Kabaddi has made me who I am today and people recognise me today because of this sport. Although it began as a hobby for me, slowly my passion for Kabaddi kept growing and today, it is an inseparable part of my life. I had never imagined that this sport would define my identity and I would get so much love and respect from the fans.
The day I started playing Kabaddi, my only aim was to be a part of the national team and win a gold medal for my country. I got the golden opportunity to not just play for my country but also lead the Indian Kabaddi team and lift the coveted World Cup for my nation.
This sport has given me everything I ever asked for – accolades, praise and most importantly love and respect of the people. After playing numerous games for the country and having a successful career at the national and international level, I announced the retirement from all formats of Kabaddi on 19th December, 2018 after completing 15 years in this sport.
After retirement, coaching was something that definitely crossed my mind. When I was approached by Puneri Paltan’s management, I grabbed the opportunity immediately. I feel it is my turn to give it back to this sport which has changed my life. I want to mould the young talent and give our country the future generation of Kabaddi players. Returning to Kabaddi in a new role of head coach for was very exciting for me.
When I started coaching, initially, my experience as a player helped me a lot in devising strategies for my team. Throughout my stint as a player, I have had the chance to be trained under some of the finest coaches. I use some of their coaching techniques.
I was used to being under the spotlight, and working from the side-lines quietly was a new experience for me. When I used to play, I was called Captain Cool, but I think it is coaching that has made me realise the importance of being patient and calm. As a coach, the entire team looks up to you and you are the one to guide them in the correct direction. It is extremely important for the coach to then think calmly and rationally to be able to show your team the right way.
Coaching has also taught me the importance of team work. I have realized that you need to give time to every individual player as well as to the entire team and make sure that collectively as a team they perform better. As a coach, I also believe it is important to listen to the team. Rather than directing them, you need to guide the team and offer a helping hand.
In coaching you also need to maintain your composure because you cannot win every single game and after each defeat it’s your responsibility to motivate your team as they rely on you. I feel you need to be extremely passionate and patient when you think of taking up coaching. If the coach is passionate then only he will be able to ignite that passion in the team.
As the head coach for Puneri Paltan, our team had a good mix of young and experienced players. We had a great squad but the season was full of hits and misses for us. It was nothing short of a roller-coaster ride for the team and we tried our best to perform well. Given that the season has come to a close for us, I am working on setting up my own Kabaddi academy to be in touch with coaching and train young talent.
Today when I look back, I feel Kabaddi has come a long way and has evolved tremendously over the years. It has gained popularity not just in rural areas but also in urban areas. There is a multitude of talent today and I want to be able to share my experiences with the youngsters. I want to contribute to the future of the sport and would be devoting my time to it.