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National Sports Day: It is time we give coaches their due credit

This National Sports Day, let us all agree it is time that we start giving the coaches of athletes the due credit for all the thankless hours they put in to develop champions for India.

PV Sindhu and Kamalpreet Kaur with their coaches Park Tae Sang and Rakhi Tyagi, respectively.
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PV Sindhu and Kamalpreet Kaur with their coaches Park Tae Sang and Rakhi Tyagi, respectively.

By

Abhijit Nair

Updated: 2021-11-14T15:50:48+05:30

How many of us know who coached Neeraj Chopra to the historic gold medal in Tokyo?

How many of us know the team behind Bhavani Devi, who helped her become the first Indian fencer at the Olympics?

How many of us know who was the coach of the Indian table tennis contingent, who performed exceedingly well at the Tokyo Olympics?

We sure trended Dronacharya Award for the hockey coaches, but how many of us remember their names now?

Forgetting coaches is not a new thing. It has been happening for a long time. If an athlete achieves something special, they get all the deserved recognition, but their coaches stay under the radar.

On the other hand, the coaches are the first to take a fall if the athletes fail to perform up to the expectations. Ask a certain Woller Akos or the Indian shooting coaches who were in Tokyo.


"If we start recognising the coaches, they would get motivated. Much like athletes, the coaches too wish to be appreciated for their efforts. If we do not do that, why would anyone ever want to invest their time in helping someone develop into one of the best in the world? There has to be a balance," tells Rakhi Tyagi, the coach of India's star discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur to The Bridge.

Having started professional coaching in 2014, Rakhi Tyagi has seen a lot of young athletes up close and worked with a lot of children and has an eye for spotting the best of talents from a pool of people.

"When you put a bunch of kids together and ask them to compete against each other, you just know who amongst them has the talent to succeed, or maybe I just have an eye for that. At times they do not even need to be playing sports actively, but you look at their body structure and build, and you feel I should ask her to try out for this sport; this is exactly how I ended up taking Kamalpreet under my wings," Tyagi says.

With the experience of coaching various athletes right from the grassroots to the elite level, Rakhi Tyagi believes that it is important that we do not force sports on to kids and let them make the decision.

"I know people who force a certain sport on their kids at a very young age and do not let them come out of it; it is not good. If there is anything I have learnt in my short coaching span is that you conduct recreational activities for young children and allow them to play whatever they want. Specialisation can wait until they are 14 or 15-year-old. This would help in the overall development of body, which will certainly help them later on in their sporting career," she explains.

A lot of people there is a module to become a perfect coach, or only those coaches who are perfect in every sense deserves to be noticed. Tyagi disagrees.

"There is nothing like a perfect coach. Everyone might lack at one or the other point, but what is important is that you understand your athlete better than anyone else. There needs to be an open relationship between the coach and athlete, where the two know each other inside out."

Off late after India's campaign at the Tokyo Olympics, there have been talks of how foreign coaches served Indian athletes better, with only Mirabai Chanu out of all the country's medallists training under an Indian coach.

"Much like athletes development programme, there needs to be a proper coach's development programme. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has done a very good job on this in recent times, but I feel it can be better. We should send our coaches abroad to learn. If a foreign coach comes to India, he or she will coach a maximum of two-three players, but if an Indian coach who has studied the craft abroad comes back to India, he or she will not only develop players but also help other coaches up their game," Rakhi Tyagi opines.

You ask any top athlete what helped them achieve what they have achieved, and they would surely point out their coach at some point during the conversation.

Take the young Shaili Singh, who recently won the U-20 World Championships silver in athletics, for example. She was asked after her win whom she would dedicate the medal to - her mom or coach, in a post-event press conference.

"I will dedicate the medal to my coach, Robert Bobby George. My mother only took me to him, but sir helped me achieve this," Shaili had responded as Robert Bobby George let out a wry smile.

Probably that is all the motivation a coach needs. Their athlete appreciating their efforts. It might be enough to keep them going and produce champions after champions. But, that does not really mean we completely ignore them.

This National Sports Day, let us all agree it is time that we start giving the coaches of athletes the due credit for all the thankless hours they put in to develop champions for India.


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