Pullela Gopichand, Chief National Badminton Coach, whose guidance led P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal to win Olympic medals, talks to E. Kumar Sharma on what it takes to nurture talent.
What does it take to mould star talent?
The player has to first believe in herself and want to play the next level or make the jump. As a coach or a mentor, you need to make them see the vision you have about them; pep them up when they lack confidence; ensure that their motivation is at the highest level; are charged up and ready to take the plunge. You need to protect them from unnecessary pressures (audience expectations) because a player has to eventually go out and play fearlessly, and give her best shot.
How do you work on a player's weaknesses?
At some stage, you have to let go of certain weaknesses if they do not affect the core part or focus of the game. You should not be unnerved by your weaknesses; the idea should be to dwell more on the positives.
How do you help them deal with rejection/ defeat? Winning a tournament cannot really be a goal. It is an outcome of you developing your game. The objective should be to get stronger, improve your fitness, push yourself to be better, both technically and tactically, and have measurable parameters on these lines. The results follow. The mindset of taking the ups casually and not acknowledging them too much should reflect in the defeats as well.
How do you keep your star players grounded?
The sport takes care of it. If you fool around, you have to pay for it sooner or later. To an extent, it is linked to their upbringing. Some get affected by the success; some don't. You need to remind them that they are where they are because of certain qualities that must be retained, and that the only way ahead is to put your head down and get back to work.
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