Wanted: Coaches, who can coach!

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 17 Jun 2017 10:05:57


By Aasawari Shenolikar,

The backbone of any sport is the technique adopted for training by the trainer i.e. the coach. And training is proportionately relevant to the knowledge of the coach. Our coaches, though a few have made progress, need to make a dynamic change in their approach to the present scientific sports. What was relevant when they themselves entered into the world of sports, is only 45% relevant when they become national coaches.
— Sushil Dutt Salwan, SC lawyer and former VP of Athletics Federation of India.

“I know that the coach (Pavel Smirnov, India’s chief pistol coach) has never been able to answer my questions. He doesn’t have the technical know-how. It’s not just me, even Jitu (Rai) said that to me,” Heena told PTI in an interaction. Heena Sidhu and Jitu Rai clinchéd the gold medal for India in the mixed team 10m Air Pistol event at the Shooting World Cup in Gabala.

Heena’s statement, once again, throws light on the sad state of affairs about sports in a nation of 1.3 billion people.
Heena spoke out only after winning a medal at an international championship. Till now she had kept mum, possibly fearing a backlash from the authorities if she so much as opened her mouth to protest. But with a prestigious medal in her kitty, she has gathered courage to speak about a coach who, in all probability, is not really qualified to be a coach and train Indian athletes to compete at national and international levels. What is more appalling is that the Federation asked her to ‘give him a chance’! Give some random person from some random country a chance at the cost of an athlete who has toiled, sweated - many a time in adverse conditions - to carve a name for himself in the Indian wall of sporting fame! This is simply outrageous! Which makes one wonder - why should the Federation make sub-standard or below par arrangements for its athletes who, if treated right, have the capacity to bring home the medals and put India on the international map?
However, this is not a stray incident. Reams and reams have been written about Indian sports and the sporting culture, and the frenzied flurry gains momentum when the Indian contingent returns from the Olympics with a medal or two. The print media, the electronic media and anyone who have an iota of interest in sports will talk for days about what ails Indian sports. The issue, with passage of time, then peters down.


If one reads/listens to the issue being addressed, one thing glaringly stands out - and that is, we do not lack only the infrastructural facility, we also lack good coaches, we also lack good doctors, good administrators who should, at the back of their minds, have only the good of the athletes. It is most agonising to read about the audacity of the administrators who will ‘employ’ their near and dear ones to accompany the team at international events in the capacity of doctors, managers, physiotherapists, nutritionists... There is an entire team behind the team that is supposed to bring glory to the nation.

But that team needs to be the right team. Qualifications be damned; capabilities be damned; understanding of the game be damned - ‘I am getting to roam the world at the expense of the government, and life couldn’t be better’. That it is at the expense of an athlete -who has been training hard for all his life - is not even given a fleeting thought. Those holding top positions in the Sports Authority of India, authorities who should be focused only on the betterment of the sportsmen, ever think that the only way the sportsmen will better themselves is when they have at the helm, successful and effective working professionals from sporting fields, people who know the nitty-gritty of the game and will help hone the skills of an athlete because of his own experience. That it is the coaches who will enrich the experience of the player, is not considered at all.

We’ve heard about officials who were ‘coaches’ of the Indian shooting squad; coaches who wouldn’t know which side of the rifle has the trigger or from where does the bullet emerge. Then how in the world can our athletes blossom under such ‘coaches’? Serious thought needs to go into employing professionals who can impart not only correct training but also be adept at boosting the moral of the athlete. The coach needs to play the role of a guide, a counselor and a friend.

Many contend that the government hires foreign coaches and that such steps are taken keeping the benefit of the players in mind. But take a look at the kind of people who are hired to coach our best! Do the authorities, at any time scrutinise their credentials under a microscopic lens? What the authorities want is the ‘stamp of a foreign coach’ and so they will pick up the cheapest ones, who are up for a bid. The concerned athletes hardly have any say in the matter - remember we are not talking about cricket here where the players are known to put their weight, collectively or individually, in appointment of a coach - the poor athletes, in this unholy nexus of coach and administration, are caught between the Devil and the deep sea. Most often than not, the foreign coaches who are hired belong to Eastern bloc nations, who have absolutely no understanding of the local language and only know a smattering of the Queen’s language. How in the world will they ever be able to help the athletes, if the medium of effective communication is zilch between the taught and the tutor?

There couldn’t be a better example of the importance and worth of a coach than Pullela Gopichand whose protégés have made a name for themselves at all major international tournaments. PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, Sai Praneeth, and of course Saina Nehwal (who has now shifted her loyalties) - all of them conquered their respective arenas because of a strong backing of the coach - a coach who himself was an active player and has won medals at the top levels including the All England Badminton Championship. So, here is a coach who understands the game, understands the player and hence is able to see the shortcomings and modify the game according to the individual’s requirements.

The bottomline is that the authorities need to wake up. Let not the players, time and again, blame them for not being provided the facilities they deserve. They must take a proactive stand and produce coaches, trainers and people with the correct technical know-how at the local level because it is the locals, who will be able to understand the difficulties and the adversities that the players in the country face. They will be better equipped to help the athletes overcome challenges and give it their best shot, again and again.

The individuals, chosen to be trained as coaches, must have the requisite passion towards the game, for then only can they help prepare the players to take on the world. So our coaches need to be world-class, if we want our athletes to shine and dazzle in the world arena. All the dynamics - the administration, the funding, the coaches, the sports scientists - all have to come together and form a strong bond and work unitedly, in sync with each other, for India to reach great heights in sports.