Sports coaching: The dawn of a new era

Sports coaching: The dawn of a new era

Sports coaching: The dawn of a new era

This quote that I read somewhere defines the essence of what it means to be a sports coach.

“I don't look at myself as a basketball coach. I look at myself as a leader who happens to coach basketball”

 Having been fortunate enough to represent India at the highest level (in Table Tennis), I have seen from close quarters, the positives and negatives of what a coach can do to a player.

Let us examine coaching as a career option. It is a truism that there is an enhanced interest in sport today in the society at large.

Whether it is grassroots sports at the school-level, semi-professional coaching academies or elite clubs for the top level, there has been a sprouting of coaching infrastructure and coaches across sports.

Given this context and an expectation that it will continue to grow, sports coaching may be looked at as a viable career option.

If we look at the topmost question that may be on everyone’s mind while considering a career in coaching, it will be this – do I need to have played the sport at a high level to be a coach? My own opinion here is that it is not required or necessary.

It is important to know the technical intricacies of the sport, from the fundamentals to the advanced – today, this can be learnt through cognitive learning modules.

In fact, one might argue that having been a player might keep you in a time warp and cramp your style in terms of adopting modern techniques and advancements. It is important to remember that coaching is not about your ability to play, but about approaching talent nurturing from a holistic viewpoint.

The key ingredient to coaching, just like any other profession, is passion. In sport, passion and commitment can make up for the lack of formal education. You have to be passionate about the sport you want to take up, and about the whole process of imparting knowledge to your wards.

We have seen generations of sportspeople supported with secure jobs by PSUs in India. While this has been great for all concerned, it has meant that the number of true coaches who have taken it up for the sheer passion and as their first choice careers have been far and few in between.

In my own organisation, where giving a concrete career path to coaches is one of our top focus areas and differentiators, we view coaches as being no different from, say, an IT engineer.

You are trained, inducted, kept on the bench, deployed at a client site, have deliverables and are measured by how satisfied the client it with your work. If this is the case, why can young sports coaches in India today not be as mainstream and “happening” as any other young software engineer / banker / lawyer? 

Like in any other vocation, the fundamental human traits of dignity, self-esteem and an immense sense of pride need to be satisfied in the coach and in all other people concerned in the ecosystem.

When this happens in a natural and seamless fashion, coaching will become a profession of choice and not a “last resort” or an alternative. Let me end with another quote that epitomises what a coach should be – a bastion of strength in the background, allowing his wards to hog the limelight.

“If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes real good, you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win games.”

(The author is a former international Table Tennis player and is co-founder of TENVIC – a professional sports education and consulting firm)