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‘Catch them young’ and more foreign coaches: Army’s game plan after CWG success

The Pune-based Army Sports Institute (ASI), one of the premier five sports training institutes of the force, has worked out a long-term athlete development programme.

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New Delhi: The Indian Army will soon hire more foreign coaches to train its sports hopefuls after its contingent won four golds, one silver and three bronze medals at the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Colonel Dev Raj Gill, Commandant of the Army Sports Institute (ASI), told ThePrint that the force was looking at more foreign coaches outside the four that are already training its players.

In these Commonwealth Games, winner from the Army were: Naib Subedar Jeremy Lalrinnunga (Gold) and Havildar Achinta Sheuli (Gold) in Weightlifting, Subedar Deepak Punia (Gold) and Recruit Havildar Deepak Nehra (Bronze) in Wrestling, Subedar Amit Panghal (Gold) and Subedar Mohammad Hussamuddin (Bronze) in Boxing and Naib Subedar Avinash Sable (Silver) and Subedar Sandeep Kumar (Bronze) in Athletics.

“This time, 18 of our sportsmen participated and eight of them got medals. A few missed it narrowly,” a proud Col Gill said, adding these medals were a result of a carefully planned and sustained “Mission Olympic Programme” by the Indian Army, which was conceived and implemented in 2001.

After the team returned to India, Army chief General Manoj Pande and senior officers met the contingent Wednesday and awarded them Commendation Cards and cash incentives. Medal winners would also get out-of-turn promotions as per the present policy.

Recruitment of 8 to 14 year-olds in Army sports wing

Colonel Gill said there were three verticals of recruitment into the ASI which included the Boys Sports Company. In this category, the Army inducts children in the age group of 8 to 14 years into the current seven disciplines.

“The idea is to catch them young. It is done mainly through talent scouting. We have a full team of one officer, two junior commissioned officers and several coaches scouting for talent. They go to various schools, competitions… under 14, under 12,” he said.

He added: “We have certain benchmarks and anyone who clears that — and the medical — joins. This boys’ sports company acts as a conveyor belt for us. It is like a supply chain.”

ASI has a sanctioned strength of 210 boys and the yearly recruitment is based on ‘wastage’ or boys who have migrated to the senior category, he said.

Colonel Gill also said the boys stayed at his institute and all expenses were borne by the Army.

“They train with me… sleep and study with me. We have teachers for them. We have personality classes. We have introduced mental strength training aspect,” he said.

More verticals of recruitment 

Another vertical for recruitment was the visit of talent-spotting teams to various national sporting events.

“If we see a bright prospect, we make him join the Army,” Gill said.

The third vertical was through the Army ‘sporting challenge’, or the various intra-army competitions.

He said anyone who joined the ASI, “only breathed, talked and did sports”. These soldiers are kept away from actual soldiering and transfers.

How is the training conducted?

The Commandant explained the ASI has a full-fledged long-term athlete development programme.

“There are five pillars to it. The first is the athlete himself, he is the centre of gravity for everybody, the coaches, his training, the leadership and exposure.

“We lay great emphasis on this. I have hired foreign coaches for them. I have four foreign coaches,” he said.

Colonel Gill added that any Army player who made the cut in national competitions, was roped in by the government’s National Sports Federation to participate in camps.

“He trains with the Federation. We also train these men in collaboration with the national body. We also send them abroad,” he said.

Also read: Army looks to reduce troops by 2 lakh, deployment in Kashmir could be rejigged


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