Monday, June 9, 2014

On Andy-Amelie and Coaching

Headline reads Andy appoints Amelie as his new coach. If you read this, you'll gather that for now it's limited to Wimbledon 2014.

The surprise as projected by the media is 'a male player appointing a female as coach'. If you read the article linked to earlier, you'll see that male players have appointed 'females' as their coaches earlier as well. Besides, female players have so often have had male coaches (if I am not mistaken, most female players do).

I haven't played a sport at any significantly high levels, but I have surely trained under 'coaches'. And while I haven't been a sports-coach, I have coached many a student so far under various guises.

To add, with the realization that help's available nowhere and nobody's helping me surely, I have been a coach to myself, and it has been a painstaking ultra-time-consuming process of coaching myself. It takes immense amount of what sounds like self-criticism. An attitude like this among youngsters is often labelled (mistakenly) as 'lack of confidence' or need for 'personality development'.

Andy's announcement of Amelie as her coach makes one review what 'coaching' is and who can be a 'coach'.

While in professional contexts, especially sports, naming and appointing coaches is explicit, coaches come in all forms. Teacher in a school (Taare Zameen Par style), elder brother at home, unusual friend at school, may be girl-friend, a boss et al. Just that the name 'coach' isn't explicit. We are all aware of the famous 'Eklavya-Dronacharya' coaching relationship. Rancho for his friends in 3 Idiots.

In my mind, I have no doubt that every single person who is sensitive to some area of performance and desires to achieve (as Aamir puts it in 3 Idiots) excellence, needs a coach-figure, if not all the time, surely at certain critical junctures in life and preparation. Having said that, those critical junctures are unidentifiable so very often. Which essentially means that this coach-figure is needed all the time.

I bowled in the nets imitating different bowlers. Sometimes I bowled well, sometimes pathetically. Was prodigious at swing but often went down the leg. Coaches would point out the errors sometimes but none pointed out that my front foot (left leg for a right hand bowler) was landing wrongly. I wonder they knew such nuances. I wonder they observed me closely. I wonder they were inclined to focus on any particular individual, since they had numerous pupils to oversee. Of course, I was always an introvert and 'egoistic' stoical moody affable kind of person. But I was at least 15 or 20 years younger than these coaches. Who would harness the raw energy. The one possessing it or the one watching it? I identified this problem with my bowling action just a couple or 3 years back!

Anyway, to close this, coaching requires an engagement that touches the deepest parts of your being. An engagement similar to a love-relationship in many respects. Great eyes, great observation, great reading of skills (not necessarily 'having' the skills) and temperament, great articulation and a lot more. Ivan Lendl helped Andy win the big title. Females might be different in some ways from males but in coaching 'gender' surely isn't a clinching point, and Amelie might just be more effective. Am watching closely.

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