There are always some players in a group who stand out from the crowd. On a hockey field, some players have good technique, others have qualities like leadership, while some have great game intelligence. At the Naval Tata Hockey Academy (NTHA), there is a team of trainers and coaches who hone the players’ skills and develop their overall personality. They select players from the grassroots level by focussing on aspects such as speed and agility. Physical ability, is not a direct measuring point because many students come from families where there is little or no food.
In case of Simon Bodra, he stood out from the beginning because he was technically good, physically better developed than his peers, and above all, tactically good. Simon hails from Darong village in West Singhbum district of Jharkhand. He comes from a modest background, where his father is a farmer and two of his sisters work in a tailor’s shop. His family has always backed him up and supported his sport. On one instance, his brother borrowed money and went to the market far away from their village to buy a pair of shoes so that Simon could play in the local tournament. Upon Simon’s selection in NTHA, his father shared the joy by distributing sweets among all their neighbours.
Simon has been a part of the academy since the beginning. When he joined NTHA in 2017, he was not able to communicate even in proper Hindi. He didn't speak much or ask any questions. He used to be shy and timid and afraid of everything. But because of the safe environment created at the academy, he has grown as a person and gathered the courage to speak up. With regular bridging courses and assessments, Simon now directly understands what his Dutch coach is telling him. The philosophy followed by his Dutch coach is not to change the hockey culture, but to mix the western and Indian aspects in order to create an own NTHA identity.
There has been a rapid development in Simon’s progress. Today, his confidence has increased tremendously. He takes lead in routine activities and even when he is playing on the field. This young player who has always been looking for a challenge. He wants to know why he is doing something and how can he perform better. Through a lot of self-analysis, Simon has been able to make a complete player of himself. His trainers and coaches have given him the means to achieve this. For example, he was shown many of his videos so that he could see himself playing. Gradually, he has improved his technique and grown in game intelligence.
Simon has come to understand how hockey is played at a high level. He can now analyse and come up with a plan for the team. It's great that a boy can grow so tremendously in his thinking level within just two years of proper training. Simon’s efforts have also been rewarded with him being selected in the Jharkhand Under-19 state team. He has not only grown to the top of NTHA, but has also become a player strong enough to compete with his peers in the Netherlands. This means that a boy who comes from a mud field can play in one of the strongest leagues in the world within a short span of two years. It is quite a feat to achieve, and NTHA is very proud of this!