Working with children can often be frustrating given their energy and tendency to get distracted, but coach John Christopher Nirmal Kumar says it is all about letting them enjoy the sport
It is not difficult to find swim coach, John Christopher Nirmal Kumar. The trainer, who is the head coach of the P. Munivenkatappa Swim Centre (PMSC) in Jayanagar is always in the thick of action during a meet, goading his young wards and watching swimmers from other clubs intently. What sets John, apart from the rest is his ability to relate to young swimmers, whose careers are in a nascent stage. His 140-odd group at PMSC doesn’t really have big names or national senior champions, but he has groomed enough young talent and served the cause of the sub-junior segment which is often a weak link in the State’s strong swimming contingent.
John hails from Chennai and was a national medallist for Tamil Nadu in the mid 1980s. He later moved to Neyveli Lignite Corporation and was part of its swimming team and programme. He then did a NIS diploma and level four of the ASCA international certification. He moved to Bangalore in 1994 and became an assistant coach at K.C. Reddy Swim Centre, which is one among the major training centres in the country under the stewardship by head coach, Nihar Ameen.
“I always cherish my association with KCR and working under Ameen, who has vast knowledge of the sport. I learnt a lot,” says John . It was in 2002, he took over PMSC’s coaching programme at a critical stage. The former coach, Mathew had left with the centre’s most prodigious talent, Shubha Chittaranjan and quite a few other swimmers.
So, John had to start virtually from scratch to blend a good bunch of swimmers and over the past five years he has strived to build a highly competitive sub-junior group, which includes national medallists Abhinav and K. Chandana and the talented physically challenged swimmer, Sharath Gaikwad .
“I would rate Abhinav (who is right now in Islamabad) and Chandana, who are hard working youngsters for the South Asian championship.” On Sharath, John says: “I train him as I train the others. Despite the disability, he is one swimmer who can always pose a challenge to other competitors. He has done pretty well for himself in several meets, at home and abroad.”
John is equally proud of his other wards such as Sapthami, Ashita Suresh, Yaqub, Chetan, Gauri Sridhar and Madhulika. He feels that now there is a lot more public awareness about the benefits of swimming. “We have a lot more swimmers in our public batch at the pool and one notable trend is more and more corporate sector employees have taken up swimming. It is an encouraging development.”
He attributes PMSC’s turnaround to the good support that he has received. “The credit is not just mine, it goes to our president Babanna and administrator Manohar as well. They have been always been very supportive and of course, I should acknowledge Karnataka Swimming Association (KSA), who have always been a constant source of encouragement.”
Working with young kids can be a frustrating job, given their energy and tendency for being distracted, but John simply enjoys his work and he lets his wards enjoy the sport.
“Basically, they should enjoy being swimmers . What I want as a coach or their parents want, should be taught to them only gradually. I use no rough methods with the kids. I always talk to them and try reading their minds. We have constant team meetings and I always make it a point to be accessible.”
The sub-junior level swimming in the State needs a big boost even though Karnataka is a juggernaut in the national picture, dominating both senior and junior sections. It needs to catch up with states such as Maharashtra.
“Academic pressure is the reason for it. Children have to cope with their studies and very few schools give leeway for training for sports activities. That mind-set should change. I feel schools have big role to play here.”
He feels the quality of coaching in Karnataka is probably the best in the country.
“There is no dearth of coaches here and in terms of infrastructure, I doubt any other city could match Bangalore. I don’t see any reason why Karnataka cannot maintain its position in aquatics in the country.”
John says it would be a good idea if the KSA organises more clinics for coaches. “KSA in recent years has organised some excellent clinics.
“One by a German expert during the last senior nationals here was highly satisfying for the local coaches. Another memorable one was by John Atkinson of Australia in 2002. We gained a lot of from such clinics. Our own senior coaches such as Pradeep Kumar and Nihar Ameen can also hold such clinics.”KALYAN ASHOK