It was refreshing to read this week that Malaysian Women’s Hockey Coach Dharma Raj has offered to help any club looking to set up a women’s team free of charge. His reason being that he wants to grow the talent pool in the country.
After a meeting with Politeknik Hockey officials the club announced that they were prepared to give full sponsorship to all who want to study there and play hockey. The club also has some Korean players playing for them, which will assist in making them competitive and also raising the overall standard of the league. Korea are ranked ninth in the women’s competition by the FIH while Malaysia are ranked 22.
It is great to see a national coach prepared to give up his time free of charge to try and help the game. Sure, ultimately it could help him in his job, but today there are many coaches who would have the attitude that it is not their job to help grow the game and the talent pool. They are simply there to achieve results for the national team. After all coaching is a very fickle profession and one day you are in charge the next you can be unemployed, so best focus on the things you can control.
Dharma Raj looked to increase the talent pool with the Malaysian men’s team when he became head coach. He had successfully led the junior side to their first ever Junior Asia Cup victory in 2012 and then took the team to fourth place at the Junior World Cup in 2013. This was the country’s first top four finish since 1985.
Unfortunately for him the senior players in the national side fought against his moves to increase the talent pool, which would have meant that he could rest players in tournaments, and barring injuries be sure to put out the strongest team in the major tournaments. Some players felt that such a system would put their spot in jeopardy, and fought hard against such moves. The players won that battle and the coach was moved on.
Credit must go to the coach though who has been undeterred by that set back and now in charge of the women’s team he is still trying to adopt a method that will ultimately benefit the women’s game in Malaysia. With a far smaller talent pool than he had with the men’s program Dharma Raj has again achieved success. His Malaysian Tigers team won silver in the Hockey World League Two and progressed to the Hockey World League semi finals for the first time. Unfortunately this was where their lack of experience and depth was exposed. The team finishing 10th out of ten. This was the spur for him to go out and try and create new opportunities for potential female hockey players.
It will be interesting to follow the progress of his quest. Will the Malaysian women’s league grow in numbers and improve in standard and become more competitive? Will that in turn help the Malaysian Tigers women’s team climb the world rankings and become more competitive in years to come?