Thimmaiah Madanda is a decorated rugby union player for the Indian national team who has since 2011 taken the plunge into American football as the Head Coach of the Bangalore Warhawks outfit.
His players and his contemporaries hold Thimmaiah in high regard, both as a player and a coach. His Bangalore team was one of the best performers in the inaugural season of the Elite Football League of India (EFLI). Their run came to an end in the semi-finals, but not before impressing a large number of people with their exciting brand of football.
A heap of praise for that can be placed at the feet of Thimmaiah, who happens to be one of the first persons to join the EFLI bandwagon. Sportskeeda caught up with him for a brief chat on his experiences playing rugby and American football.
What were you engaged with before EFLI? And how did you come into contact with American football and EFLI?
I was working for Indian Rugby Union as Rugby Development Officer in Bangalore region. I was contacted by Mr Sandeep and Mr Richard to work with EFLI.
You have a rugby background; how do you think that helped you out? Was it easier for you because of that?
I was anyways following American Football and i knew the sport. I had to just go in depth after I joined EFLI to know more about American Football.
How long have you been a rugby player and how long have you been a coach?
I started playing Rugby Union in the year 2006 and been coaching kids and adults from NGO and schools from then onward. I thought by volunteer coaching i will spread the sport (rugby) and also learn more about Rugby which helped me while playing different levels of rugby i.e. domestic and international.
So keeping that in mind, American football is a new game. How did you attract athletes to come and try out for this game?
In India there is always a craze for a new sport and also when its Western sports we get more followers. It was a great opportunity and also a challenge to explore. I had to travel to lot of places to invite athletes for tryouts. and assure them that it was a great opportunity. Also many people in our state were already following me while playing rugby union for our nation and it was easy to approach them.
American football is a physical game. How are you taking care of the safety of the players?
All the players are insured before they start training. We don’t play with too much contact during training sessions so that we can avoid injuries.
Did you have any issues with convincing the parents of the youngsters in making them join American football?
Yes with some parents. There were kids with real talent, but whose parents didn’t want them to play this sport. So I had to speak to them and convince them.
You were one of the star teams in season 1. You had lots of success. How did your team take lesser time to adapt and start playing well so quickly?
Any team sport has to have right player in the right position in the team and with that instil some confidence in the players and respect the players. When it came to playing, we had some real great training sessions in Bangalore.
How is the American football scene in India in general and in Bangalore & Karnataka in particular?
American Football is a new sport. And it’s a western sport as well. In Bangalore there is a trend to follow western sport.
While growing up, there are lot of sports and games that we play in school, like cricket, football (soccer), tennis, volleyball, athletics, hockey, basketball, etc. but American football is something that is very, very rare, even in colleges. So how do you think the game can be introduced to children and youngsters?
Yes American Football is a rare sport. But if we introduce a great program for each region we can excel in promoting the sport.
In India these athletes must have been very new to the game. So yourself and the American coaches, what were the aspects that you asked the players to work on first?
American Football is a sport which can be played anywhere and by anybody. We only worked on basics which helped us to play a good level of sport.
What are the basic types of drills that you put the players through?
We improved their hand-eye coordination, strength, speed and some ball drills.
Also, there must be specific drills for each position. So can you tell us about what drills are there for each position, like Running Back, Quarter Back, Wide Receiver, Lineman, Tight End, etc.?
This sport is position oriented. So when we have specific training for positions we have different drills which we work on with the players.
What is the current size of the Bangalore roster?
We have 35 players.
What are the locations from which you have scouted and recruited players?
Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Mangalore, Mysore and Kodagu (Coorg).
Do you have a team of any assistant coaches or junior coaches helping you?
Yes I have 2 assistant coaches helping me.
How often do you conduct camps for the players?
That depends on the schedule of our season.
Your players have heaped a lot of praise on you and have even said that Bangalore has the best coach of all the teams. What do you have to say about that?
It’s their personal thought ! I have done my job with great respect.
What was the main strength of the Bangalore team according to you?
Bangalore players are smart and technically prepared.
Do you see American football growing as a sport in India in the long run?
Yes I do.
Coming to Bangalore team, you had very good first season and some star players emerged from your team. Is there added pressure going into season 2? And what are your expectations from season 2?
I am happy that we have some class players going forward to season 2.