Grassroots training details to be included in foreign coaches' contracts

The sports ministry also plans to take steps to better enforce clauses of the contracts binding the recruitment of foreign coaches.

Rahul Bhatnagar acknowledges that "we need coaches at all levels and of all calibre, not just the elite ones." Photo: Special Arrangement

Twenty nine foreign coaches are currently on the Indian sports ministry's rolls but most of them restrict themselves to working with only the elite group of national campers and medal prospects as part of their duties. That may change if the ministry follows through on strictly enforcing the various clauses in its contracts with these coaches.

Sports secretary Rahul Bhatnagar said that, on paper, most of the foreign coaches are expected to train Indian coaches as part of their contracts but in reality, hardly anyone does. The ministry is looking to make the clause more specific and targeted, insisting they would look into its enforcement as well.

“Our contracts with foreign coaches specifically states that they will train Indian coaches for a number of sessions. Now we will be making it even more specific to mention the exact number of sessions they have to conduct with Indian coaches as part of their contract, whether during camps or even in other parts of the country away from the national teams. We will make sure that is also included now,” Bhatnagar told Sportstar.

'Not just elite'

The ministry is also looking at setting up a coach development corporation including current well-known coaches and former sportspersons to work out a strategy for coaches' development.

“Right now we do not have any but it is desperately needed. Everyone seeks coaching personnel from the SAI including state governments and even government schools. We have stepped up our recruitments through SAI, increased the number of sanctioned posts also. We need coaches at all levels and of all calibre, not just the elite ones. Even after so many years we are dependent on foreign coaches in several games, it's high time our own coaches are good enough at least at the grassroots and middle levels,” Bhatnagar agreed.

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While acknowledging that not all foreign coaches were necessarily better than Indians, he also blamed the sportspersons, insisting the dependence was a necessity given the inexplicable lack of discipline among them under Indian coaches.

“Calibre or knowledge-wise, they may not be better than ours but somehow they are able to get the Indian players to listen to them. Our coaches may be very good but foreign coaches manage to maintain discipline. Why do our players only listen to commands from foreigners,” he wondered.

Interestingly, a meeting of SAI and eminent sportspersons and coaches was held on May 15, 2015 to review the coaching framework in SAI and consider suggestions for its development, but there has been little update on that.

Training Indian coaches is not the only part of their contracts the foreign coaches do not fulfil. They are also supposed to undergo performance reviews regularly but even that hardly happens, with most federations preferring to see a coach run out his contract rather than look for changes midway. That, too, is likely to change after the Asian Games.