India’s newly-appointed men’s boxing head coach Narender Rana has divulged details on his vision of taking the sport forward in India after a disappointing Olympic campaign.
Rana said he wanted boxers to take a step back inside the ring, improve their self-belief and preferably stay off social media during competitions.
Rana's first outing as head coach was at the World Boxing Championships in Belgrade. He revealed that he took away bronze-winner Akash Kumar’s (54kg) mobile phone to keep him focussed ahead of the semi-finals.
The move seems to have paid dividends as Akash was India’s lone medal winner at the World Boxing Championships.
Speaking to PTI, Rana said:
“I took his phone away after the quarterfinals because he was bombarded with calls and messages. Itni distraction mein rest kahan se hota, recovery kab hoti? I had to do it. Both his parents are no more and his uncle called me after being unable to reach him. I told him what I had done and even offered to let the boy talk to him. But his uncle said ‘aapne kuch soch ke hi kiya hoga, bas usko hamari shubhkamnaayen de dena’."
The 21-year-old Akash had lost his mother in September just before the National Boxing Championships. He went on to clinch a gold medal, unaware of the tragedy at home. Rana was by his side then. He kept the news away from him at the request of his family so that the youngster could finish the task at hand.
Rana further added:
“See, social media should not interfere with your recovery time. If you are sleeping with a phone next to you, you will be distracted by it. And in a physical sport like boxing, good sleep is absolutely essential for recovery. How is that possible when you are just staring at your phone? I believe social media should be avoided during intense training and competitions. It is distracting."
Olympic campaign brings slew of changes in boxing
India failed to fetch a single medal in men’s boxing in Tokyo Games. This raised many questions on the boxers’ mental preparedness for a stage as big as the Olympics. The underwhelming campaign led to the removal of CA Kuttappa as chief coach.
Rana acknowledged that boxers lack self belief to an extent and it is sometimes, triggered by intense spotlight. He said:
“A lot of times pressure leads to negative performance and this is what happened to someone like Amit Panghal. He was world No 1, everybody was talking about him, and ultimately it had a negative impact on him. I spoke to him after he came back from Tokyo and he told me ‘sir, bohot pressure tha, nahi le paya’.
'As a coach it is my job to insulate the boxer to such circumstances and ensure that their belief in themselves remains intact, basically eliminating fear of failure."
Divulging details of strategies inside the ring, Rana said would like his wards to focus on counter-attacks. He believes boxing is “no longer about power-punching or hit and run”. He explained:
“You have to show that you know your craft. During the World Boxing Championships, I saw so many bouts where power-punchers and aggressive punchers lost comprehensively to counter-attackers. Just throwing your arm around doesn’t get you scores. Your feet should move in rhythm, turn on the style. You should out-manoeuvre your opponents in counter attacks."
Boxing coach focuses on fitness
Another area of focus for Rana is fitness and the coach opined that he would like to have a selection trial before every major competition. A trial ensures only the best make the final squad. He said:
“Rankings can be there to figure out your top four or five in the camp but that alone shouldn’t be criteria for selection for any boxing tournament. I would like trials because then you also get a fair idea about who is physically in better shape. Past performances are good to look at but that alone should not guarantee selection. The idea is to keep things competitive, so that everyone works hard and does not take their place for granted."