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Deciphering the Indian athlete's mindset: Role of High-Performance Centres in athlete growth

The CEO of the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) explains how HPCs create a holistic environment that helps athletes like Neeraj Chopra, Jeswin Aldrin and others develop in a 360-degree manner.

Deciphering the Indian athletes mindset: Role of High-Performance Centres in athlete growth

A view of the facilities at the IIS High Performance Centre


Rushdee Warley

Updated: 1 April 2023 1:32 PM GMT

In today’s competitive sporting arena, all sports persons need to have a high level of fitness covering strength, stamina, flexibility, and agility as well as a positive mindset, and the role of the High-Performance Centres (HPCs) is becoming increasingly important with the kind of pressure each athlete has to deal with.

Not only have the demands on an athlete increased, but to compete at the topmost echelons of the sport, the approach to training is changing significantly.

Gone are the days when it would only be a coach and an athlete approach; now, it is a whole repertoire of experts working behind an athlete to maximise performance, with the emphasis transitioning from pure physical training into a more balanced approach that includes a player’s mental health and well-being.

While India is slowly warming up to the idea of high-performance centres, we have certainly made progress in the last five years, starting with the Inspire Institute of Sport to facilities led by state governments, federations, Sports Authority of India and other private players who have been entering into a PPP (public–private partnership) model to drive a cultural change in the way athletes approach training.

Environment that drives an athlete

At all the high-performance centres, we are striving to create a holistic environment that helps the athlete develop in a 360-degree manner. This is applicable to all areas: coaching, sports science, infrastructure, operations, and administration.

For instance, if we look at IIS, apart from being a state-of-the-art high-performance institute that focuses on every aspect of the athlete’s anatomy, starting from their diet to the last-inch technique that they are using, a rehab facility, and all other facilities, we have worked really hard in departments such as education (formal and life skills) and horticulture.

The whole facility needs to have a certain temperature for the athletes to feel up to putting in their 100% each day in training. At the same time, special emphasis is also given to the personnel who are brought into the system so as to maximise the human potential of each person.

The IIS high performance centre

Building the growth mindset of athletes

At IIS, we work ardently towards building a growth mindset amongst athletes. Considering, most of the athletes that come to us have achieved a certain degree of specialisation in their sport, it is important to keep the hunger growing and also take into perspective how they perceive their own performance. Once they feel that they are a key cog in the process of their own growth, it automatically drives ownership towards their performance.

We want the athletes to understand why they are doing, what they are doing rather than blindly follow instructions. We encourage athletes to ask questions. With specific reference to sports science, it is again important for athletes to develop a basic understanding of why things are different from "traditional" training methods.

We teach athletes about different training methods that are focused on an integrated approach to performance delivery; technical coaching is supported by sports science disciplines in a way that the sports science complements what the coach is doing in the technical sessions.

Further digging deeper into the aspect, if we take the example of our two new stars, Jeswin Aldrin, who recently broke the national record in the Long Jump and Praveen Chithravel in the Triple Jump, both train under the same coach, two-time World Championship silver medallist Yoandri Betanzos.

While Yoandri leads the overall process Jeswin and Praveen have always been given the liberty to showcase their views on how they are feeling about their training, this collaborative approach has helped them grow not only as athletes but has also given them a better perspective on their own abilities.

Bringing the world to the athletes

Another important aspect of driving an athlete mindset is the role of high-performance centres in helping athletes get international exposure. Exposure to international environments really helps shift this comfort zone. When athletes have the chance to train and compete against their peers around the world, they quickly understand that while many of the standards within India are high, it is not necessarily the global standard.

International exposure in some sports, e.g. combat sports, gives athletes exposure to different styles which they will encounter when competing at the highest level.

We concentrate on bringing together a mixture of foreign and local staff to create a dynamic training environment which mixes different coaching and sports science philosophies.

This integration of local and international allows us to deliver coaching and sports science solutions that are unique to our environment and that evolve as we learn more each day.

If we take the example of IIS, we spend a considerable part of the year enabling athletes to train outside, like Neeraj is now doing in South Africa. We have similar plans for Jeswin and our triple jump trio.

Rushdee Warley, CEO, IIS

An integrated approach to drive performance

In order for any High-Performance Centre to have maximum effect on human potential, it is critical that we strive for an integrated approach to performance delivery.

At IIS, we use a coach-led, sports science-supported model. What this means is that the coach must effectively outline his vision for the programme to the sports team (assistant coaches, sports science staff).

Within that vision, the coach must articulate the roles and responsibilities of all role players.

The sports science team needs to develop programmes aligned with the vision and outcomes of the coach. This team needs to meet regularly to assess the progress of the programme and, where necessary, make adjustments, course correct, and ensure that the objectives and goals of the programme and, by extension, the individual athletes, are being met and remain on track.

The way forward in India

There is certainly a shortage of HPCs in the country, especially if we take the size of India into account. We take the example of strong sporting countries like Germany and the population size in comparison to India; they have more than 80 HPCs at their disposal, which is a large number.

What is also important is that we recognise that one environment may not be suitable for an athlete for a variety of reasons—just not being able to adapt to that specific environment or geography, not being able to connect with the coach, etc.

By having multiple centres around India, even in the PPP model, we will have a high chance of ensuring more elite athletes can be integrated into a high-performance environment that best suits them.

The writer is Rushdee Warley, CEO of Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS)

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