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Pullela Gopichand: Will retire when world class players become coaches | Badminton News – Times of India

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Pullela Gopichand’s autobiography, Shuttler’s Flick: Making Every Match Count, that the former Indian badminton player co-authored with Priya Kumar, hit the stands last week.
The book has Gopi talk about his life’s philosophy, which is influenced by Chankaya’s advice to Chandragupta — Uplifting others is the true route to happiness, contentment, and peace. Speaking to TOI, soon after the release, the chief national coach for the Indian badminton team, also says how it is not just a sports book and will prove useful to people from all walks of life. Here are some excerpts from it…
No room for luck
When you get into the game, you don’t pray for luck—you know you are prepared. That’s what Gopi says in the book while admitting that he believes luck doesn’t exist. A spiritual person himself, he asks people to surround themselves with those who want them to succeed and hold on to those who understand what it takes to succeed and don’t make them feel guilty for their commitment and discipline. “It’s simple, people who don’t pursue their own dreams will probably not encourage you to pursue yours,” Gopi says.
Only one parent
Speaking about his family, Gopi says that his wife often, rather sadly, says that their children have only one parent because he is never around. He shares how his wife also gets very upset with his hectic schedules, especially when she sees it impacting his health and drawing negativity from players and sections of the media.
Switching off
Going off the grid is Gopi’s way of dealing with negative news. The day he knows that something negative is going to come out, he finds a peaceful place to be and shuts down his phone. On such days, when he goes home, he tells his wife and family not to bring up the news at all because he doesn’t want it to draw his attention. He knows that in a few days it will all have passed, and some other news would take centrestage. “The only answer to negativity is a new, improved positive version of your work,” the coach says in the book.
Saina’s exit
When Saina Nehwal left his academy in 2014 and started training in Bengaluru, rumours flew thick and fast about reasons for their fallout. His good friend and aide Srikanth came up to him and said that he had heard some say how Gopi was biased towards PV Sindhu and neglected Saina, which led to her exit. In response Gopi said: “A player is like a little bird that you hold in your hands. If you tighten your grip it will die, if you leave it will fly out with indiscipline and fall prey to circumstances. But as it sits in your hands, it will also shit in your hands”. So, he said, it is best to wash it and continue to the job of a caretaker. “Be prepared to be emotionally hurt and move on,” he says.
King of discipline
The book has interesting anecdotes about Gopi’s strict discipline regime. One among them: his surprise inspections. In fact, Saina Nehwal knew very well that Gopi could barge into her room anytime unannounced to check the refrigerator. He would take away the laptop if it was a distraction for the player and even keep a check to see if biscuits and chocolates were hidden away in the room. Just when the players thought he wouldn’t show up, he would and just when they were convinced that he would come by for a surprise check, he wouldn’t. His unpredictability kept players on their toes. But Gopi feels this kind of policing was necessary to ensure they delivered their A game.
Argument with Saina
Saina Nehwal does not like to watch the replay of her matches. But she was forced to make an exception during the London Olympics. Just before walking into court for her match – from where she ultimately walked away with a bronze medal – Gopi and Saina had a 45-minute argument with the former insisting that the ace shuttler watch her earlier match. Of course, Saina eventually relented and became the first Indian shuttler to win an Olympic medal.
Project Sindhu
In 2010, while travelling back from the Asian Games with Saina and Sindhu, Gopi called Sindhu’s father and said that he would start personal coach­ing for his daughter. But that would have to be only at 4.30 every morning. Since Gopi had no time during the day to fit her in, he decided to skip his daily one-hour yoga session and dedicate it to Sindhu’s practice. He did this and personally began to coach Sindhu from December 2010 because Gopi saw tremendous potential in her to become a world champion. Over the years Sindhu has only proved him right.
The simple girl
“I want you to win, Bhaiyya,” is what Sindhu often tells Gopi. And that’s the kind of person she is – doing things for oth­ers that she may never do for herself. Gopi describes her as a simple girl who never lets even a win at the world-championship level get to her head or affect her attitude. “She goes and wins a world championship title, gets back to the academy and is her same happy self, no change at all,” he says about the shuttler who has two Olympic medals to her name. In fact, Sindhu not only listens to Gopi but is also scared of him to a certain degree. When Gopi asked her for her phone before the 2016 Olympics, she just gave it without any question. Neither did not make a grumpy face nor ask when she would get it back or if she could use it at times. Gopi wrote down all the agreements and he made her sign the paper. She put her signature and went off.
Different Strokes
To a third person it might seem like Gopi is lenient towards Sindhu and harsher with Saina. But the coach clarifies that it is completely off the mark. While it is true that he is sometimes tough and stern with Saina while taking a more chilled-out approach with Sindhu, it is only because that’s how he can get the best out of them. Gopi understands that being non-serious works with Sindhu while Saina needs a lot more convincing and sometimes tough orders.
When will Gopi retire?
That’s one question many ask. He took over as the chief coach in 2006 and is expected to continue at least till the next Olympics. But what’s the coach’s plan for the future? Gopi believes he will say his good-byes when world class players join the league of world class coaches. That would be the best point of his career and he could then formally retire and take a back step. But is that a possibility? Gopi sincerely hopes so. And also hopes that his players like Saina, Sindhu, Guru, Kashyap too will become coaches. Being champi­ons themselves and having played with a vast number of talented players from across the world, Gopi thinks they will make for great coaches.





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