Gopi is not just a coach, he is a change agent
In a country that never forgets to lament the poor quality of its sporting infrastructure every four years when the Olympics is held, Gopi is among the few rare personalities who dared to challenge the status quo.
As India celebrates the success of PV Sindhu at Rio Olympics, many have rightly pointed out at the outstanding contribution made by her Coach Pullela Gopichand in nurturing talents like her and many others. Gopichand has indeed been at the forefront of this revolution of sorts in Indian Badminton. His academy at Hyderabad has produced champions in the sport who have won laurels and medals for the country. But Gopi, as he is popularly known, should not be looked at as only a Badminton Coach. He is, in every sense of the word, a change-agent.
In a country that never forgets to lament the poor quality of its sporting infrastructure every four years when the Olympics is held, Gopi is among the few rare personalities who dared to challenge the status quo. As a champion sportsperson himself he was always aware of the limitations of the country’s sporting facilities. But what sets him apart from many others who merely acknowledge the problem is his intention and grit to step forward to change the way things are done. He has shown us that the buck need not always stop with the government. Rather, as someone who understands the game as well as the systemic structure around it, he took it upon himself to set up a world-class facility that could support and help the next generation of Badminton players achieve what he had missed out in Sydney, an Olympic medal.
Gopi’s contribution to Indian Badminton therefore goes much beyond just coaching or mentoring. He has donned multiple roles, that of a fund-raiser, administrator, strategist, besides a coach. He has established an eco-system that will help the game to thrive for generations to come. The laurels that players like PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have brought to the country have already ignited the interest and passion of Indians towards Badminton. The kind of excitement that gripped the nation when Sindhu played her final match was simply phenomenal. People coming out on the streets to watch and celebrate a non-cricket sporting event has always been a rarity in the past. But in the recent years, we have seen glimpses of attitudinal change, thanks to a generation of Olympic stars like from Vijender Singh to PV Sindhu. It is only when we have facilitators like Gopi that stars like these emerge.
There is no denying the preeminent role that the government ought to play in improving the sporting scene in the country, but the case of Gopichand shows how individuals too can make a lasting impact. Gopi’s symbiotic relationship with the government shows that government structures are not always as rigid as we think. In fact, the sort of intervention that he has made in the system should be an inspiration for people in any field or sector, even beyond sports. We are a country that knows and reiterates its problems well, be it potholes on the roads or shortfall of jobs for a growing population. What we really need are change-agents like Gopichand who take ownership in their respective field of expertise and lead the country in the right direction.
By Kamal Madishetty
Kamal Madishetty is a research associate at Vision India Foundation, New Delhi and an alumnus of IIT Guwahati.