It’s the National Championship for women boxers but in the headcount for support staff and technical delegates, it’s the men who dominate, outnumbering their female counterparts in the field of play outside the ring.
Of the nearly 100 coaches attached to the 38 teams competing in the ongoing Championship here, only 12 happen to be women. And of the 40 Referees and Judges conducting the competition, merely four are women.
The massive disparity is hard to miss but the Boxing Federation of India insists that projects are in the pipeline to reduce the gap.
The boxers are mostly nonchalant about the lack of women in the technical staff even though a majority agrees that it is important to have women in the support staff despite the fine equations they share with their male coaches.
The male coaches, on their part, have no qualms in admitting that having more women in the coaching team is imperative given that there are certain areas, which are off limits for them.
“It is more challenging to train girls than boys because they are a lot more emotional. We have to respect certain spheres while dealing with them. With boys, we can be a lot more informal, but when it comes to women, we cannot go beyond a point and have to be careful,” said India’s first Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and Railways Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) coach Mohammed Ali Qamar.
“Then there is the part about understanding, women coaches would certainly be able to understand girls a lot better than us,” he added.
RSPB, to their credit, have an accomplished woman coach in former World Championships silver-medallist N Usha, who echoed Qamar’s views.
“Of course having a woman coach helps the girls feel a lot more comfortable. But the male coaches have also done a fine job and sometimes, it is better for strength and endurance to train with a man,” she said.
Dronacharya awardee coach Sagar Mal Dhayal, who has worked extensively with women boxers including M C Mary Kom, said the disparity in male and female coaches exists even in Europe and America.
“Even in international competitions, the male coaches are more in number compared to women. In fact, India is still ahead of several other countries in having a sizeable female support staff team while travelling for international competitions. Take for instance the World Championships, lot of nations who come there don’t have even a single female coach,” he claimed.
“This dominance of male coaches, in my opinion, has also got a lot to do with how training is done in a contact sport. The job demands a degree of ruthlessness which doesn’t come easy in women. I am not saying that women coaches are not hard taskmasters, my point is that women are inherently more caring compared to men, which at times can be an impediment when you are looking to discipline,” he said.
But Dhayal also conceded that the number of women coaches needs to increase.
“But this is not to say that there shouldn’t be women coaches in the team, they should be there in greater number and I hope the new federation will address this issue,” he added.
Another coach, who did not wish to be named, said for a male coach to have a good working relationship with a female boxer, mutual respect is a crucial ingredient.
“It is a contact sport end and trust is an important element. The respect for each other is crucial. Only then can there be a successful equation like any other. A coach has to be like a father figure,” he said.