After winning 200m gold in only his 2nd senior level race, Amlan Borgohain wants to just run fast
New Delhi, Sep 21 (Sports News) He has won a gold with the fifth fastest time ever by an Indian in only his second 200m competition at senior level but Assam youngster, Amlan Borgohain, wants to take one step at a time and refuses to harbour lofty ambitions.
The 23-year-old Borgohain, hailing from Meleng village in Assam's Jorhat district, claimed the men's 200m gold on Sunday with a time of 20.75 seconds during the National Open Championships in Warangal, Telengana.
His time was the second fastest on the country's soil and fifth fastest ever by an Indian after national record holder Muhammed Anas Yahia (20.63), Dharambir Singh (20.66), Arokia Rajiv (20.66) and Anil Kumar (20.73).
"It was my first senior level 200m final race since I started taking part at senior level in 2019 and I don't have any international experience," Borgohain told PTI in an interview from Bhubaneswar, where he is training at the Reliance Foundation Odisha Athletics High Performance Centre (HPC) since April last year.
His first senior level 200m race was during the 2019 National Open Championships in Ranchi, where he had clocked 21.99 seconds. He had also won a silver in the 100m dash with a creditable time of 10.34 seconds in Warangal.
Asked what are his targets, he said, "I have just started my career and I want to just run fast.
"Olympics is any athlete's ultimate dream but, at the moment, I am not looking very far. I want to take one step at a time. My coach is there to help me and chalk out my future course of action." Borgohain is under the tutelage of Welshman James Hillier, the head coach at the Reliance Foundation HPC, who has mentored the likes of Rio Olympics 4x400m relay bronze medallist Emily Diamond in the past.
"Of course, there is Asian Games and Commonwealth Games next year but I am not going to put pressure on him by telling him about medals. There is a lot of room for improvement and we are focussing on that.
"He is certainly the best 200m runner in the country at the moment. I am planning to take him to Europe next year to compete on the European circuit and get some more experience competing against quality foreign athletes.
"He has the right attributes to become a top-class athlete. He is always eager to learn, wants to work hard and also very actively participates in anything, not the kind of shy or reticent athlete, he is the leader of any pack." Borgohain also took part in the Federation Cup in March in Patiala where he ran 10.44 seconds in 100m but did not run in 200m due to a hamstring injury. A bout of COVID-19 infection -- he tested positive on his 23rd birthday -- forced him to miss the National Inter-State Championships in June.
A fan of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sunil Chhetri, football was Borgohain's first love but took up athletics once his armyman father was posted in Hyderabad, where they shifted from Assam. His father BC Borgohain retired as Subedar Major in 2009.
"Just like most of northeasterners, my first love was football and I played the game in my childhood and school days. But once our family shifted to Hyderabad, there was little scope for football. So, I shifted to athletics. That was in 2015," he said.
Asked if he had faced financial issues during his formative years in the sport, Borgohain said, "We are not well off but the situation was not that bad. It is not that I will not get things like running shoes with spikes, but it takes some time for my father to gather money to buy the stuff." His first athletics medal came at the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) Nationals in Lucknow in 2015 and podium finishes in the Under-18 and Under-20 categories at state level followed.
Borgohain, whose family has now returned to their native village in Assam, then took part in the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) nation-wide athletics competition in 2017.
He clocked 10.84 seconds in 100m and 22.06 seconds in 200m in the 2018 RFYS national finals.
Hillier spotted him at the Khelo India Games in Guwahati in January last year and invited the youngster to appear for an evaluation at the HPC in February. After four weeks of intensive training and assessment, Borgohain was confirmed a spot at the Reliance Foundation High Performance Centre in April last year.
Also Read : Amlan Borgogain, Praveen Chithravel share limelight with Manju Bala Singh
News Source : PTI
Less than 3 percent of current PE teachers in schools have played a national level game: Ameya Kocharekar, CEO at Proforce
With the Olympic Games underway, Indian women in Tokyo have surpassed every expectation with their resilience, determination, skill and talent. However, with one silver and two bronze medals so far, the Indian Olympic contingent would surely be feeling underwhelmed with its accomplishments, especially after sending it’s largest group ever to the Tokyo Olympics. It’s an eye opening reality that India still has a long way to go to become a sporting powerhouse that can rival China or the United States who have collectively won a total of 132 Olympic medals between them so far.
