9 of the 18 players from the Indian men’s hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics, underwent training at just one institute near Sansarpur village in the Jalandhar district of Punjab, reported India Today. The institute, named Surjit Singh Academy, has been producing high-quality players consistently for the past 7-8 years.
Even this time, the academy has sent 9 of its players to the 18 member-contingent in field hockey at the Summer Olympic Games. The athletes include Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Hardik Singh, captain Manpreet Singh, reserve goalkeeper Krishan Pathak, Dilpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, Shamsher Singh, and Simranjeet Singh. They were part of the Indian hockey team that scripted history by securing a bronze medal for the country after 41 years.
Training regime at the Surjit Singh Academy
Surjit Singh Academy was founded in the year 2005 and has so far produced about 30 hockey players for the country. While speaking to India Today, head coach Avatar Singh emphasized that the Indian hockey team has been reaping the benefits of a systematic process and years of hard work. “We have not won this medal overnight. It has been the hard work of the past 16 years.
When Pargat Singh became Punjab’s director of sports, it was his vision to build a world-class hockey academy, and these players are part of that vision,” he added. It must be mentioned that Avtar Singh has been a part of the academy since the year 2008.
While pointing the systematic process to led to India’s historic victory over Germany, Singh explained how a player is selected and trained to represent the nation. ”Our motto was very clear, we want to build a structure, where we can pick the players from a very early age, give them the right training. It starts with a five-day selection trial, where we used to get 300 kids, and the number has risen to around 1,100 over the years. The trials are followed by a three-day physical fitness test that gives us a brief idea of how far the kid can go ahead,” he said. Thereafter, the academy shifts the focus on the physical aspect of the game such as building speed, agility, flexibility, endurance, strength, and plyometrics.
Impact of the sporting nursery on India’s field hockey performance
Harmanpreet Singh, who had trained at the academy, scored 2 crucial goals in 2017 to defeat Pakistan by a margin of 7-1. He had begun training at the institute from a very early age, as per the report by India Today. Shamsher Singh, the son of a farmer, was accepted by the Surjit Singh Academy when he was a student of Class 7. He was eventually selected in the Indian national side in 2019. A resident of Attari with humble beginnings, Singh spent 6 years at the institute. He is still unable to fathom the fact that he represented India in the Tokyo Olympics.
According to coach Gurdev Singh, who works at the Surjit Singh Academy, India’s performance at the Summer Olympics will inspire a new generation of children to take up the sport. He remarked, “You will see more kids playing hockey. This medal is going to build a culture that was lost for the past 30 years or so. We will have Manpreets, Harmanpreets, and Mandeeps to inspire the next generation, and that’s the difference a medal can make. The bronze medal win will make them role models for the ones who are now in the age group categories and dreaming of making it to the 2028 Game.”
It must be mentioned that the academy is named after the iconic hockey player Surjit Singh, who was a part of the winning team in the 3rd Edition of the World Cup Hockey Tournament in 1975. As a deep defender, he participated in the 1974 Asian Games, 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, and 1978 Asian Games. Following his retirement from the sport, he died in a tragic road accident near Kartarpur in the Jalandhar district of Punjab. The Indian government posthumously awarded him the Arjuna Award in 1998.