At the end of the day, it boils down to loving the sport, says basketball coach Sachin Belvadi

Whenever international sporting events are around the corner, discussions abound on the absence of a sports culture in the country, dearth of infrastructure and training, and, inevitably, how a nation of a billion-plus can manage to bag only a handful of medals. But there are some who choose to actively channel their effort into changing things. “It doesn’t matter which club you belong to, which banner you play under, how the infrastructure is: at the end of the day, it boils down to loving the sport and giving back to it in your own small way,” says Sachin Belvadi, former senior national player in the Karnataka State basketball team.

Now a coach in his spare time, this Basaveshwaranagar resident is one of the youngest coaches of the State basketball team, and is assistant coach of the national women’s under-16 basketball team. Sachin, a recipient of five national medals, has no doubt that basketball will establish itself in the sporting arena once it is marketed well. According to him, it is growing in popularity every day, with hordes of excited youngsters enthusiastic about learning the sport.

“Playing man-to-man defence, boxing out, rebounding, fast break, passing, rotating the ball, all the wordless communication that is required in basketball makes the game so much fun…Basketball is a team game demanding reciprocal understanding between the players and their coach,” writes Sachin in his book More than a Championship, which tells the story of how the Karnataka State sub-junior girls’ basketball team clinched a silver medal in a national championship in 2010 after a gap of 14 years.

Safety net

His father, B.S. Subba Rao, was Sachin’s first coach, and with his entire family playing basketball, he and his older brother found inspiration and guidance at an early age. He believes “basketball in India hasn’t reached a point where it can be your bread and butter,” and has always encouraged his students to give equal preference to academics.

“You need something to fall back on; you can play till the age of 27-28 maximum. Surrounding me all my life, I have had examples of players who represented the country internationally and are still struggling to settle in life at the age of 35, where a degree in hand would’ve really helped,” says Sachin, who is senior public relations assistant at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research.

‘A hive of talent’

Sachin has been coaching for a decade now, and has mentored over 2,000 players in this period. He describes Basaveshwaranagar, where youngsters come in droves to the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Stadium, as a hive of talent. “Sometimes we used to handle 200 kids at a time,” he says of the Ambedkar Basketball Club, where he used to coach. He has been coaching at the Bharath Sports Union since 2010.

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