Jyothi Yarraji, who broke the women’s 100m hurdles national record multiple times and is a medal prospect at the upcoming Asian Games 2023, is a level-headed and determined athlete despite all the success she has achieved, says Dr Aashish Contractor, Director, Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai.
In an exclusive chat with Sportstar, Dr. Aashish who interacts with many big names in Indian sport, shares his thoughts on the challenges that modern-day athletes face and also talks about scientific training and the athletes’ support management system.
Q) What are the modern-day challenges for any athlete willing to go the distance?
A) The difference between No.1 and No. 100 is sometimes just a few seconds, which could be based on things like nutrition, strength or mental strength. So, they have to be perfect in literally every discipline to be a winner at the highest level.
Q) How important is it for athletes to get proper physical conditioning and scientific training from the early stages?
A) During early childhood, the important thing is to lay the foundation for sports and athletic participation. When you are just getting a child initiated into a sport, that time you are not focusing on professional sport. The important thing is to just make the child participate. As that journey progresses, we can focus on specific performance-related issues. Every young athlete shouldn’t be undergoing very detailed training because then they will just lose interest and not have fun. If there are 100 kids, we want them to just go out and play and enjoy. Maybe five out of those 100 kids, we will focus on scientific principles.
Q) How qualified are the coaches in those crucial, early days?
A) Most coaches are fine with giving the athletes the basic skills required. The highest-level sports science skills that are required in addition to coaching, I don’t think the average coach is equipped with. There are some who are self-taught, but those are the exceptions.
Q) Do you feel there should be regular orientation courses in sports sciences for the coaches in different disciplines?
A) Most definitely. A coach is not expected to be a sports scientist but a coach should be expected to have the basic knowledge and principles and to identify which young athlete requires a higher level of professional support.
Q) What kind of monitoring do you suggest to someone like Jyothi Yarraji, now rated as one of the biggest medal prospects? If you had a look at her, what do you feel are her strong points and what are the areas she needs to focus on?
A) Any elite athlete should be assessed on a periodic basis. The test should include fitness tests as well as health parameter tests because they are subjecting their body to a huge load. The health parameters are equally important to focus on. It won’t be correct to comment on an individual athlete. What I can comment on Jyothi is that she is a very stable, level-headed and determined athlete. She is very grounded, in spite of all the success she has achieved.
Q) What do you suggest when there is a tendency by some athletes, especially those who want to keep improving their world rankings to make it to the Olympics? If you are asked to suggest three major guidelines for a proper support system to be in place?
A) In any sport, the concept of periodisation is very important. It means that your year is broken up into parts where you do a lot of training, another part is set aside for recovery and then there are parts where you are in competition mode. The bottom line is you can’t be competing all the time. It has to be a cyclical or periodic process. That will be different for each athlete as well as for each sport.
Q) If you are asked to suggest three major guidelines for a proper support system to be in place?
To state the obvious, they should have good coaching support. They should have a support system in place that allows them to focus on training all the time and not to worry about other basic aspects of life like their accommodation, food, etc need to be taken care of. The third thing is that they need to have a nutritionist, physiotherapist, strength and conditioning coach apart from their skills coach. All of these are important to achieve success at the highest level.
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