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Kids should be allowed to have fun in the water, feels swimming coach Partha Varanashi

Partha Varanashi

Partha Varanashi   | Photo Credit: Shreedutta Chidananda


Partha Varanashi believes the key to producing talented swimmers lies in letting children enjoy themselves

There is one critical flaw, complains Partha Varanashi, in the manner that swimming is mostly taught in India. “Kids are not allowed to have fun,” he says. “Swimmers are swimming out of fear. That starts from the very beginning, when they get chucked into the water. Competitive swimmers enter the pool in fear — fear of the coach, of completing the workout... Their focus is so much on finishing the workout that they have no idea what they are supposed to do.”

As Swim Director at the city’s Nettakallappa Aquatic Centre, Partha is determined not to make the same mistakes. The best approach, he explains, is to make children fall in love with water first, understand how their body moves in it and only after years of training focus on competitive swimming.

“If you go around the world and see the best of the best — Brazil, the US, Canada, Germany — all these guys take a long-term approach to the athlete’s development. Learning to swim, learning the four different strokes — it is slowly done, takes up to four years. But in India, it is done in two months,” he says.

In the programme he runs, Partha says children starting out do not swim a lap for at least six months. Four years of learning to swim are followed by four more years of practice before an athlete begins training to race competitively. “In India, everybody is focussed on age-group racing. We see children racing at 11 and 12 — they should not be doing that. They should be doing that at 16, when the brain fully develops, and they can understand things like heart-rate training,” he says.

“When our kids start climbing things, we restrict them and make them sit in a corner. If we don’t do that and let them be themselves, we can do great things”

Partha has worked to this template since he joined the NAC three years ago, and is convinced the method will bear fruit. “The only way to go at Olympic medals is this way,” he says. “I don’t want to comment on other programmes in the country, but all of them are focusing on the top. That is not going to work. If we want to take on the world, you have to start from the bottom. At the last World Championships (where he was part of the Indian contingent), I was shocked to see even some of the smaller African countries doing this.”

Partha’s journey has been a fascinating one. Hailing from a family of agricultural scientists in Puttur, he moved to Australia in 2007 for a Masters’ degree in molecular biology. He worked on the barley genome, trying to thicken the stem so that crops — which would otherwise have fallen over in heavy wind — would stay upright and thus be gathered by combine harvesters.

But Partha, who had been a university-level swimmer back home, wished to remain connected to the sport. He earned his coaching badges, and worked his way up to become a coaching director at a swim school in South Australia, overseeing the training of some 900 kids.

He returned to India in 2012, though, to help run the family’s organic farm in Adyanadka. Partha leased a pool in Puttur, coaching children from local schools, before the opportunity to work in Bengaluru arrived. “I have surpassed whatever I had dreamt of,” he says, “I just wanted a job in the swimming industry.”

Now, Partha splits his time between Puttur and the big city, between farming and swimming. On their 200-year-old farm, his family also runs an eco-friendly resort, where guests are encouraged to swim, dive, and kayak. Partha does all of these and more himself, his lively social media feed full of pictures of him surfing, cliff-diving, and generally enjoying himself in the water. “When our kids start climbing things, we restrict them and make them sit in a corner,” he says. “If we don’t do that and let them be themselves, we can do great things.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 8:43:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/kids-should-be-allowed-to-have-fun-in-the-water-swim-coach-partha-varanashi/article30107527.ece

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