For this Dronacharya, his academy has a galaxy of stars
For 46-year-old veteran of world badminton Pullela Gopichand, his academy in Greater Noida is a nursery for nurturing budding shuttlers. “Since its inception two years ago, this very academy has produced around six state champions in almost all age groups. This academy doesn’t have one or two stars, it is a complete galaxy which will illuminate the world of sports in future,” said the 2001 All England Open Badminton Champion, who is only the second Indian to achieve this feat after Prakash Padukone.
The 2009 Dronacharya award winner said the Greater Noida academy was opened with an aim to give structure to badminton training from the very beginning. “So far, looking at the way badminton has grown in India, it has not been allowed a stable structure to flourish. With such academies, where there is no player to curse his or her fate due to dearth of international coaches or masseurs or physiotherapists, we can strengthen and develop the latent talent in youngsters,” said Gopichand who added that he loves to visit the academy and does so at least once a month.
Gopichand received the Arjuna Award in 1999, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2001, Padma Shri in 2005 and in 2014 he was awarded India’s third highest civilian award—the Padma Bhushan.
He, however, feels the country needs to wake up to the fact that there aren’t enough coaches to handle the talent that is rising. “We actually don’t have any proper tool to fill the big vacuum due to paucity of quality coaches. To redress this ecosystem issue, we need to work harder to bridge that gap. Handling the talent that emerges from such academies will be nothing short of a miracle if we do not have more international coaches on board,” he said.
Gopichand also rued the lack of sponsors, which makes growth of young shuttlers an uphill task. “Take the case of the Greater Noida academy. The annual cost of running this show is over ₹40 lakh and no sponsor is ready to shoulder even a part of the responsibility. I am not sure how long will the parents and academy continue to bear the full cost. I think time has come when every sportsman comes forward to encourage sponsors for the sake of these upcoming stars. We need to talk about such things and collectively find an answer,” he said, adding that even Dronacharya needed infrastructure to make Arjuna who he was.
At present, the academy has five foreign coaches and three Indian coaches of international standard, who train 120 students for six hours a day. The monthly fee for each student is ₹7,200. Besides, the academy also has three physios and two masseurs. It has 15 wooden courts, out of which nine are Yonex rubber-matting.