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"Students in Hyderabad go crazy on this sport" - Interview with Praveen Reddy, coach of the Hyderabad Skykings team (EFLI)

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Modified 07 Mar 2014, 12:03 IST
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Ever since the Elite Football League of India made its debut in the sub-continent with its first season, a lot of new faces have come into the spotlight especially with regards to some of the players from the various teams.

As is usually the case, behind getting the teams and players ready, slightly removed from the spotlight are the coaches of the various teams. Praveen Reddy was one of the first coaches to be roped in by the EFLI as part of the Hyderabad team.

Sportskeeda managed to catch up with him for a brief interview on how he is enjoying his role and how his background helped play a major role in his move to the EFLI.

Praveen Reddy, coach of the Hyderabad Skykings

What were you engaged with before EFLI? And how did you come into contact with American football and EFLI?

I started my professional sports career in Indian Army. I was a rugby player, one of my friends Shailesh called me and he explained about American football which was about to come to India, and I had a glimpse about American football but I didn’t know much of the rules, then I joined EFLI.

Did you also have a rugby background? Or were you involved in some other sport?

Yes, I’m a former rugby player. I played for 5 major rugby clubs in India (Bangalore, Chennai, Indian Army, corps of military police, Future Hope, Hyderabad) . I started my rugby career in Bangalore when I was in the Army, my first team was the CMP (Corps of military Police).

So how long have you been a player and how long have you been a coach?

Hyderabad Skykings team was developed and then I became the coach. I was one of the first persons contacted by EFLI. Previously I was the coach of the Hyderabad rugby team since 2010.

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In general coach Praveen, I wanted to ask you about your take on the sports scene in India. What do you think is the biggest factor preventing youngsters from taking up sport actively?

Yes, cricket is number one sport in India, now youth are thinking to change fro that. The reasons are that the youth need entertainment and they get lot of opportunities these days to do something different.

So keeping that in mind, American football is a new game. How did you attract athletes to come and try out for this game?

Especially in Hyderabad now there is no need for me to do extra work to attract athletes for tryouts, the reason being in my team most of the players are from different sports background and they are studying in different colleges and some are also working in various corporate houses. We are giving free training sessions. Based on their skills and our team requirements we then select the players.

American football is a physical game. How are you taking care of the safety of the players?

I agree with you it’s a physical game, but we take various safety precautions. We practice with proper kit like shoulder pad, helmet, thigh pad, knee pad, hip pad, and mouth guard; we use all these during practice, and our team physio is available in all training sessions and all our players have medical insurance.

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Did you have any issues with convincing the parents of the youngsters in making them join American football?

No issues till now. Our players come to practice of their own interest and passion towards the game and athletes know the value of this game.

You were one of the first teams to be sold to an owner. You are now owned by Dr. Venkatesh Movva’s company. How has the ownership helped and what benefits are you getting from ownership?

Firstly, I’m very happy that our team was sold to Dr. Venkatesh  Movva; he is basically a sports doctor, and he is having ownership in USA of the Oklahoma Thunder football team. He is providing everything for the team, good diet, good equipment, the team has its own gym, good coaching staff, team doctor, physio, and all our players are paid salary every month.

Praveen Reddy (left), coach of the Hyderabad Skykings along with Dr. Venkatesh Movva, owner of the Hyderabad Skykings team, at a press conference

How is the American football scene in India in general and in Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh in particular?

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American football is the number one revenue generating sport in the USA. Most of the Indians are following NFL in India. American football is an upcoming sport and will definitely have a bright future in India. In Hyderabad we have a huge fan base for our team. We visited lots of colleges in Hyderabad, students go crazy on this sport when we play a demo match in their college.

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, I agree with you, it’s very rare in India. But we are planning to introduce touchdown football, so that kids can play very easily and come a bit close to American football.

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?

Basically in this game, we need athletes from various sporting backgrounds. So we selected them and trained them accordingly.

What are the basic types of drills that you put the players through?

Few running drills common for all players and few drills only for particular positions.

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.?

Yes, specific drills for each position. Running Back, Quarter Back, Wide Receiver  need skill drills, like catching, throwing and speed drills, the linemen and Tight Ends need blocking and power drills.

What is the current size of the Hyderabad Skykings roster?

There are 35 members in Hyderabad Skykings Roster.

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What are the locations from which you have scouted and recruited players?

There is no any particular location from Andhra Pradesh, we recruited players from all over the state.

Do you have a team of any assistant coaches or junior coaches helping you?

Yes, we have assistant coaches for our team. Coach Raj Kumar, he is the lineman coach, then we have Santhosh Yerrabolu who trains defense and coach Caleb coaches defense and linemen. So, yes, I look after the whole team, with specific focus on offense, while there are lot of other coaches who help me out.

How often do you conduct camps for the players?

Once every 2 months we conduct tryouts, but we have training sessions three days a week during the off-season.

What is the biggest worry for players when it comes to joining American football?

I don’t think the players should worry, but the major problem might be that the game is new in India so they might be worried on how their career will be in this sport.

Do you see American football growing as a sport in India in the long run?

Yes.

Coming to the Hyderabad team, it is a new team, and you are yet to lose a match. You beat Bangalore 4 times in exhibition matches last year and you beat Mumbai in pre-season kickoff. What are your thoughts on this team being in very good form and your expectations from season 2?

I am very much confident about  Hyderabad Skykings team, and my expectations are very high from my team, and we also practice with those expectations in mind.

Published 27 Feb 2014, 13:09 IST
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