The penalties range from doing push-ups for a foul at training to steep financial sanctions for wearing the wrong jersey or coming late to training sessions. The rules, mind you, are not just for the players but the whole camp – the coach himself has had to pay up more than a couple of thousand in fines.
“Doing something wrong carries a severe penalty of Rs 500. This doesn’t just apply to the players. Even support staff are fined for such errors,” Harendra told Firstpost.
“If training starts at 8.55 am and I reach at 8.57 am, I have to pay,” Singh says.
The champion coach goes onto explain that this process is not just to discipline players, but is being used more as a tool to drive home the importance of thinking as a team.
“If 10 of your teammates are doing something right, and you are doing something else, then this serves as a reminder that you have to act as per the team’s thinking.”
Of all the different punishments at the camp, the most unique would have to be the rooster hat – Singh’s brainchild. The person at fault would have to wear this hat in public at all times when not at training.
“The rooster hat is something I had enforced in the junior Indian team as well. If you do something comical in training or do something that is detrimental to the environment of the team, or make a funny mistake, you get to wear the hat until someone else does the same. Then you pass on the hat to them,” says Harendra.
“We make the players wear this so we can tell even from a distance that this player has done a bewakoofi wali cheez (something stupid),” he says.
The coach provides an example of what an incident that can earn you the coveted rooster hat. “The other day, one of our players was going to start the play. But the ball went in one direction while the player went another and fell. On video, the incident looks comical, but it cost his team the possession and hurt the side.”
“This hat is a way to laugh at mistakes, but also learn in the process,” says Harendra.
The prized crown can also be earned by being absent minded. “If I ask you a question during a team meeting or a session and you answer something completely different, you get the hat,” Harendra says.
Perhaps Simranjeet Singh, who currently wears the ‘crown’, would disagree, but the rest of the players claim to enjoy the punishments.
India captain PR Sreejesh says, “Harendra is a typical Indian coach. He knows how to scold a player. But he also understands when he needs to support or motivate a player. If players feel that training sessions are going to be easy, players will relax and won’t focus too much on training. But if the coach is strict, players realise they need to step up their seriousness.”
“The logic behind the push-ups bit is easy to understand. If you foul someone during a game and you get a card, you will be out of the game for two or five minutes. But your teammates will have to pick up the burden and slog in your absence. We’re trying to explain to players that if you foul someone and get carded, the rest of your teammates will have to work for you. So, this is a small punishment for the mistake,” Sreeejesh says.
“If you keep repeating mistakes, you have to do front rolls and push-ups. It’s not a punishment. All the players are enjoying it. Our biceps are getting bigger,” veteran Sardar Singh adds, flashing a grin.