A coach nonpareil

Rajesh Patel... breathing basketball.-

The teams under him have won more than 50 gold medals at the national level. Truly, Rajesh Patel is a golden coach in Indian basketball. By Kamesh Srinivasan.

He is the magic man with the Midas touch. His coaching career, spanning more than three decades, is a golden story. It was the icing on the cake when the Chhattisgarh women won the national basketball title for the first time, beating the perennial champion Railways. It was the accomplishment of a long cherished goal for coach Rajesh Patel who has been churning out players with nerves of steel.

“It was the only title missing from our collection. The girls were very keen to win it this time. We had a good combination of junior and experienced players,’’ said coach Patel.

Chhattisgarh has already won all the national titles in the sub-junior, junior and youth categories as well as the Federation Cup.

He is academically well qualified with Masters degrees in Commerce and Sociology apart from a degree in Law, but the former Best Player awardee from Madhya Pradesh, Rajesh Patel, has opted to devote his career to basketball coaching.

He qualified as a coach from the National Institute of Sports in Patiala, with a gold medal. He joined Bhilai Steel Plant in 1979 as a player and focussed on training players at the grass-root level in due course.

The Chhattisgarh girls (in blue), well-drilled by coach Rajesh Patel, policed Railways star Geethu Anna Jose admirably in the National basketball championship final recently.-SANDEEP SAXENA

He devotes 10 to 12 hours every day in training nearly 100 players at the Pant Stadium in the Bhilai Steel Plant and has been doing so relentlessly for 30 years, two sessions every day.

No wonder, 35 of his trainees have gone on to represent the country at various levels. Hundreds have got jobs and awards. His bond at the grass-root level has been so strong that the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh sub-junior girls’ teams have won 18 gold medals and a bronze in the last 19 years. Most of the girls in the current team have been training with him right from the time when they were 10 years old.

The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has been utilising the services of Rajesh Patel to coach national teams in international competitions. The junior girls’ team under him won the silver medal in the Asian 3x3 championship.

The greatest asset of the coach has been his ability to help the players realise their potential.

The night before the final against the Railways, the Chhattisgarh team had a long meeting, lasting an hour and a half. The team had been working very hard for years with a commendable attitude, and was keen to strike gold.

“The players promised that they would play the best game of their life so far. They did that with so much confidence, improving in every quarter and cutting down the lead. The players proved that if we work wholeheartedly and with systematic planning, our attempts will succeed,’’ said Rajesh Patel.

On the sidelines during a match, he shouts himself hoarse, calling players by name and telling them what to do. The players are never ruffled. They know that he means good for them. They execute his plans and reap the laurels and accolades. The teams under him have won more than 50 gold medals at the national level. Truly, Rajesh Patel is a golden coach in Indian basketball.