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Prashant J. Singh — Redeveloping Grassroot Football. Part-II

In continuation with Part-I of Redeveloping Grassroot Football.

This year we saw a halt in coaching activities to an extent that affected our coaching fraternity. There were adoptions of various sports technologies that played an important role in terms of reaching out to the athlete, communication, planning, organizing, and managing sports activities.

Image Courtesy — workinsports.com

How do you track progressiveness in your coaching? — KPIs

Grassroots is a word where very few people understand the parameters/ components and carry the values of grassroots like sustainability and progressiveness.

Progressiveness is difficult to quantify at the grassroots. The results are very subjective. The parameters we have to gauge is the outlook of the people involved in sports. The results are not the best way to gauge the evaluation and progressiveness. The outlook of all the stakeholders like parents has to be progressive so that it helps the sport to become a part of a child’s upbringing and holistic development. The motive will change for participation and involvement in sports will be more. People will start participating. Not only children, but even elders like mothers and fathers will start to participate. We will have a sporty society. In India, veterans’ leagues are not that famous. In Europe, they have leagues for age groups above 30, 40, veterans leagues. That’s a big market again if you look at the entire ecosystem. The best way to track the progress that we make in the entire grassroots ecosystem is the outlook for sports as part of life. I am glad that the government is pushing this approach with programs like FIT INDIA and KHELO INDIA. The seed has been laid. This will determine how we move as a sporting nation. Once the outlook is sporty, everything will fall into place in the ecosystem. Everything is organic once the outlook is changed.

The integration of digital technologies has been a trend in sports coaching all across the world. Even you launched an app for Thane FC, what are your views on the plethora of technologies available nowadays?

The penetration of technology is huge now. There is a lot of information that technology gives us. There are wearable devices, tracking software, analysis software, etc. Football is a creative sport. You know they say 99% data gives you only 49% of information and 51% depends on the interpretation of the person with the data. Data is a tool. You don’t even need a wearable to draw a heatmap. There are so many software that are available in which you can mark your heatmap just by tapping on the screen wherever you receive the ball. With the penetration of technology, we are bombarded with so much information since it is easily accessible. It is useful for the coaches. Also, it should be used in the right way and not get intimidated with it. Sometimes people focus on knowing what other coaches are using for analysis or reports and lose focus on their own football problems and coaching philosophies. One has to analyze the problems of his own team looking in the right direction and data.

A lot of academics have started to use digital applications for their activities but schools still have not yet adopted such technology for sports. How important is it for a school to implement such tracking, monitoring technologies?

The school is the epicenter. I was working with the government of Orissa, we were working on the FIFA legacy program which is centered around schools. Schools are a trusted institution. Schools are very stable so any policy and program which gets involved with schools have a great chance to sustain in comparison with an academy or a club. There is a trust factor with the parents. The policies and programs directed towards schools have a higher impact. A lot of people are part of such programs. The integration of technology depends on the individual school level also. The outlook again has to change and sports have to be considered a part of education holistically. Many agencies have tied with schools for sports programs. Outsourcing to someone who has sports expertise is great. Only Considering academics percentage is not a good way to evaluate a student or a school. The school should also be evenly concerned about the % number of students who fit in the school. Now, obesity has no age. Even the mental fitness of children is not evaluated i.e. social pressure, peer pressure, depression, anxiety, parental pressure. The child is always taking pressure. The awareness is now there about the active body makes a healthy mind.

Image Courtesy — Toddler’s Football Festival hosted by Prashant’s Team

How do you see the future of coaching and where is the trend shifting towards?

There are a lot of young coaches now. Whenever I am conducting any coaching license course, I observe that the average age is getting lower every year. It is good to see a lot of young coaches who are comfortable with technology. There is a lot of objectivity that has started to come in coaching. Previously, there used to be subjective opinions and approaches to coaching. It’s not the quantity of the experience but the quality of the experience. The youth is starting off their career in such a great environment with easy accessibility of information and more opportunities. It has changed a lot since a decade. There are many professional academies now. Now the coaches who are coming for licenses are already seasoned since they have been part of an academy before as an assistant or part of the coaching staff. It helps to grasp more in a shorter time. The quality of coaches is improving. The numbers have jumped up when we speak about the academies.

There are multiple software/application tools for academics but there are few for sports. Young coaches would be comfortable with updated technologies. Gone are the days when coaches were running with registers. There are so many tools to manage your athletes. It builds a lot of confidence; parents also want to know performance data about their kids. The parents are more concerned about knowing what their child is practicing, what all training he is attending, etc. The future of technology integration is exciting. The outlook of the new coaches is very receptive to new technologies. Technology will definitely play a huge role since data is the new oil. Talent scouting, data storing and record keeping, analysis, communication, a lot can be done with technology now.

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