'Grassroots need strengthening'

Last Updated 27 November 2016, 18:52 IST

Lack of proper development programme is the primary reason behind India struggling to make a mark in swimming, feels Nihar Ameen, one of India’s top coaches and a Dronacharya awardee.

Ameen was speaking at a panel discussion organised by the Nettakallappa Aquatic Centre and Swimming Matters. Moderated by Olympian Hakimuddin Habibulla, the discussion threw light on the importance of fundamentals in high performance swimming.

The panel comprised Ameen, John Christopher, the head age-group coach at the Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre and former Olympian Nisha Millet.

Ameen stressed on the need for quality swim teachers and coaches at the grassroots level if India have to develop as a swimming nation.

“The biggest problem today lies at the grassroots level. One, we have a dearth of qualified coaches and second, in many places, life-guards double up as trainers.  So during a swimmer’s formative years, he’s not being taught in the right manner. The strokes are not perfect. This needs to change,” explained Ameen.

“Nowadays, the senior coaches are forced to spend a lot of time on correcting the strokes of an already competing swimmer. And if that’s the case, where would you have time to work on the speed and other aspects that can help the swimmer move to a higher level?” he asked.

While lack of qualified coaches is a big problem the swimming fraternity in India is facing, Christopher felt the parents of the swimmers too played a crucial role in shaping the future of their kids.

“Parents need to trust the swim centre and the trainers there. They can’t expect their kid to swim the breadth of the pool after 15-20 days of training. It takes time, and the parents should respect that,” said Christopher. “While I started training Sharath (Gayakwad, para swimming champion), I knew it would be difficult. But his dad trusted me completely. He used to drop Sharath at the centre in the morning and then return to pick him up. That showed the trust he showed in me and my abilities,” added Christopher.

To facilitate this, Nisha felt the trainers and the coaches should make their course transparent with the parents and have regular interactions updating them about their child’s development.

“We as trainers need to plan out classes. Talk to the parents and make it very clear with them as to what they can expect from the course. We need to be with the kids in the water and train them. And above all, make it a fun activity so that the kids want to come back again,” said Nisha who runs the Nisha Millet’s Swimming Academy in the city.

In an earlier discussion on importance of water safety in our daily lives, moderated by Nisha, Ceri Weeks, an award-winning AUSTSWIM swim teacher said basic swimming and survival techniques should be taught to every child from a very young age.

“Water safety and survival techniques are of paramount importance and should be taught to every child at a very early age. Back in Australia it’s relatively easy because of the number of pools and other avenues available. But here too, if the schools can step and make swimming a part of their curriculum, then things becomes easier,” she said.

(Published 27 November 2016, 18:52 IST)

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