Football coaches from across the country have lauded the initiative by Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) in conducting a series of online workshops with qualified experts to improve their understanding of various aspects of their role. Four workshops, organised in association with the Association of Indian Football Coaches (AIFC), were held over the last month with coaches from the East, South, North and West Zones participating in sessions spread over three days.
A total of 119 coaches from football institutes, schools and colleges participated in the workshops, with experts providing them with deep insight into specialist areas such as the expected code of conduct towards parents, referees and colleagues; creating an impression through appropriate behaviour and effective communication; how to impart life skills to their wards such as discipline, respect and personal control; the intricacies of player scouting; how to plan training sessions with clear objectives and discipline while creating a positive environment and how to protect children under their watch from physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and financial exploitation.
For most coaches who participated, this was a rare opportunity to interact with some leading figures in Indian football. Among the guest speakers who shared their extensive experience with the coaches was former Indian international Raman Vijayan, who played for marquee clubs such as East Bengal, Mahindra United, Dempo and Mohammaden Sporting and also served as Assistant Coach for ISL team Delhi Dynamos. Another former Indian international Naushad Moosa, who is currently managing Bengaluru FC after similar stints with Mumbai FC, Air India and Pune FC over the last 10 years conducted a session, as did Thangboi Singto, Assistant Coach and Technical Director at Hyderabad FC.
Sanjoy Sen, Director of AIFC and Head of Youth and assistant coach at ATK Mohan Bagan, was also a guest speaker.
Zacharia Khatal Anal, who coaches at the KL Bajoria College in Shillong, said he was able to draw learnings from each of the topics covered and is confident of imparting the knowledge onwards to the benefit of his students. Another coach, L Prem Samuel Raj from the American College Higher Secondary School in Madurai, was of the view that sessions of this kind will widen the knowledge base of many young coaches in at the grassroots level.
Sudhakar D from Greenwood High International School, Bengaluru acknowledged that he has an aggressive streak while dealing with his wards and promised to inculcate a more “polite approach” in his approach henceforth. Mudasir Bashir, who coaches at Delhi Public school in Srinagar, described the experience of participating in the workshops as “phenomenal.”
“I am so thankful to RFYS for conducting such quality workshops to enhance the knowledge of Indian football coaches, and most importantly I’m grateful to the presiding coach educators,” said Bashir. “The only thing which I would love to attend is a workshop that deals with challenges faced by specially abled players.”
Among the experts who conducted the sessions was Gumpe Rime, a former Indian footballer who played for reputable clubs such as Mahindra United, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited SC Salgaocar, Vasco and Shillong Lajong. Rime is currently the goalkeeping coach at the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) academy in Navi Mumbai and also holds multiple licenses from the AIFF and AFC.
Shailesh Karkera, who has worked earlier with Dempo Sports Club as senior team manager and grassroots co-ordinator and was also the manager of the U-17 Indian national team, was also among the educators. Karkera, who is currently the head of youth development at FC Mangalore and also an AIFF Match Commissioner besides being an AIFF grassroots lead instructor, believes workshops such as these are extremely important in building a robust coaching structure at ground level.
“It boils down to one point, knowledge is power,” said Karkera. “Football coach education, in almost every aspect of football in today’s day and age has become so much more scientific and so much more analytical. There are research papers being written every single day and it’s evolving as we speak. So, we definitely need coaches who can stay abreast with all these updates, have working knowledge of what are the latest trends and what are latest tips to get the best out of your players.”
“RFYS is one of the major stakeholders in Indian football today and being so widely involved in grassroots, it will definitely be beneficial if everybody gets together and we start having more conversations like these to drive the development of Indian football,” he added. “I believe that it’s all inter-connected and it is a long term project. It will probably take a decade or more to build the eco-system with a country of this size, but we will get there from the bottom to the top.”
“The session was full of enthusiastic coaches and the level of interaction was very encouraging, they chose to be a part of the discussion rather than just listening to what the educator had to offer,” said Rime. “With this kind of initiative, we will definitely see more number of coaches enrolling themselves to upgrade their knowledge and in this process we will have more number of coaches getting into grassroots level football. We can then reach out to more children and start training them early on.”
With footballing activities on the ground yet to resume completely across India due to the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the initiative was in line with RFYS’ objective to continue to have a positive impact on the eco-system through skill enhancement of PE teachers, infrastructure upgrades and community engagement programmes. Further such workshops are in the pipeline to provide more coaches access to specialist advice from domain experts.