Any radical change, especially in sports begins at the grassroots. Providing a holistic sports education at an early age, building character and challenging your limits are essential lessons that must be imbibed to take India’s sporting achievement to the next level. In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, Capt. Ameya Kocharekar, Co-Founder and CEO at Proforce speaks about grassroot development and his vision, overcoming challenges, educating the future generations, advantages of being a part of Proforce and his goals and aspirations for the future.
Q1) As Co-Founder and CEO of Proforce, what is your vision and objective for this venture? How is it enabling grassroot development?
The vision for Proforce has been pretty clear. We want to be the strongest catalyst in providing sports players to the Junior Olympics and the Olympics and we want to be the biggest contributors to the sports ecosystem of India. Having said that, the way we are enabling the grassroot levels to progress, is by making national level coaches available at every hub center and at majority schools whenever possible and at an affordable price.
Q 2) How is Proforce providing holistic sports education for the future generation?
If you look at the current structure most schools have at least two PE teachers. These teachers usually have degrees for bachelors or masters of physical education. They are taught the rules of the game, the dimensions and the racing part and such but not much more. Anyone who joins as these PE teachers are usually only equipped with the basic knowledge of the sports. Before starting Proforce we studied basic analysis of all the data and manpower coming out of these degrees. What we found to our surprise was that less than 3 percent of these people pan India had played a national level game.
If you were to consider such an analysis, a person who hasn’t played at a minimum of national level can’t be expected to train and groom a young new player to do so. Having said so, why aren’t schools hiring coaches and trainers that have national level experience in their particular sports? It is because educational boards, whether it be ICSE, CBSE or even many state boards do not have a compliance format that requires them to have a national level coach. They only require to have a PE coach with minimum qualification of Bachelor or Master of Physical education, if they have a strength of over 500 or 750 students. With no requisite a financial school would typically choose not to spend too much money on a specialised coach or trainer that can provide better learning for such athletes. Any coach who has played at national level knows they can provide good knowledge and so wouldn’t settle for a minimum salary so schools would be required to overspend which they usually opt out of.
We have taken trainers such as that under our Proforce umbrella and we try to ensure every sport we venture in as far as the grassroots level of the sports is concerned, there is a national level coach present who can be assisted by other coaches in case of a huge number of athletes. Schools usually also have a set period of time for sport activity so they like to pay trainers for just that. We at Proforce try to bridge that gap and we try to get the coaches a justified salary while also maintaining the standard of training the students get and ensuring they receive what they have paid for. We also save schools the trouble and the cost of buying sports equipment, which otherwise would be a difficult undertaking. We try taking care of 60-70 percent of the requirements.
Q 3) What sets Proforce apart from other such ventures? What are the various advantages that a child has after being a part of Proforce?
Proforce has been in holistic sports education by ensuring 3 to 4 things. One is every coach on the ground would be of national qualification and would have had at least 5, 6 years of coaching experience. Secondly, we ensure that the child to student ratio is typically maintained as 1:20 or 1:14 inside a classroom. When it comes to the playgrounds, especially during PE periods the ratio increases to 1:100 or even beyond that. We ensure that the sports to student ratio of those particular games remains maximum 1:30. Third thing is we also look into the nutrition and the growth aspect of every child, when we started we said sports is not the only thing being taught on the ground, as far as the skill and the equipment is concerned. How the child is developing, how the child is nutritionally being taken care of also needs to be seen. We developed our own mechanism and now it is being turned into a software, it analyses the child diet based on the 24 hour diet and also takes care of the growth projection of a child upto 18 years old. Every child under Proforce is being monitored every 6 months on his nutritional sufficiency.
The third aspect is the psychology aspect, so whenever a child is performing at state level and beyond or whenever a team is performing at state level and beyond, the requisite psychological assistance in terms of taking out that fear and taking out that last minute anxiety out of the player's mind. Ensuring that the player or team is always prepared to face the next challenges, we started putting up in place at a point and it automatically started giving us the requisite results.
Q 4) What are some of the achievements of Proforce since its inception? Who are some of your clients?
Proforce started in the 2015-16, we limited ourselves to two pilot schools only in the beginning. From there on today we have worked with more than 30 schools and more than 40,000 children are under our umbrella. From the achievement perspective, three national medals in fencing, three national trophies in hockey in all three age groups, we have 48 state and district trophies in various sports and more than 580 state and district medals.
Clients I can go ahead picking out the name but I have been rather honoured or interested by some of the good schools such as the Podar Group, Reliance Foundation and Billabong High. We are talking about Mumbai, so Proforce is today primarily present in Mumbai, Pune and Surat. We had our client in Belgaum also and still would be going further in Karnataka.
