Eric Wonink has been coaching since he was 17 years old. His work has taken the Dutchman to Germany, Croatia, Belgium, and India.
However, it was in India that Eric found his calling when he was appointed the country’s national junior women’s coach. Eric’s wife, Neha, is also a hockey coach from this part of the world.
Appointed by the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu as a high performance coach for hockey in June on a year’s contract, Eric has hit the ground running. He has started training SDAT coaches, conducted workshops for them, and implored them to watch the Asian Champions Trophy tournament.
“There is no better coaching available than watching top teams and top players play here. Coaches learn a lot by analysing the games. The Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium is wonderful. SDAT and the Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu have done an amazing job,” Eric told Sportstar.
The 54-year-old was impressed with SDAT’s mission of “making Tamil Nadu the sporting state of the nation.”
Eric is confident of making Tamil Nadu a strong state in hockey, but insists that he is not a magician. “I am all for development. But it takes a minimum of eight years to make a champion team or a player.”
He is clear about what he wants from Tamil Nadu. “To get the structure right with coaches and players, and to get the basics right. And, of course, to get more Tamil Nadu players on the national team,” he said.
“My goal will be, as far as I understand, to support hockey in TN.”
Eric first came to India in February 2017 but became a permanent junior women’s coach only in 2019–20, after his predecessor Baljeet Singh Saini quit. “India has treated me really well. The Sports Authority of India, Hockey India, and all the support staff who have worked with me are great. I am thankful to them,” he said.
The national junior women’s team lost a close match against England, under Eric’s tutelage, for the bronze medal in the Junior World Cup in Potchefstroom, South Africa, last year. “Let’s not talk about it. We played a good tournament. In the last six years, we’ve made good progress. Without the coaching staff, I don’t think we could have progressed so well,” he said.
According to Eric, what his coaching staff has done with the national junior women’s team has been phenomenal. “It has been fantastic. There has been a complete change in the players’ mindset, attitude, and behaviour. The junior and senior teams have a great future,” he said.