Explained: Why Wrestling Federation of India  is planning a major overhaul in the coaching system for Indian wrestlers

Vinesh Phogat with her coach Woller Akos (©UWW)
Vinesh Phogat with her coach Woller Akos (©UWW)
Rishabh Chauhan

Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is planning for a big change in the coaching system for the Indian wrestlers. Although wrestling bagged two Olympic medals -- Ravi Dahiya (57 kg) and Bajrang Punia (65 kg) – Singh is unhappy with the performance of the Indian contingent. He plans to make changes to the way coaching is given to elite wrestlers. The first thing he has proposed is to change the concept of individual coaches.

Singh spoke to Sportskeeda to explain why he was against the practice of having individual coaches for wrestlers.

“There is no problem working with foreign coaches. We have worked with many overseas coaches in the past too. But back then the concerned trainer for responsible for training all the athletes. That was the tradition that we had in Indian wrestling. In my opinion, if we bring in a foreign coach, he should at least take two to three wrestlers under his wing rather than just focussing on one athlete."
"Today we have just one coach per wrestler. With Indian wrestling growing, and the cadets and juniors also performing better, we need more coaches. Ideally, it should be two for cadets, two for juniors and three for the seniors. They should also be responsible for multiple brackets,” Singh said.

He has also expressed his wish to extend the same responsibility to Indian coaches.

“There will be one head coach, but other Indian coaches also should be responsible for having two or three weight classes and groom wrestlers in that,” he added.

The Wrestling Federation of India president, however, added that exceptions could be made for individual cases, especially for big competitions like the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year.

“Behind every Olympic medalist in wrestling so far, there has been an Indian coach who played a major role. Even for Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya, they were first groomed by an Indian. It was later they came across a foreign coach. If there is a need for foreign coaches for big event we will consider it. But I want him to take responsibility of other wrestlers too,” he said.

In addition to this, he is also planning to recruit a team manager-cum consultants and a psychologist.

"We need at least three more people other than the coaches. We need a team manager-cum consultant that will stay with the team and give us a report of their performances during training and competitions. He will also take care of the needs of the team. We also need a psychologist who will take care of the mental aspect of the wrestlers," he said.

Wrestling Federation of India is yet to begin scouting for the available posts.

Is Wrestling Federation of India planning to retain the current foreign coaches?

For now, all the foreign coaches have returned home and are waiting for a final call on their contract. The Wrestling Federation of India has said it will talk to the concerned wrestlers before making any decision.

Singh, however, is not very keen on retaining the current batch of foreign coaches. He feels the wrestlers performance dipped due to irrational decisions by the coaches.

“You see Vinesh Phogat, Divya Kakran had foreign coaches and both of them performed poorly when it mattered the most. Even Bajrang Punia’s coach did not give the result I was expecting. This culture of individual foreign coaches is spoiling the wrestlers,” he said.

However, on the contrary both Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia were in the best form of their career under their respective foreign coaches.

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Vinesh under coach Woller Akos (Hungary) has won 13 medals since 2018, while Bajrang under Georgian coach Shako Bentinidis has won two World Championship medals, an Asian Games gold medal and an Olympic bronze.

Singh said he will talk to the wrestlers and take their opinions into consideration before making a decision.

“I will visit them at the national camp and talk to them about the matter. We will consider everything before taking a final call,” he said.

The Wrestling Federation of India will decide on contracts after the world championships in October.

What is WFI’s plan for foreign coaches?

While the wrestling federation has brought in foreign coaches in the past, Singh said the process is tedious and long. He feels the Sports Authority of India (SAI) takes a lot of time to approve the appointments due to which they lose on high-profile trainers.

The Wrestling Federation of India has begun the scouting of new foreign coaches. WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar said they are in talks with two foreign coaches but are yet to finalize them.

However, given the current system, it is unlikely that it will be completed before 2022. Singh said they have asked SAI’s Standing Committee to shorten the duration of the process so that they can appoint coaches as soon as possible.

“We have lost good coaches in the past due to this tedious process. We have asked the Standing committee to look into the current system and make some changes so that we don’t lose good coaches due to this process,” he said.

With the Wrestling Federation of India currently focused on the world championships in Oslo, Norway, it remains to be seen how the plan pans out. Furthermore, will the same coaches be ready to work as WFI envisions?

Edited by Diptanil Roy
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