The Reids: Coaching Indian hockey team on and off the field

While Graham Reid takes care of the tactics on the field, his wife Julia helps out with communication by taking English language lessons for the players.

By Rahul Venkat

When Graham Reid was brought in as the chief coach of the men’s hockey team in 2019, little did his Indian employers know that the Reids would turn out to be such a rare ‘two-in-one’ package.

As it has turned out, Graham’s wife Julia Reid is also a coach, albeit in a different context.

Graham and Julia Reid share similar interests, their love for travelling stands testament to that, and they have again teamed up to help out the Indian hockey team together.

While Graham Reid takes care of the tactics on the field, Julia Reid helps with communication by taking English language lessons for the players.

“We mostly keep the sessions fun and hockey-based. For example, I give them a ‘player of the match’ scenario after they have just won a big game and get them to talk about it,” Julia told the Olympic Channel.

“What I have discovered is that they speak good English, they know a lot but most of them are just shy. It has been really nice to take those lessons and it's been fun to get to know them during that process too.”

There are also classroom elements to the sessions, with Julia Reid suggesting a lot of books to read, many of them about Olympic history. It was an activity that striker Mandeep Singh followed religiously during the lockdown.

Another person who helped Julia Reid with the lessons was Heidi Cirello, the wife of former Indian hockey analytical coach Chris Ciriello.

Heidi, a science and mathematics teacher, had prior teaching experience and now Julia will now have to do the sessions alone after Chris Ciriello resigned from his post last month.

Apart from acting as a way for the Indian hockey team to gel together off-field, the lessons also have some intangible benefits on the field, reveals Graham Reid.

“I think it helps especially with understanding my Australian accent, which can be tough to decipher initially,” laughed Graham Reid.

“Even some of the words I speak, I realised it's only the Australians that use them. So the lessons help in those little things.”

Best student and class clown

Though the English language sessions are mostly fun, they do represent a classroom at times and there are bound to be a few diligent students among the players.

Like any good teacher though, Julia Reid does not have any favourites.

“Oh, I would not like to pick any names as being the best student, they are all very good. That’s a very diplomatic answer, isn’t it?” she laughed.

However, Julia Reid does not have any qualms in naming who the class clown is. Veteran custodian PR Sreejesh may be a reassuring presence on the field and a vocal leader, which may portray him as a serious person, but he can be quite mischievous.

“I don’t think I have taken many sessions for Sreejesh at all. He is always in hiding and when he does come in, he is quite the prankster in the class,” she chuckled.

The lessons may have been halted during the one-month break when the Indian hockey team went home but all of them are back training at the camp now in Bengaluru. And they could look forward to the off-field sessions beginning again.