Also read: Players who can turn around the match in India Vs England Series
Q 5) What are the various challenges that you have faced as Co-Founder and CEO of Proforce? How did you overcome them?
The challenge we face at Proforce is that to develop the ecosystem of sport in India which includes the school management perspective from the parent to the child is two-part. The first challenge here is that whenever you are teaching something to the child through the school ecosystem all the decision making is done by the school management, however the client is the child and the paying customer are the parents so this happens to be tough as everyone should be on the same page as far as the quality of sports is concerned.
From the parents' mindset we have seen a clear change of attitude from 2014-15 to 2021, in spite of the pandemic there has been a shift of positive mindset for the parents especially in the tier 2 and 3 cities. Earlier it was only focused on academics but parents are taking a keen interest possibly because of the careers of the sports athletes.
The other challenge happens to be in the business, company and investment perspective but at the same time time there has been a lot of growth in B2C companies, when a company like Proforce is working on the grassroot development of Indian sport it happens to be a long marathon activity so it may not be like any other B2C companies. These challenges appear when we talk to the investor as they are always looking for a growth aspect, but as of now our main focus is to develop an ecosystem for sports which will help get results mostly by 2028 and 2032, where some players might have qualified for the youth and/or senior olympics. One has to understand that this is not a glamorous business, this is more passion driven and I am committed to bring about change in Indian sports.
Q 6) What are your goals and aspirations for Proforce in the future? How do you plan to accomplish them?
We initially had an array of 16 sports under our syndicate, but our main focus has shifted to 6 to 7 sports where we focus on the purposeful development of coaches and ecosystem in terms of ensuring players reach their potential. The main aim is to reach the 2028 and 2032 Olympics and also ensure that the player management is taken care of. We try to accomplish our plan by reaching out to maximum cities, school ecosystems and most importantly changing the mindset of parents so that the child is able to play at least 1 of the 6 sports competitively. It is not just playing in school PT periods but also to represent your school or state in that particular sport.
Odisha’s High Performance Centres is nurturing grassroot talent and grooming them into elite athletes
For any country that harbours the ambition of becoming a sporting nation, giving support to their athletes is a fundamental part of a bigger process. Success in the sporting world is never an overnight process, it’s decades in the making with the help of a robust programme that will produce medallists for years to come. A welcome initiative by the government of Odisha is the establishment of High-Performance Centres to develop the sporting landscape.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mr. Vishal Dev, Principal Secretary, Sports, Govt of Odisha elaborated on the vision behind High Performance Centres, athletes and organizations currently affiliated, key focus areas, improving the standards of athletes, grassroot development, injury rehabilitation and mental health, government support and future goals!
Q 1) What was the vision behind the inception of High Performance Centres in Odisha?
In 2018, just before the Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018, under the vision of our Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik’s “Sports for Youth, Youth for Future’ we embarked on a new journey when we announced the establishment and setting up of 11 High-Performance Centres (HPCs) in 10 sports disciplines with the aim to develop elite athletes and strengthen the sporting landscape in the State. We chose disciplines where not only our Odia athletes were doing well and had the potential to excel, but also the disciplines which have high medal possibilities. This model has proved successful in many developed countries and we wanted to explore the same within our sports ecosystem. The aim is to develop these high-performance centres into the finest coaching and training centres for that particular sport in the country.
Q 2) What are the facets of this model? Who are the professional athletes or sporting organizations you are currently working with?
This is a unique partnership model with corporates and eminent sports persons where the government provides the infrastructure, corporates fund through their CSR and sports organisations bring in the expertise. Collectively, we work towards creating an institution for sporting excellence.
For Hockey, we have partnered with Tata Steel and Tata Trust; Football with AIFF and Odisha FC; Weightlifting with KJS Ahluwalia and Anil Kumble’s Tenvic Sports; Athletics with Reliance Foundation; Swimming with JSW Group; Shooting with Aditya Birla Group and Gagan Naranga’s Gagan Narang Sports Promotion Foundation; Badminton with Dalmia Bharat and Pullela Gopichand’s Pullela Gopichand Badminton Foundation; Sports Science with Rungta Mines and Abhinav Bindra’s Abhinav Futuristics Pvt Ltd and Sport Climbing. We also have a Centre of Excellence in Sports Management with KJS Ahluwalia Group and Xaviers Emlyon Business School, that aims to develop professionals for the Sports sector.
