Youngsters realise potential against foreign opponents,says coach.
On Sunday,a day before the Indian sub-junior (U-16) team was supposed to leave for an exposure trip to Uzbekistan,coach MS Dhaka realised that his side had a problem. Just before training,they realised that their kit gloves,shoes,jerseys,boots was several sizes too big. The gear meant for the Indian youth team which also has an international trip lined up,had been sent to his side,meaning that the 10-member sub-junior squad had to practice in their regular clothes. With equipment being rushed in,coach Dhaka wasn’t too upset.
These problems happen. We just have to find ways to overcome them, says Dhaka who had his boys do endurance training at the Karnail Singh Stadium instead of going for a sparring session. Indeed,the coach,who has trained boxers like Vijender Singh,Vikas Krishan,and Devendro during their time in the sub junior category,says the point of an exposure tour means to get youngsters prepared for all the eventualities of competing internationally.
The exposure tours have been going since 2001,and each batch has had its share of hard times booking air tickets,clearing immigration,and managing in a country where no one speaks a familiar language. Dhaka recalls a time during the 2007 tour,one which World Championship bronze medalist Vikas Krishan was part of,where the youngsters almost spent all their money on the first day itself. The boys reached their hotel room and raided the chips and chocolates in the mini fridge. By the time I could tell them that they had to pay for it,they had already opened several packets. Because the hotel marked up these items several times,we quietly replaced them with stuff we bought from the local markets. Luckily no one found out, says Dhaka.
Life lessons apart,Dhaka maintains that the stints abroad crucially helps youngsters overcome their nervousness of competing at an international level. When our boys compete against their Uzbek opponents,they realise that they are at the same level. They may be a little weaker physically but technically they are much superior. Initially any idea our youngsters had of international competition came from their seniors. They used to be told that Indians had no chance at that level. Now when they return from these trips they are full of confidence, says Dhaka.
The trips benefit him as well. Coach Dhaka explains that at the national level most youngsters have faced each other and the pecking order so to speak is decided. Someone who wins keeps winning. It is as if they almost accept the result before they enter the ring. It is only when they compete internationally,that they get a chance to box against someone they know nothing about. Then a coach realises who has potential to grow and who is likely to stagnate.
Dhaka puts forward Vijender’s name as example. When Vijender was young he would constantly lose to one particular boxer. It was after he went for a tour to Germany in 2001 that he realised his own potential. From then on,he just kept on improving, he says.
And while in the past,it would be the Indians who were in awe of their training partners abroad,the roles have now been switched. When we go to Uzbekistan,there are always coaches over there who remember former members of the squads. Last year everyone was talking about Devendro,who had just qualified for the Olympics, says Dhaka.
In Uzbekistan,the sub-juniors are scheduled to have joint trainings,friendly competition bouts and sparring sessions with their national team members. It’s just as coach Dhaka wants. I tell the boys to simply relax and enjoy. They are at the starting of their career. If they make any mistake,right now it won’t cost them. There’s no pressure on them at all, he says.