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It’s a rare honour for tennis coach Bidyut Kumar Goswami of Assam as Columbia University in the USA has decided to rename the men’s coaching position of the university after his name. Goswami, popularly known as Bid, who coached their men team for the last 37 years, has announced his retirement after enriching the team with an impressive record. The position of the men’s tennis coach will be known as the ‘Bidyut K. Goswami Head Coach of Men’s Tennis’. Since he took the helm in 1982, Goswami has led the men’s tennis team to 14 Ivy League championships, including six consecutive titles since 2014. He has also amassed the most wins among all head coaches who have served in the program, with a record of 493-196. In an interview with The Bridge, the legendary figure shared his thoughts. Some of the excerpts: Q. It’s a rare occasion to be honoured like this…what is your reaction at this moment? Ans: The chair in my name was endowed after my 25th year at Columbia in 2007. I was very honoured to have my name endowed then, and I feel the same way after 12 years. My assistant Howard Endelman, who was my first recruit back in 1982, will be the next Head coach at Columbia when I retire and will be known as the ‘Bidyut K. Goswami Head Men's Tennis Coach’. It is an honour that I don’t take lightly, and I’m very honoured that it will stay that way forever. I’m, of course, very grateful and delighted to be always a part of Columbia tennis. Q. How does it feel now when you are leaving something that you were involved so intimately and emotionally for the last 37 years? Ans: I have done this for the last 37 years and ended up winning the previous 6 Ivy Championships. Our program is in good hands and like all good things I knew this also had to come to an end. I am very grateful to our administration and the Board of Trustees for always backing me in everything that I did. I leave with a sense of nostalgia but feel ecstatic that I had always given my very best. Q. Can you recall the early days, when you applied for the post and you were not pretty sure that you would get it? Ans: I was very fortunate to get the job back in 1982. I had no prior experience as a college coach and I did not play College tennis in the US. I was still trying to make a living as a touring professional. I took a chance and applied and was very happy to get this phenomenal opportunity. I owe it to a lot of great people who backed me especially Dick Savitt, who won Wimbledon and the Australian open in 1951 and was the number one player in the world. Savitt who is 93 now and still enjoys hitting a few tennis balls became one of my most ardent supporters and I would always be very grateful to Savitt for all his support and kindness when I first moved to the US. I am very fortunate and lucky to call him a friend. Q. You have emerged to be one of the most successful coaches in the USA over the last three decades. You won several major titles. But for you, what has been the biggest and most satisfying moment? Ans: The greatest reward of being a college coach in one of the best Universities in the world is that I can make a difference to the student-athletes that play for the tennis team. My reward is seeing them become great human beings and coming back and supporting their Alma Mater after they finish. My greatest joy is not the wins and losses but to see that all my players ended up very successful in whatever profession they chose. I always hoped and prayed that I was part of their development. That is why I feel college coaching in the US is such an unbelievable job. Q. In the 1970s, you were selected for the Davis Cup team and also represented India in Asian Games. So, over the last several decades, how do you see the growth of tennis in India? Ans: I was selected to the Davis Cup squad in 1975. Though I was not in the final four players that made up the Davis Cup team, I always felt very honoured. I was also very privileged to represent India in the junior Davis Cup team for three years in Europe, the Gallea Cup (which is the Under 21 Davis Cup) in Spain in 1973 and also the Asian Games in Tehran, Iran in 1974. India had a terrific reputation in the world those days. Ramanathan Krishnan, Premjit Lall and Jaidip Mukherjea were all world class players. Then the Amrithraj Brothers, Gaurav Misra, Sashi Menon and Jasjit Singh and Ramesh Krishnan took the reign. After that, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi followed. Somdev Devvarman was one of the most accomplished college players having won the NCAA Championships twice.
The Indian players always had beautiful strokes and were always technically correct, but they lack in the physical prowess that is so necessary for the modern game. Q. And as you were born and brought up in Assam, I also want to ask something about Assam. After you left, there is not a single player who have been able to make his or her mark in the national or international level, why this is so? Ans: Unfortunately, I am not in a position to know or comment about the level of the game in Assam as I have been away from Assam for quite some time. The Assam Tennis Association was very helpful to me and others who grew up in the late 1960s. They brought excellent coaches from outside Assam who helped us juniors like me, Bimal Bharali, Prashanta Das and Ashim Choudhury to challenge other good juniors from all over India. That is what got me started, and later when I was about 16, I went to Calcutta, which was the seat of tennis in India those days, to try and become even better with better competition. Q. Thirty-seven years with the same team is not a joke. What motivated you to keep going and doing better each time? Ans. When you have something good, why change? The grass is always greener outside. I had a lot of chances to go to other top tennis schools who also gives athletic scholarship, but I felt Columbia took a big chance with me without me having any previous experience and I wanted to be loyal to Columbia. I’m glad that I did not jump around and made Columbia my home these last 37 years. I’m very proud of doing that. The hard working and good players that came to our team kept me energised and motivated to keep giving my best always. It is a gratifying profession. I have a passion for the sport of tennis and coaching became an extension of my playing career, and I was very fortunate to have my parents and family support me in my decision to make tennis my profession. My family gave me their blessings to fulfil my passion and desire for this great sport, and for that, I will always be grateful. Q. What are the most essential qualities a coach needs to have? What is your success mantra? Ans. Hard work and perseverance are very important components to become successful in anything. Tennis is not any different. I learnt from some great coaches, and in the end, I have to say that luck has a lot to do with success.
Tennis, however, has become a prominent sport all around the world and so the competition has become very tough. The game these days has become very physical, and that is the one thing that Indian tennis needs.
I am very grateful to be voted as the National coach of the year in 2019. And it is a great way to end my career. Q. What is your next plan? Ans. Not many plans yet. Let’s see what the Almighty has in store for me. But I would like to give as much time as I can to my family. All my family have been very understanding and supportive these last 40 years, and I want to give back to them now. Q. When are you planning to visit your native place? Ans: Hopefully, soon.
A good coach always becomes excellent because of the great players he coaches. And for that, I was very fortunate.