Q 3) Which are the major sporting disciplines that these High Performance Centres majorly focus on?
Currently, we have High Performance Centres in Weightlifting, Swimming, Shooting, Football, Hockey, Sport Climbing, Athletics. In addition, we have a HPC on Sports Science and a Centre of Excellence in Sports Management.
Our Badminton HPC which was earlier scheduled to be launched in 2020, was delayed to the pandemic and will be completed in December, 2021. Construction is in full swing and we expect the HPC to nurture shuttlers of world class standards in the future under the aegis of the renowned Pullela Gopichand.
Q 4) How are Odisha’s High Performance Centres improving the standard of athletes?
Each High Performance Centre is led by a team of seasoned professionals and have engaged expert coaches, with commendable records. Once the athletes are selected for the HPC, they have access to the finest sports infrastructure and allied facilities. Efforts are focused on their training and programming, recovery, injury prevention & rehabilitation, nutrition and mental wellness. They also compete at different national level competitions which helps the team to gauge and improve their performance. Recently, at the 1st Hockey India Women’s Academy Junior and Sub Junior Championships, the Girls from Hockey HPC put up a stellar show and won silver in Sub junior and bronze in Junior. In individual sports too, many athletes, within a short span, have improved on their personal bests.
The hub of high performance centres - Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
Q 5) What is the plan to produce home grown talent that can compete at the highest level?
We have visions for making it of international quality. Our goal is to nurture grassroots talent to the elite level so that there is a proper path of progression. For this, we are strengthening the grassroots talent identification system so that we identify more and more kids from a younger age, put them into the right kind of training programmes and once they reach the elite levels , they get the best training and coaching in the world. This will enhance the chances of our boys and girls winning medals for the country and international meets.
Q 6) What are the various ways Odisha’s high performance centres help athletes through injury rehabilitation and prevention as well as prioritizing mental health?
All athletes of our ecosystem including our HPCs have access to the Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance Centre, within the Kalinga Stadium. A team of physiotherapists and world class bio mechanics assist athletes through their injury, rehabilitation and prevention.
As the science of sport performance evolves, it becomes increasingly important to integrate the mental and physical aspect of performance. We have collaborated with Abhinav Bindra Foundation Trust who have expertise in Sports Psychology and are currently working to develop specialists who could address these issues and help improve participants’ wellbeing and performance.
Q 7) What are your future goals and aspirations and how do you plan to achieve them?
Producing medal prospects for the country is the key goal but for now, looking ahead, we hope to build on the strong foundation laid by the HPC in the first year and make significant strides towards the development of the athletes. We hope that the athletes continue on this path of holistic progress. We hope domestic competitions resume in the coming times and they can train and improve on their performances and in time translate to medal-winning performances at competition. We are collectively working towards India’s Olympic dream of being amongst the top ten countries in upcoming editions.
Q 8) How does the Government support the High Performance Centres?
In this model, the Government provides world class infrastructure and works as a key facilitator. In order for the success of the High Performance Centres, it is important that there is a strong feeder system put in place. One of the main responsibilities of the government as a partner in HPCs is to set up a strong feeder system, in consultation with the HPC technical partner. This would include setting up and upgrading existing sports coaching units at the district level, such as our sports hostels, which can become a tremendous feeder system to the HPC.
It also includes facilitating talent scouting drives for our partners into all talent hubs across Odisha, so everyone in the State with talent can chart a route to the HPC for themselves. In summary, we see our effort at the grassroots as being one of the most important pieces of the process to deliver maximum impact through the HPCs. Apart from this, we are engaged in close co-ordination with the HPC partners on a daily basis through consultants and officers of the Govt., in order to ensure that the centers run seamlessly.
There are also phased plans in place to further build on the training offered at the HPCs which will make these centres lucrative to all sports persons across the country, going forward.
NBA Academy India graduate Lalhnehpuia Chhakchhuak enrols at North Park University
New Delhi, Jun 3 NBA Academy India graduate Lalhnehpuia Chhakchhuak has enrolled at North Park University in Chicago, Illinois, becoming the sixth male student-athlete from the academy to commit to a high school or college basketball programme in the US.
Chhakchhuak first participated in the 2017-18 Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program before joining NBA Academy India in 2018 as a part of the academy's second class of student-athletes identified through the ACG-NBA Jump program.
The 6-1 guard represented NBA Academy India at the 2018 and 2019 NBA Academy Games in Australia and the US, respectively, as well as the Point Loma Nazarene Team Camp in San Diego in 2019.
