Suma Shirur was competing in women’s air rifle till December 2017 when the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) approached her to take charge of junior air rifle shooters, as the High Performance coach.
Currently in Changwon (South Korea) with Indian juniors at the ISSF World Championships, the one-time world record holder in 10m Air Rifle and founder of Lakshya Shooting Club in Panvel near Mumbai explains the purpose behind the national junior programme and the reasons for stunning performances by numerous juniors at Commonwealth Games 2018, Asian Games 2018 and World Championships.
Excerpts from a telephonic interview.
On the NRAI junior programme
The junior programme has been in place for the four-five years, for air rifle, pistol and shotgun. There is pretty much a system in place.
It is the vision of the federation and president (Raminder Singh) and they invested a lot. There is a great shift in the way the federation in engaging past shooters into the game.
On making the youngsters realise their potential
The challenge after taking charge of air rifle was to get the whole team into one unit, because youngsters in the national squad come from different places, had trained under different coaches and had different mindsets.
So the training camp effort focus was to work in this direction. The challenge was to make them accept you, trust you. Once the group started to function along these lines, they found the connect with me and the ball started rolling.
On the response from trainees
They were more open to accepting your view and inputs into their individual game. My job is to create belief in them. I can proudly say today that we are one team. There are no stars, the whole group thinks together.
When you win a medal, it is individual who wins . When your team wins, it is the work of the shooters and coaches.
On the highs in air rifle
Until last year, we did not get much results in the air rifle. This year, after taking charge it seemed a challenge for me in getting the team together into a winning mindset.
After eight months of solid work, we could achieve that. I am really happy that our shooters hold the air rifle world record in Junior Women.
On the temperament of Indian youngsters in recent competitions
The results you see now is the effort of another generation, our generation. When we started, shooting was nowhere. With our efforts, the levels got higher.
We are back into the game as coaches. Youngsters coming into shooting now start off with a higher level of expectations, higher level of belief, technical advancement. The confidence level you see today is the work of one whole generation.
On demands on time as the High Performance coach
This is my passion and I am thoroughly enjoying the whole process. We have a bunch of very talented kids in India. All they need a little bit of direction, the juniors need counselling, guidance to keep confidence levels up.
It is a kind of 24-hour job, very satisfying over the last few months. This is the time to make a contribution to the Indian shooting scenario. I have been coaching for 11 years now and was prepared.
On targets set for youngsters with Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 in mind
I would like them to enjoy the sport, continue to be able to perform. If they are able to make it to the top ranked performers, we are always there to groom them accordingly.
As of now, we are not in a hurry and want them to grow with time and with their game. If not, age is on their side, they are so young. It does not make sense hurrying them into achieving success.
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