The sports coach

An invaluable part of a sportsman’s career
Anuradha C

The greatness and glory achieved by a successful sportsman is out there for all to see and admire. He becomes an instant sensation, a hero for the masses and an icon to emulate. However, not many in the audience spot the silent man standing on the sidelines, beaming with pride at the success of his protégé.

The most recent occurrence of this phenomenon was a grand show during the Football World Cup held in Qatar. Argentina’s football legend Lionel Messi was soaking in all the laurels while Argentina’s National football coach Lionel Scaloni stood rock solid in the background, relaxing after a job well done.

Teacher Plus brings stories of all kinds about teachers. However, most of our focus has been on academic teachers. The invaluable and often under-rated role of a sports coach is the focus of my story today.

What is unique about a sports coach?
The role of an academic teacher in a student’s life lasts as long as the student remains associated with the academic institution. As soon as the student graduates out of his/her school or college years, the association ends. After that period, the teacher might transform into a benign well-wisher, but the active influence ends.

However, a sports coach is a unique sort of teacher. He/she remains the most important influence in a sportsperson’s professional life throughout the length of their sports career. A 41 year old Roger Federer has a tennis coach still working with him every single day!

Unlike regular teaching, coaching is not an offline activity in sports. Here, the ward doesn’t walk away to perform their job, succeed or fail on their own. A sportsperson is constantly training with his coach, sharing his/her trials and tribulations on the field on a day-to-day basis. The coach constantly works to bolster the player’s strengths and eliminate the weaknesses. They work as a team; the career success of the player is their joint responsibility.

Football legend Lionel Messi (L) Argentina national football coach Lionel Scaloni (R)

A good player makes a good coach?
In sports, apart from the nuances and techniques of the sport itself, there are several other considerations that determine the success or failure of a player. The player’s ability to handle pressure, physical and mental fitness, team cohesion (for team sports), commercial engagements, relationship with fans/audience, positivity and killer instinct – the list is exhaustive. A sports coach would have to hand-hold a player through all these aspects.

It helps a lot if the coach has gone through the same journey during his playing days. The pain of a loss, the gruelling physical discipline to be followed, single-minded focus – since the coach has experienced them all, he is easily able to relate to the players’ challenges. However, in most cases, a super successful player doesn’t have the temperament to become a successful coach in his later years. It is those players whose careers have come to an abrupt close due to injuries or who haven’t made the cut into their state/national squads that are the most successful coaches. They deign to relive their career dreams through the journeys of their wards.

Pullela Gopichand might have had a decent run as a player, but his record as a badminton coach is astounding. Through his sporting academy, he has constantly been churning out world champions from India over the last few years! His influence over the sport is so great that he is in the position of shaping the sporting policy of the entire country in association with the Government of India.

Sports coaches are a precious commodity, especially in rural India
Every year, millions of aspiring young boys and girls take up their favourite sport, hoping to make a career out of it, in India. However, the ratio of players who manage to build a successful career in sports is miniscule. Though that’s the dream which every player pursues, most of them just turn out to be “also-rans”.

The role of the coach is vital to enable this leap from mediocrity to excellence. The tireless patience and keen eye of a university football coach or the coach of a sports academy in your hometown may discover a gem in the making. Once the coach spots raw talent, it is his responsibility to help the player reach his potential.

The problem with the sports eco-system in India is this. Kids in the big cities can afford to spend a fortune to enroll into flagship sports coaching centers. However, the real raw talent lies in our hinterlands, but we don’t have adequate talent scouting and honing programs in rural India. Recently, the Government of Punjab released a press report about this inequity. “Even though the state government is spending over Rs 200 crore to promote sports in rural areas by distributing free kits and track suits to the rural youth in the state, only three out of the 31 coaches employed with the District Sports Department are serving in rural areas here. While the youths from nearby areas are able to travel to their nearest sports center situated in the city, those living in remote areas are, till date, unable to get access to a qualified coach who can sharpen their talent for the game of their choice.” The state government, in a recent scheme, is providing a complete set of sports kits, including sets of various balls, a cricket kit, hockey sticks, a five-station gymnasium and over 500 track suits, to villages in the state to promote sports in Punjab. However, with no coach to provide training in rural areas, the kits are expected to gather dust, causing a loss of over Rs 200 crore to the exchequer.

Bouquets, yes. But the brickbats too!
The flip side of being a celebrity sportsperson’s coach is – the player flops in his sport and the coach is the one to get fired from the job!

But for all other lesser mortals pursuing a sporting career, their coach is the gateway to their dream universe. The “Dronacharya Awards” constituted by the Government of India aptly recognizes our revered sports gurus. India is harbouring major ambitions in the sports domain in the coming years. For instance, we want to host the Olympics in a decade. The role of sports coaches in bringing all our grand plans to fruition is absolutely vital! Let’s ensure our coaches get their due share of remuneration and recognition, after all they are the ones who are going to help realize our collective sporting aspirations.

The author is an IT industry drop-out after several years of slogging and money-making. She is now working freelance as a corporate technical trainer and content writer. She is hoping to channelize her passion for writing into a satisfying experience for herself and a joyous experience for her readers. She can be reached at

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