"I am looking forward to this opportunity at North Park University that will keep me on the pathway I have set out on," said Chhakchhuak.
"This wouldn't have been possible without the guidance of the coaching staff at the NBA Academy India and the constant support of my family." "We are certainly excited to add a player like Lalhnehpuia to our squad. In particular we like his size at the guard position and as he continues to get stronger we can envision how he can become an important piece within our program," said North Park head coach Thomas Slyder.
"His ability to play at the speed and pace he prefers to play at is an important characteristic for a guard to have." In addition to Lalhnehpuia, five other NBA Academy India student-athletes have committed to playing basketball in the US -- Harshwardhan Tomar (KEBA Preparatory School), Jagshaanbir Singh (Golden State Prep, Point Park University), Pranav Prince (First Love Christian Academy), Amaan Sandhu (First Love Christian Academy), and Riyanshu Negi (DME Sports Academy).
Princepal Singh became the first NBA Academy India graduate to sign a professional contract when he signed with the NBA G League Ignite.
NBA Academy India is an elite basketball training centre for the top prospects from across the country. New source PTI
'Food First' approach for budding athletes is most important - Dr. Geetanjali Bhide
Success in sports is a combination of various factors with nutrition and fitness being the most prominent ones. In order to excel in sports, an athlete needs to train, sustain and remain in the best of form and fitness, all of which requires optimal nutrition, physical training and psychological guidance.
The Association of Sports Nutrition & Fitness Sciences is a platform providing athletes and sports enthusiasts with an all round guidance in the field of sports, with specialisation in sports science related areas including ‘Exercise Physiology’, ‘Sports Nutrition’, ‘Sports Psychology’, ‘Sports Physiotherapy’, ‘Sports Medicine’, ‘Fitness Training’ and a lot more.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Dr Geetanjali Bhide- Secretary, Association of Sports, Nutrition and Fitness Sciences, discussed her organization, the educational initiatives it has undertaken for coaches and athletes and elaborated about the importance of Sports nutrition.
Q 1) What was the vision behind the formation of the Association of Sports, Nutrition & Fitness Sciences?
Ans: The capacity to sustain and excel in sports depends on the right training, nutrition, mental training and rehabilitation. Considering the importance of training nutrition, psychology, sports medicine, physiotherapy in the holistic development of athletes, the association brings experts from all these allied fields together to nurture the Indian athletes.
ASNFS is a registered association and the founder members are experienced senior academicians who have been working in the sports field- Dr. Kasturi Sen Ray- President, Dr Subhadra Mandalika- Senior Vice President and Dr Meena Godhia- Vice President.
Q 2) Who are the Professional Athletes or Sports Federations you provide Sports Nutrition & Fitness Sciences advice to?
Ans: Life-Members of the association work with different athletes at the grassroot level as well as elite level. Sports nutritionists and sports sciences experts work with institutes like Army Sports Institute, Army Rowing Node, Sports authority of India, Reliance Foundation Youth sports. Life members are also associated with various national level teams, and individual elite athletes. Our association was also a part of Khelo India- Pune-2019 wherein fitness assessments and nutrition counselling was done for the athletes.
Q 3) Which are the most common dietary myths & fallacies people or even athletes believe in?
Ans: The myths and fallacies of athletes regarding diet are highly variable, differ with region, and also with the type of sport. A boxer will have different myths and fallacies than a cricket player. Some athletes still believe that gallons of milk, ghee, meat, almonds, can boost performance. The impact of social media influencers is very high on athletes. Athletes try to adopt and follow diet strategies followed by senior well known athletes. Some suddenly decide to be vegans or follow keto diets and give up after some time. These practices can certainly have a negative effect on health and performance. Athletes must seek advice from a qualified sports nutritionist.
Q 4) How do you intend to educate the coaches and athletes about the importance of sports nutrition?
Ans: The association nutritionists regularly conduct nutrition education sessions for coaches and trainers. The association has also developed “Fundamentals of Sports Nutrition” a certificate course in collaboration with Chandrashekhar Agashe College of Physical Education, Pune for coaches, physical education teachers. The course is developed to help the coach/physical education teacher to understand how to implement a nutrition plan given by an expert sports nutritionist.
Q 5) What are the other educational initiatives of the Association?
Ans: The association regularly conducts webinars on sports sciences to disseminate evidence based guidelines to nutritionists and allied health professionals.
