I’ve lost count of the times commentators have bemoaned the inexperience of this Indian contingent at the Olympics. Leander Paes and the likes notwithstanding, our top talent is woefully inexperienced.
Saina Nehwal, Deepika Kumari, Parupalli Kashyap, Tintu Luka, Mayookha Jhonny, Soumyajit Ghosg, Ankita Das – they are all young and relatively inexperienced and that fact is sometimes held against them.
In the two matches Saina Nehwal played versus Tine Baun and Yao Jie, her athletic advantage was apparent. She jumped out at them, making them dance all over the court while she floated all over like a butterfly flitting to and fro.
As you get older, you start to play more with your mind than your body. You learn when to pull back and when to push ahead. A young and athletic player is often stuck in the fast lane. One thing that takes time to learn is that you can do something without doing anything too, in context of movement. Slowing down, changes of pace and direction can mess with the rhythm which your opponent has come to predict.
Youngsters often overthink the game. Their deliberation stands in their own way when they need to rely on their instincts. But instincts are only as accurate as they have been honed to be. Veterans don’t just pull their foot back from the pedal because age forces them to. They realize the advantage of thinking the game out more and their experience allows them to play more on instinct.
Every single play you experience teaches you something. The more such experiences you can draw upon, the more accurate your instincts will be allowing you to make snap second decisions without even thinking about it. Play on instinct, but on accurate instinct which has been refined through experience.
As the next Olympics roll around, this current crop of athletes will be a lot more experienced. The 2010 USA basketball team featured players whose careers took a dramatic upswing after participating in the FIBA world championships. The importance of such exposure can’t be valued. These players will be more experienced, confident, and in the next four years they will be more of an example/mentor to other youngsters who are coming up and looking up to them.
Think of the immense untapped potential in a country with a population of 1 billion. Give these kids a chance. Why aren’t more competitions conducted at the schools level for the grass root development of sportspersons in various disciplines, lets look over cricket for once. How else will we ever find another Saina Nehwal or Deepika Kumari?
By the looks of it, we’re all set to shock the world in 2020. The present crop of young talent leaves no doubt on that. Look at the bright side. If they’re so good now, imagine how good they will be later.