How to train for big tournaments: Manpreet Singh tips

Manpreet Singh’s Tactical Training

Manpreet Singh is preparing for one of the biggest tournaments of his life.

After much of the sport world was upstaged by the global Covid-19 pandemic, field hockey will have its biggest competition of the year in July-August.

And Manpreet hopes to lead the Indian national hockey team to glory at the tournament, after a dedicated year of training and practice matches.

Here is a breakdown of how Manpreet is taking on the major tournament, and how he prepares for big matches and competitions in general.

Stay dedicated to your fitness routine

Manpreet stretching before training

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Manpreet says that hockey matches have become extremely fast paced since the rule changes that made a match 60 minutes with four quarters.

“Nowadays , most of the teams focus on fitness. It’s very important,” says Manpreet.

“Not just me, the entire team has a planned fitness regime that we follow. Fitness is extremely important in hockey,” he says about the individual fitness routines given to each player.

“I always have core strength and gym in my routine. I avoid taking gaps, as that’s really important. If I stick to my routine consistently, my body will remain fit.”

Study your tough opponents

“We study the opponents we are going to play. We analyse what strategy will work best against them after studying their strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I keep myself focussed on the opponent. If we’re playing Australia, I’ll study their midfielders and try to understand their game,” says Manpreet.

“[Before playing Belgium in February 2020 in the FIH Pro League], I tried to understand their strengths. I made strategies on how I can stop them, how can we attack and how I should lead the team.”

Never underestimate lower ranked teams

Manpreet goes through training drills

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“The competition has increased a lot. You can’t underestimate any team. Nowadays, even a low ranking team can beat you. You have to be focussed all the time,” says Manpreet

“Earlier we used to lose to Australia or Netherlands by huge margins. But nowadays we beat them. Australia was beating all the good teams but they’ve also lost to Japan. That way the game has changed a lot. You can never underestimate a low ranking team. You have to give your 100% focus right from the first whistle to the last.”

Prepare for the tournament conditions

Manpreet makes a note of where the major tournaments are going to be played so he can prepare for the weather, pitch, facilities, and other conditions.

“In 2019, we played in Japan. We’ve seen the weather, the heat,” says Manpreet about how a 2019 tour of Japan helped the India team get ready for the big upcoming games in the country.

Have ways to deal with the mental pressure

Manpreet in a training session

© Ali Bharmal

Manpreet likes to deal with the mental pressure of big games and big tournaments by talking to his teammates.

“I always feel there is pressure to perform well on the ground. I sometimes think, ‘What if I don’t perform and the team loses?’ I tackle this by talking and sharing with my team. It’s nice. They share their thoughts as well. I really hate losing, and I always think that I shouldn’t lose today. ‘What if we lose?’ is something that’s always somewhere in my thoughts, but sharing them with my teammates and coaches really helps.”

Get in some match practice

With the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns across the world, the Indian national team was not able to play a competitive field hockey match for over a year. They returned to action with their first competitive matches against Argentina in April 2021, as part of the FIH Pro League.

“Not playing competitive hockey for over a year has been a big setback but this is something every team in the world is facing due to the pandemic,” says Manpreet.

The Indian hockey team is using their two matches against Argentina as competitive match practice for bigger tournaments they will play later in the year.

“Having missed match practice for much of last year, we have to cash in on the opportunities we get. It is good for us that we are tested against a tough opponent like Argentina.”

Work on weak areas in training

Manpreet Singh

© Ali Bharmal

Before the matches in Argentina, India had extensive training camps followed by a tour of Europe for practice matches. In the training camps, they addressed issues that could be problematic in big tournaments.

“We worked hard in our training camps and tried our best to recreate the intensity of a high-stakes international match. One of the areas we really focussed on during our national camp was to make more circle entries and finish chances. Converting penalty corner opportunities is another aspect we wanted to get better at,” says Manpreet.

Overcoming COVID-19 with positivity

Manpreet was one of four Indian hockey players to test positive for Covid-19 when he attended the Indian training camp in Bengaluru in August 2020.

“It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life,” says Manpreet. “During my isolation, it was challenging to just be in a room without doing anything. I could just attend team video calls to discuss hockey or analyse a game.”

Manpreet stayed focussed by dedicating himself to fitness. Something he had done during India’s nation-wide lockdown over March-May 2020 as well.

“I think personally for me, overcoming COVID last year was more of a mental battle than anything else. Over these past few months, I have put in a lot of hard work to return to my earlier form,” says Manpreet.

Practice activities that help you get focused before a match

Manpreet during hockey drills

© Ali Bharmal

Manpreet likes to distract himself a bit before he has to play a big match, or sometimes before training sessions.

“I always keep myself focused before a match by listening to music. So that way, my focus is always on the game. I always play the PlayStation before a match or training. I’m a big fan of football. Football helps me a lot in hockey as well. As I’m a midfielder, I get to learn a lot about ball rotation and free hits, which I then apply to my game. It helps a lot,” says Manpreet.

Remember to enjoy the moment

Manpreet sipping Red Bull between drills

© Ali Bharmal

Relish the opportunity to play in the biggest tournaments. While Manpreet says they come with pressure, it is also the reason he got into the sport.

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