India returned from Brazil with the best-ever result at Deaflympics. A look back to the eventful tournament through the eyes of Stalin Nagarajan, the coach of India’s Tennis team at the 24th Deaflympics.
Stalin Nagarajan, the man behind the growth of many talented young Indian Tennis player including Sania Mirza, was assigned the role of coach for the Indian Tennis team at Deafympics in Brazil. Nagarajan started his coaching career when he was just 23, first with National Institute of Sports (NIS) and later with Sports Authority of India (SAI). In his long sporting career, he has produced around 300 Tennis coaches for India. In 2019, Stalin Nagarajan took the deaf team for the World Championships where India got the first Tennis gold medal. Sportsavour was in talk with Stalin Nagarajan to know more about his experience with the Tennis team that travelled to Brazil.
I have been working as a Tennis coach for more than 35 years. I have seen various aspects of Indian sport- its highs and lows, evolution and devolution, success and failure. India used to take part in international events earlier too but on the last 10 years there is a huge change in the approach of sportsperson and sports administrators as well. The preparation for this Deaflympics was the greatest foundation for this excellent result. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) was keen in getting more medals for India. The authorities provided all the facilities whenever and whatever we had asked for. The upgraded infrastructure provided us the best training equipment, the practice venues were world class and the logistics was of highest level.
Players’ Selection and Training
The best of the Indian players were chosen for the Games. We had a one-month training camp in Delhi. As a coach, I felt no difficulty in coaching the deaf athletes. I followed the same training procedure like normal athletes. The only difference was before this Games they were not exposed to international standard of training. In the camp, apart from technical coaching, I introduced sports science to them. I arranged practice matches for them with top-rated players in India. I also introduced to them the surface, ball etc that were to be used in Brazil. Actually you can say that I brought Brazil to Delhi.
Need for Sports Science
Whenever I met foreign coaches earlier, they used to say that Indian athletes work hard but are not smart. This was because we did not follow sport science. So I started working on sports science and did my doctorate on the subject. Scientific approach towards training method immensely helps the athletes to avoid injuries. It includes sports psychology, movement analysis, strength and conditioning, nutrition etc. In a nutshell, if sports science is followed properly in any sport, then it shall definitely yield result. SAI asked me to work with the full Indian contingent at Deaflympics in terms of sports science. So during the Games, every day after dinner I used to take a small session on sports psychology with all the athletes. I tried to motivate them, made them trust themselves; they believed in them and therefore the results came.
Experience in Brazil
As we reached Brazil, we got a hearty welcome. We were given the best transport facility, the accommodation was quite good and the food was healthy and tasty. As I already said that we created a mini Brazil during the one-month camp in Delhi. We were fully prepared. But weather played spoil sport. When we reached there, it was raining heavily. The temperature went down to 10 degree Celsius which was very tough for the athletes. This posed a problem for them. Otherwise they could have got more medals. Still, in that tough condition we clinched 16 medals for India.
Feeling after Winning
Since 1983 the deaf people are going to the Olympics regularly. But never ever did our country performed so well. All India Deaf Association appointed good coaches for the team. SAI looked after all the infrastructural necessities. Players responded amazingly and we, as coaches, tried to give our best at the Deaflympics.
Representing the Country
India is a huge country. Among them when someone is selected for India, that itself is a huge achievement. I should not say that he is the best or she can be good. Every player is extremely talented. Some got medals, some other did not get. Those who have got medals, performed better on that day than others.