From a failed wrestler to coaching at the grassroots: The untold story of Sandip Patil

It was in the month of January, we saw the inaugural edition of Khelo India School Games kicking off with undaunting enthusiasm, which was targeted at strengthening the sporting ecosystem by mass participation and promotion of excellence in sports and identifying budding sports talent across the country.

The games revealed some exceptionally talented young players across multiple disciplines like archery, boxing, gymnastics, wrestling, among others.

Among the female wrestlers, Mahima Rathod, Disha Karande and Vishranti Patil emerged as young stars whose performances drew attention among the hundred others who had taken part in the discipline. The trio was among the four young wrestlers who had participated in the Khelo India Games under the tutelage of coach Mr Sandip Hari Patil.

Among the female wrestlers, Mahima Rathod, Disha Karande and Vishranti Patil emerged as young stars whose performances drew attention among the hundred others who had taken part in the discipline.

The story of Sandip Patil is one of immense perseverance which demands your attention. Hailing from Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, which is called a cradle of wrestling in the country, Sandip Patil runs a wrestling school where children from across the district join together to learn the nitty-gritty of the sport.

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This part of Maharashtra has been a wrestling hot box even before the times of the legendary Khashaba Dadasaheb Jhadav also know as the ‘pocket dynamo’, who rose to become the first individual athlete from India to win a medal at the Olympics, when he clinched the bronze medal at the 1952 Games in Helsinki.

Sandip who had aspired to become a stalwart like Jadhav, couldn’t make it to the grand stage. However, he now channelises his dreams through the young wrestlers he trains at his academy.

Hailing from Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, which is called a cradle of wrestling in the country, Sandip Patil runs a wrestling school where children from across the district join together to learn the nitty-gritties of the sport.

Sandip, says this academy would have never happened if he hadn’t lost in a friendly wrestling match against Narsingh Yadav, the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist wrestler.

I wrestled with Narsingh Yadav several times in friendly matches. There were occasions where I had defeated him,” said Sandip to The Bridge.

However, one day I conceded a defeat while we were wrestling in front of my father. That day my father told me that maybe I won’t ever able to win a medal in bigger platforms, and instead foster young athletes’ dreams of becoming better wrestlers,” he continued.

A failed wrestler to a successful coach

Sandip took up a course of diploma in sports coaching in 2009. For the next couple of years. He worked contract based coach in several academies. But there were no permanent opportunities for him. Even after moving from posts to pillar, Sandip was turned down everywhere. At this moment, he decided that he open his own academy.

Sandip, says this academy would have never happened if he hadn’t lost in a friendly wrestling match against Narsingh Yadav, the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist wrestler.

Since my father was a wrestler as well, we had an Akhada (wrestling ring), which I chose to use for building our own academy and in 2011, I was ready with a full-fledged academy,” said Sandip. He chose to remain unmarried so that he could divert all his focus on teaching his students.

The academy that presently houses around 20 girls and 40 boys, takes care of all the requirement and expenses of the students.

Sandip shells out the money from his own pocket without making any compromises.

I don’t charge the students any money, as a majority of them comes from poor financial background. I am glad that they show the right kind of enthusiasm so it’s never difficult to teach them,” says Sandip.

Sandip, says this academy would have never happened if he hadn’t lost in a friendly wrestling match against Narsingh Yadav, the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist wrestler.

While his noble initiative is gaining popularity across the district, the government has barely offered any help to foster his dreams. Because of his certificate, he was initially able to receive a fund of Rs 2 lakh to set up his academy; however, the actual expense of setting it up amounted to way more.

Sandip mentions, “Not only do I have to train the students, I have to ensure they are having the right kind of nutrition intake and maintaining the proper diet to keep themselves fit.”

“It sometimes becomes difficult for me to handle, but I keep on trying my best to take these students to the platforms of their dreams,” he adds.

The humble Akhara with big dreams.

Sandip’s academy has a majority of wrestlers belonging to sub-junior category and his kids are giving a tough competition to the wrestlers from Haryana.

The Khelo India School Games has further lifted Sandip’s morale and he is happy with the results. Sandip himself could never make it to the senior level and was dissatisfied with not playing the Olympics.

Now he weaves dreams that in the next four or five years, his students will make it to the senior level and eventually into the Olympics.