Ten boxing coaches and administrators from South India have been chosen to participate in the US state department’s Sports Visitor Program from October 27 to November 10, giving them the opportunity to get acquainted with the best techniques adopted by Americans and also to explore ways in which sport can be used as a medium to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Among the participants is Olympian Devarajan Venkatesan, who won a historic bronze medal at the 1994 World Boxing Championships in Bangkok. “The Americans employ very advanced techniques of boxing and it will be a great chance for us to learn these in person. It will also give us a chance to study their sports culture,” he said.
Narmada Jagan, a coach employed with the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT), is excited by the prospect of picking up new coaching methods. “It’s a fine opportunity for us to learn from the best. We know the basic techniques and this is a great chance for us to further hone our skills and adopt superior methods of training,” she said.
“I’m keen on sharing the knowledge I gain with my students post the trip. We have many promising youngsters from Tamil Nadu and the advanced techniques will help them shine.”
A tool for empowerment
Narmada and fellow boxer-turned-coach Durgadevi Sakthibabu have been working with a non-governmental organisation called Magic Bus to train girl children in boxing in the troubled neighbourhood of Basin Bridge in Chennai.
“When we began to offer classes, there was hardly any interest. Girls’ parents weren’t too keen on their children taking up a contact sport. However, once a few girls started winning local contests, people became more aware and even some parents are eager to join us now,” said Durgadevi, who works as a physical education teacher in a school in Vellore.
“The parents were earlier scared for their daughters’ safety, but they are now comfortable and they know that the girls can defend themselves,” she added.
Narmada feels the training has helped the girls become more confident in all walks of life. “Boxing has changed their mindset and made them tougher. The sport has given them self-confidence and has taught them discipline and manners,” she said. “The girls were very shy earlier, but that’s not the case anymore. They’re a lot more confident now and have become very bold. The sport has changed their outlook and has made them tougher.”
The two women are keen to make a difference. They want to be the coaches they didn’t have and want to make champions from South India. And their aim: to win the Dronacharya Award.
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