The association has recently launched a 4 month E certificate course-Sports Specific Nutrition Management- to help dietitians, nutritionist to upgrade their professional skills in the field of sports nutrition. The course is developed and conducted by senior academicians and renowned practicing sports nutritionists. Moreover, the course focuses on the nutritional needs of Indian athletes, translating nutritional guidelines to suit Indian sports settings.
Q 6) How is ASNFS different from other organizations in this field?< Ans: Association of Sports, Nutrition and Fitness Sciences brings together nutrition, physiotherapy, psychology, sports sciences, sports medicine together to nurture and help the Indian athlete. The association is not restricted/limited to only one specialization. It strongly believes in a holistic approach that helps the athletes perform well.
Q 7) What would you advise budding athletes on balancing diet and fitness regime?
Ans: The budding athletes should focus on balanced diets, the food first approach is most important. Eating meals on time as per training schedule, hydration and also sleep is important to attain a better level of fitness, adapt to the changing demands of training in different phases. Nutritional supplements or ergogenic aids are like icing on the cake. Young athletes should be careful and cautious about supplements and follow appropriate supplement consumption strategies suitable for their field.
Q 8) What are your future plans at ASNFS?
Ans: The association aims to bring together more nutritionists and sports professionals who can share, exchange evidence based knowledge, and upgrade their skills to ultimately help the Indian athletes to achieve their goals. Also, the association plans to host an International conference on sports nutrition and fitness sciences very soon.
Q 9) What are some of the dietary or nutritional tips for our readers that they can easily bring into practice in their daily lives
Ans: Don't over eat or don't eat fat and sugar rich foods. Drink plenty of water/fruit juices without sugar. Eat balanced healthy homemade food.
Medicine in your kitchen- include turmeric, ginger, garlic and various spices in your daily diet to boost immunity in these testing times.
Stay home-stay safe, mask up when out.
Dr Geetanjali Bhide- Secretary, Association of Sports, Nutrition and Fitness Sciences.
Jammu and Kashmir football coaches take part in virtual workshop
Srinagar, May 22 Football coaches from across Jammu and Kashmir took part in a virtual workshop designed to enhance their knowledge-base and skills, conducted by former India international Mehrajuddin Wadoo and ex national women's team coach Sajid Dar.
The workshop was held to give budding coaches an opportunity to interact with domain experts on different aspects of their role as on-ground activities were stalled due to coronavirus-forced lockdown.
The three-day workshop was organised by Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) in collaboration with the Association of Indian Football Coaches (AIFC).
It was attended by 32 coaches from educational institutes in Srinagar, Jammu, Pulwama, Kulgam, Anantnag Kathua, Shopia, Budgam and Baramula.
Over the course of two hour sessions, the coaches were provided insight into the code of conduct expected from them towards players, parents, referees and fellow coaches.
The challenges of protecting children under their watch from physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and financial exploitation were also elaborated upon.
"In the four years I have spent working as a team manager and assistant coach, this was honestly the first such workshop I attended," said Sameer Gowhar from the Sports Council Football Academy in Anantnag.
"There are some good coaches around who are already doing a great job but we need to reach out to places where we don't have any qualified coaches," explained Dar.
Wadoo, who played for India from 2005 to 2011, has a glittering CV that includes Federation Cup, IFA Shield and Nehru Cup titles.
He was also a member of the Chennaiyin FC squad that won the ISL trophy in 2015 and is currently serving as assistant coach of Hyderabad FC.
Dar, who has represented Jammu and Kashmir in the Santosh Trophy, is an AIFF C License Coach Educator and an AFC A License holder. He was also a former coach of the Indian national youth team. News source: PTI
Great infrastructure, qualified coaches and exposure is key for development at the grassroot level
Sports have always played an important role in uniting the community. In a digital era of smartphones and social media, sports at the grassroot level not only provides some much needed physical activity for children but also paves the way for a thriving sports ecosystem for the future.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Arnold Wilson the Business Head of India On Track spoke about what it takes to make India a sporting nation, the challenges faced at the grassroot level, adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing more Indians compete at the highest level and his future goals.
You have been associated with India on Track for almost 7 years, in your experience what does India as a country need to become a sporting nation?
