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Can one outgrow a coach?

After every conversation with my coach and mentor, he tells me how the discussion was mutually beneficial and how he had several takeaways from the discussion. This being the case, the poser in this blog’s headline should straightway be consigned to the dustbin since a coach should, at least theoritically. be a few steps ahead of the client.

Well, my belief on this aspect of a coach-client relationship took a jolt upon hearing a conversation between one of India’s top sporting stars and a television news reporter. The star, who had been through a rough patch for most of 2011, redeemed things somewhat by making the finals of a tournament before losing to the top seed.


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A creditable performance from the fourth seeded player, but what followed by way of comments left me wondering if the coach actually has the player’s pulse. “I had a bad year and people doubted my abilities. This performance should shut these people up,” said the player, making for great publicity and sound TRPs for the TV channel.

I tried to imagine the player’s frame of mind, especially since the player had earlier managed to capture the imagination of an entire nation, deprived as it is of sporting stars. The middle-class upbringing, the struggle and the steep rise – all material for fairy tales. So, what made the star suddenly bark at her detractors? Obviously, the player was far from being in top form (or in the zone).

Was there something the coach could have done in such a situation? For starters, would it make sense for the coach to sit the player down and redefine some of the goals? For, how many great sportspersons have struck pay dirt while playing to ‘shut-up’ their detractors or even please supporters for that matter?

Was the coach, himself a former superstar of the game, passing on his own experiences of handling media pressure to his ward? Is that the right solution that the coach can offer? If not, does it mean that player should decide to move on and find a new coach? Is the player the best person to answer these questions? If not, who should?

The sportsperson in question here is none other than Saina Nehwal, the budding badminton superstar and her current coach is none other than former All England champion Pullela Gopichand. (Click here to read the article) For those who remember the constant refrain of India’s ‘Sardar of Spin’ Harbhajan Singh, this may sound as deja vu. ‘Bhajji’ too kept playing for his detractors and finds himself out of reckoning.

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