Last week, we published an article about Pullela Gopichand, the man behind the success of badminton in India. In continuance to that, we would like to give the readers a peek into his famed academy, the one responsible for churning out best badminton talents one by one. It all started in his hometown Hyderabad, where he set up two academies with a capacity to train 130 players in total.
Gopichand created the system single-handedly
Gopichand’s playing career was marred by injuries. By the time he won All England Badminton League in 2001, he had turned 27 already. Time was running out, but successes left to achieve in the field of badminton were large in number, including an Olympics medal for the nation. He realized that moment that he whatever he couldn’t achieve in his playing career, he should achieve as a coach and decided to set up a coaching academy.
Setting up the academy wasn’t easy. His distant relative and a social entrepreneur was convinced by his idea and helped him to set-up the academy. Together they found it difficult to raise money. Gopi in fact, had to mortgage his home for running the academy successfully. Despite Saina Nehwal’s success in international tournaments, Gopichand found it hard to run the Academy and couldn’t hire more coaches. This, was exactly the reason which led to Saina Nehwal exiting the academy in 2014, when she cited lack of personal coaching time.
Discipline, the tenet responsible for success
Gopichand is a strict taskmaster. His academy opens at 4:30 AM every day, and he’ll be the first one to arrive, 15 minutes before the academy opens. He is also the last one to leave the academy. Both P.V Sindhu and Srikkanth were part of 4:30 batch. Internet and mobile phones are strictly banned in his academy and only on Sundays, students are allowed to make calls. He considers discipline to be extremely important for excellence in sport.
Initially Srikkanth Kidambi’s game lacked a little bit of discipline. He was all over the court and played nothing but smashes. In order to instil more discipline, Gopichand put the young shuttler under rigorous training. Srikkanth was made to come at the earliest slot, and Gopichand made him focus on just singles. Now, it is for all to see how this has helped his game.
Importance on Diet and Fitness
A majority of players who joined his academy were raised up as vegetarians, Saina Nehwal and P.V Sindu included. They never felt that their food habits would come in the way of success. However, Gopichand had different ideas about diet. He made them eat meat on a regular basis. Gopi felt that chicken was a must in their diet, as it helps improve the muscles and reduce the excess weight. He even made surprise visits during their meals to inspect their diet.
Gopi gave immense importance to fitness as well. Gopi started planning for Rio a good year in advance. He found Sindhu a little lacking in stamina and hence hired a weight trainer and physical fitness. With these support staff, she worked on her fitness and ensured that she could last more than an hour on court and engage in long rallies. This came in handy in Olympics.
Dreams turning into reality (K Srikkanth)
The way he has been turning local talents into international players is not much different from fairy tales. To give a flavour to this, Srikkanth Kidambi joined the academy in 2010, at the age of 15 as he had nothing much to do at home. His brother Nandagopal was believed to possess better badminton skills and had joined Gopichand’s Academy a year earlier and Srikkanth was joined by his father as just an afterthought.
Srikkanth, before he joined Gopi’s academy was always finding ways to skip exercise and miss practice sessions in his previous academy. He lacked the consistency as he would even lose out to players who played poorer than him. But once he joined Gopi’s academy, he found his focus. He started eating meat and took every piece of advice sincerely. Within a few years, he has turned into a world beater. This has been the story for more than a few. Thus it is no mystery, why a majority of top players are from Gopichand’s academy.
The result is for all to see. From Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikkanth, Parupalli Kashyap, PV Sindhu, Prannoy Kumar and Gurusai Datt — just to name a few — Gopi has produced more champions than any other. We hope we get a Gopichand in every sport just like badminton. It won’t be misleading if we even change the name ‘Dronacharya’ Award to ‘Gopichand’ Award to honour this man.