There are many things that are needed for our nation to be inclined towards sports. For starters, changing the thought process of parents and making them look at sports as an equally important factor as education by emphasizing the effects of sport on a child’s mental well being and overall health. Sports prepare children for the world because it involves discipline, commitment, winning and more importantly it teaches them how to overcome losing. Hence sports should not be considered as an add on or only a hobby class. To make India a sporting nation, multiple factors need to come together simultaneously. One of them is accessible sports infrastructure, second is to have coaches who can train at the grassroot level, academy level and elite level and the third is exposure. Exposure to playing and competing at a very young age by participating in tournaments within your communities to competing at the highest level is extremely important in order to represent India at the global level. In Argentina, kids start participating in football baby leagues before the age of 5 years, so you can imagine how many competitive games they’ve played by the time they represent their country in the Under 17 age category. The most critical part is to create enough and more grassroot opportunities for children. Opportunities for the kids to play, practice and train continuously is fundamental to becoming a sporting nation. It’s a lot of things and it’s difficult to put in one answer.
What are the different types of grassroot training programmes that you have been a part of?
We started with Arsenal Soccer Schools after which we worked with the NBA to create & launch NBA Basketball School in India. The NBA Basketball School philosophy is to share the game of basketball with young athletes across the world by teaching skills, values, and wellness in a positive and fun environment. The holistic approach is intended to strengthen the culture of youth basketball, teach life lessons, and empower young athletes to succeed both on and off the court. We have also worked with Prakash Padukone Badminton Schools and since the last 3 years we’ve been running LaLiga Football Schools across the country. We also have an International Football Development Programme where we partner with a Portuguese top division football club called G.D Estoril Praia and we have been sending talented children to Lisbon to train at the club and become part of the youth academy system. It gives them good exposure to football at the highest level and we also take care of their stay and food along with education from a school in Estoril. We also run an extensive grassroots development programme for Major League Baseball in India. Lastly, we successfully ran the inaugural ISL Children’s League in Kolkata which had 100 schools and clubs participate with an approximate attendance of 4000 students playing in the 4 month league across 4 age groups.
What are the world class training and condition techniques that India on Track implements in their grassroot initiatives?
When we partner with the NBA or LaLiga, the technical delivery is completely led by our global partners since they are market leaders in terms of their understanding of the sport and how these development programs are supposed to run. Both NBA and LaLiga have a large global network running various training programmes in many different geographies. In order to ensure the programme is delivered as per International standards, LaLiga & NBA recommend experienced licensed coaches who are part of the partner’s global network ensuring the technical product is never compromised. All of LaLiga’s coaches are UEFA license holders, these coaching licences are mandated by UEFA, the official governing body of European football. We also have national and regional ‘Train the Trainer’ programmes where coaches learn the training methodologies of LaLiga Football Schools & NBA Basketball School to ensure the quality of the training program is consistent across the country. It’s an extremely strong and robust system in place. As an organization we give utmost priority to the safety, security and comfort of the children and we have a strict code of conduct not just for the coaches but also the children and parents. Our curriculums are designed as age appropriate training, with clearly defined student to coach ratio. Lastly, all team members, coaches and managers go through a safeguarding training workshop before they start working directly with children.
In a cricket crazy country like India, how challenging has it been to promote sports such as football, basketball and badminton at the grassroot level?
Promoting sports in India is challenging for various reasons, but primarily parents want to ensure their children completely focus on education to ensure their future is secured. Sports is often considered as a distraction (especially around the time of examinations) with the exception of cricket because of the strong career path the sport has to offer in India. However, a trend that we have noticed in the past 5 years is that parents are now far more open to sports other than cricket. Some parents have started to look at sports as an important aspect for holistic development, some look at it as a hobby, a way children can enjoy themselves without expecting it to be a career option. These are positive indications of a changing mindset of parents, which is critical for the future of grassroots development in India.
There are several onground issues such as lack of proper training facilities, availability of these facilities, pricing structure, timing & days of the training sessions etc. Every challenge is unique in its own way depending on the partner school, catchment area, city etc hence we have to ensure the solution is customized to that specific challenge because all grassroots programmes are distinctively different from the other. By converting more schools to adopt our grassroots programs, the parents automatically come along. Even though we live in a cricket crazy country, there is enough room for everyone.
How are you/ India on Track adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic to continue the work at the grassroot level?
In mid March last year, 10 days before the government introduced the lockdown, we had already taken a call to shut our centers because safety of the children is of the utmost importance. Before the lockdown, we had 70 centers across 13 states in approximately 17 cities and we were training over 4000 children at the time. Since all programmes were shut, we started online training sessions in a similar format to the on ground sessions. Each batch would have 20 to 25 children with two coaches for a duration of 60 minutes. We came up with session plans by working very closely with our partners such as LaLiga and NBA that were specifically designed for children to train by themselves in a small space available with or without having a ball. The objective is to keep children engaged while also prioritizing their safety. We also created different marketing campaigns and approached more than a thousand schools about the online programs and offered free workshops for the students. Our pricing was very affordable at an average cost of Rs 100 per session; we offered multiple packages that included 4 or 12 group sessions along with 1 on 1 training packages.
