working Sreejesh will be a standout player at Rio.
“When he steps into the hockey field his one goal will be to stop the ball from going over the goal-line. When Sreejesh is at his best, I think he’s a marvellous goalkeeper and a great guy with his team-mates. I think he’ll do a great job,” stated the 40-year-old.
Appointed by Hockey India in 2013 during the Asia Cup in Ipoh, Staniforth’s relationship with Sreejesh has grown. “He understands what’s required and at first when he was the goalkeeper (at Asia Cup), he did exceptionally well. We’ve grown almost as a couple and built a partnership,” added Staniforth.
The Olympian, who has represented South Africa on 65 occasions, worked on the basics of goalkeeping and it has helped Sreejesh. “That was the starting point for his improvement — to get the basics right. And I like to coach a simple style of goalkeeping that is easy for everyone. From training international goalkeepers — from one of the world’s best like Sreejesh to a 13-year-old — I train the same way,” asserted Staniforth.
Besides Sreejesh coming up with match-winning saves in the recent past, Staniforth believes the 28-year-old’s player management skills and understanding makes him a good leader.
“I didn’t really have to work. He’s a clever guy but I think that time he was working on basic training and once he got that knowledge — he’s got it. I don’t have to say anything as he understands goalkeeping. I think it’s important to understand the game.”
Staniforth believes the affable Sreejesh is an inspiration to budding hockey players in the country. “He is an excellent role model for goalkeeping. He’s like the hero. (In) olden days everyone wanted to be striker and now most of them want to be goalkeepers because we have one of the world’s best in our team. I hope it’s not the next group but a whole generation of good goalkeepers that are hopefully inspired by Sreejesh.”
With hours spent on training and fine-tuning his skills, Staniforth’s advice to Sreejesh, “I tell him every time we play. Keep it simple, enjoy it and watch the ball.”