The Indian Coaching Conundrum

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“There is nothing permanent except change” – Heraclitus

Bob Bowman. Robert McCracken. Not your average household names. For instance,Bob Bowman possesses decades of experience in training and grooming swimmers from American University and Bowman has been responsible for developing Gold Standard swimmers for a number of years. His claim to fame – Training Michael Phelps from the age of 10.

Robert McCracken. Ex amateur turned professional boxer (33-2, 19 KO), took over as Performance Director of Boxing for Team GB in 2009, when Amateur British Boxing was at its lowest. 3 years later – Team GB took home 3 Gold Medals in Boxing at the Olympic Games, London 2012.

So who are the people responsible for shaping India’s Olympic Contingent? Are they capable of taking our athletes to Olympic glory? Are their positions as Head Coaches and Performance Directors justified? Are they to us what Rob McCracken is to GB?

The answer is in front of us – Rio, 2016, where it is safe to say that the Indian contingent has been largely poor in terms of performance, save for a few athletes that stood out despite missing out on medals. Poor compared to their individual performances at their respective World Championship events and qualifying competitions, where they competed to a level to be considered serious medal contenders. Sadly though, the sheer magnitude of the Olympic Games got to them when it mattered, thus leading to a meltdown. While it is normal for athletes to experience nerves before an event, channelizing it and focusing on the goal is part of an athletes training program. Part of the coaching and development process. Part of the coach’s responsibility.

So have our coaches done their jobs?

The answer is NO. Save for a few sports where we continue to do well, what Indian Olympic athletes largely need is the influx of foreign coaches. Period. Indian coaches are just not good enough to take athletes to the next level, as their foreign counterparts have done with their respective squads. The sooner we see that and rectify it, the better our athletes will get. Without a doubt. An interesting fact – China had 28 foreign coaches on their roster during the Olympic Games, Beijing 2008. How many medals did they win? Google it, I guarantee you the number will astound you.

Coaching is not what it used to be 10 years ago. Today’s coaching involves the use of technology and advanced sports equipment, strict diets and constant monitoring of an athlete’s life. Without these facilities and equipment, it is practically impossible to create world beaters. There is literally no room for error and gone are the days of the occasional cheat meal and parties. This is what professional sport has come to and it is time we accepted it and moved with the times. While skill is important, being in peak physical condition is crucial and that is where Indian athletes generally tend to take a hit. Every minute of every day counts – and that is what foreign coaches bring to the table. A wealth of experience, greater technical ability, sports technological know-how, discipline and most importantly the winning mentality.  Simply put, they know what it takes to win and have the roadmap for it. Follow them 100% and you will get there. Any less and you won’t. This is the difference and it is why our athletes have not been able to tango with the very best. Yet.

However credit must be given to the current Indian coaching contingent, all of whom have done a remarkable job in gearing our athletes for the Olympic Games. They deserve praise for getting our athletes there and should be given roles for the structure and development of the Indian youth. For the senior athletes though, it is time to give them they deserve, a legitimate shot at glory. It’s been too long and they deserve it.

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