Post June - July, the participation numbers started to dip due to the commencement of online schooling so we had to re-innovate and created the India On Track Online Sports Festival. The first edition was held in August and was a week-long calendar of activities with participation from NBA Basketball School, LaLiga Football Schools, Major League Baseball First Pitch and Prakash Padukone Badminton Schools. Special sessions held with the likes of Princepal Singh (NBA Academy graduate) who conducted a masterclass training session followed by an informative session. Similarly we had LaLiga Canada's Technical Director, Diego Gutierrez lead a session on the importance of mental health and nutrition. We had industry experts from different parts of America, Spain, China, UAE, Canana who conducted special informative and engaging sessions for our students. In May this year we will host the 3rd edition of the online sports festival. We also got the parents engaged by hosting special sessions for Father’s day, Mother’s day, Women’s day and even birthday celebrations to keep the spirits up.
Which are the top sporting entities that India on Track have been associated with to redefine sports and philosophy?
We have been associated with the LaLiga, NBA, Major League Baseball, we also partner with Roland Garros, not specifically for work at the grassroot level but we run various digital initiatives for them. We also run the International Football Development Program with G.D. Estoril Praia. Over the last 4 years we’ve worked closely with Star Sports to create and execute various on ground experiences for their global partnerships and Indian properties. Since the inception of the Indian Super League we worked very closely with the Pune franchise running major portfolios for the first 3 years. I ran the grassroots initiatives of FC Pune City which is where I got the opportunity to be part of Premier League’s Premier Skills coaching courses. These are only a few of India On Track’s associations with global sporting entities that I’ve been directly involved with.
What would it take to raise the standard of football and basketball and see more Indian athletes compete at the highest level?
It would be great if we have a structured national basketball league for men and women that has a structured grassroots system integrated as a participation criteria. With regards to football at the highest level, it’s important to figure out the merger between the I-League and Indian Super League but at the grass root level, it’s critical that the teams with a presence at all the levels of the I-League or ISL are ensuring they have a strong grassroots system in place. It’s a pyramid structure where the base being a vast grassroots programme on top of which you can build a youth academy format which feeds into the elite training that eventually contributes to creating the reserve team. This should be the ideal structure that should be followed but implementing this is dependent on the funding and the money behind the league and the teams. It’s easier said than done because ISL teams are struggling financially and the objective is to save money to buy players who can make an immediate impact because survival is the priority. Multiple ISL teams have either changed ownerships and have even changed cities due to financial issues, hence survival will always be a bigger priority than investment in the grassroot. Creating a pyramid structure with a strong grassroots system is critical because without that, clubs will be forced to rely on hotbeds of talent and won’t be able to connect with their own community and develop local footballers.
What is your goal in terms of development at the grassroot level? What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I want to be a part of creating the complete pyramid structure which has a strong grassroots system, youth academy centres and elite training programmes. But purely looking at grassroots development I want to partner with thousands of schools across the country and explain to parents that sports keeps children mentally healthy and prepares them with key life lessons at a very young age. Today, your passion for sports can be turned into a viable career option. There are plenty of opportunities to pursue your dreams and make a living out of it. The messaging has to be very clear to parents, schools and of course children.
Through our existing programmes we’ve managed to now create development centres that basically host the top talented students coming out of the grassroots programmes. Students from these development centres have now started to compete and gain exposure at a local level such as playing in Mumbai District Football Association. Students across our LaLiga Football Schools training programmes get scholarship opportunities to train with a LaLiga club, enabling them to get exposure at an International level. Similarly we hope to create a similar format for students training in the NBA Basketball School programme where they get exposure training in the NBA Academy.
In order to tap into a larger talent pool we want to work closely with schools and governments. We are currently running a 2000 students government project in Tripura out of which 400 talented students will be training at Development Centers. We are excited about the talent we will discover as most of them are tribal kids and are very eager to learn. We hope that more such students progress from one level to another and it’s a model that others can adopt. I also want to be connected with clubs, federations and top academies like Reliance Foundation which is the gold standard of a training academy in India. We are building a network so that talent can move into the space they should be and expand the network Internationally in the longer run.