A year of challenges and new experiences
Craig Fulton has already experienced a lot since the beginning of the year:
- Heartbreaking World Cup final defeat with Belgium
- Experiencing the intensity and passion of Indian fans as a neutral
- Adapting to a completely different culture as India’s chief coach
- Facing tough outings in the FIH Pro League
Stepping into the hot seat
While Fulton was an outsider to the Odisha crowd at the FIH Pro League, he will now be in the hot seat for the first time when the Indian men’s team steps out for the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) in Chennai in August.
Coaching the Indian team at home
This will be Fulton’s toughest outing yet, coaching the Indian team in a major tournament at home, in a city that has been starved of hockey action for close to two decades.
Focus on the team and process
Despite the immense pressure, Fulton is trying to keep the focus firmly within, working on the team, sticking to a process, and not thinking too much about the opposition.
Prepared for any situation
Fulton explained, “We want to make sure we are well prepared for any situation, and we are covering all that as we go. We are talking about it, discussing openly what our potential challenges are and how we can overcome them. At the end of the day, our focus is on us and our process — that’s 80 per cent of what we are doing — and 20 per cent on the opposition; make no mistake, they will be prepared.”
The importance of the Asian Champions Trophy
The ACT lies in the scheme of things between a tough Europe tour and the all-important Asian Games in September, with a ticket to the Paris Olympics as the top prize.
Competing with top Asian sides
All the top Asian sides, including Korea, China, Japan, Malaysia, and Pakistan, will be participating in the Asian Champions Trophy. The competition serves as a great tournament before the Asian Games.
The history of the tournament
The Asian Champions Trophy, jointly top of the winners’ table with Pakistan, was first held in 2011 to provide more competition to Asian teams and raise the overall level of the sport in the continent.
India hosting the tournament for the first time
This is the first time India is hosting the tournament, which has seen significant changes in Indian hockey since its inception.
Focus on mental conditioning
Craig Fulton has brought in Paddy Upton as the mental conditioner to give the Indian hockey team a much-needed mental edge.
Working towards consistency
Fulton sees the mental edge as crucial for consistent performance and plans to work on connecting the players from diverse backgrounds.
Pressure on the players
The players themselves are under pressure, with the Olympic bronze, disappointing World Cup, and underwhelming 2018 Asiad still fresh in their minds. Performing well at the ACT will be a big boost.