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Guwahati (Assam) [India], Jan 19 : With 6,484 young athletes taking part in 20 disciplines at the start of Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati, the focus has been firmly fixed on the action on the playing fields. Flying under the radar are the men and women sitting behind the young athletes and creating the conveyor belt that feeds Indian sport.

“If I spill the secrets, then what’s the point? Different coaches have different techniques. But they must agree that coaching is about empowering athletes to make the correct choices in high-pressure situations,” Suma Shirur, India’s junior rifle team coach said in a statement.

Shirur thinks of her job as a facilitator as someone who helps young shooters gather the tools that can improve their performances. Rather than giving them in-competition advice, create scenarios in practice where they can find the solutions themselves.

Shirur also emphasises the pressures put on young athletes by parents themselves.

“They sacrifice a lot for the athlete, so they expect results. But, and this is a point she makes strongly, a coach’s job is to serve as a facilitator rather than as a result generator. If an athlete loses but learns something very important, then I am happy,” she said.

While there are sports where coaches work on improving efficiency and inducing calm, there are others where the coach is the direct influencer of strategy.

“In weightlifting, coaches can have a direct influence on their athlete’s result,” Veteran weightlifting coach and Dronacharya winner Pal Singh Sandhu said.

He pointed out how Assam’s Chitra Chetia’s bronze in the U17 40kg competition was influenced completely by her coach’s decision to change the weight because of the opponent’s attempt.”

Chetia had gone into the clean and jerk in fourth place and with the gold and silver medals far beyond her reach, she was locked in a battle for bronze with UP’s Shivani Yadav. Yadav and Chetia both completed their first lifts successfully, with Yadav lifting a kilo more.

On the second, both attempted the same weight (56kg) and failed. And that is where her coach stepped in. While Shivani attempted and successfully lifted 56kg on her third attempt, Chetia increased her weight by two kilos – she had never successfully lifted more in competition -completed her lift to win the bronze. In the aftermath of the celebration, she said it was her coach and his message of ‘win it for Assam’ that fuelled her lift.


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