Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, March 23: There is no dearth of tennis talent in Assam and the Northeast, feels Gary O’Brien, an All-India Tennis Association expert, who was in the city for a coaches’ orientation camp at the All-Assam Tennis Association Complex here last week.
O’Brien, along with Sunil Yajaman, conducted a weeklong AITA Foundation and level-III coaches’ course, which was attended by 23 participants from Bengal, Mizoram, Nagaland and Assam.
Talking exclusively to The Telegraph, O’Brien, who has been associated with game in the region for over a decade now, is optimistic of local players making it big in the future. Excerpts from the interview:
TT: What do you feel about the potential of players from the region?
GB: I was appointed as AITA’s development officer in the Northeast around 10 years ago. What I have observed is there is no dearth of talent here and some courses and workshops like this can certainly boost the game.
TT: Why do you think players quit the game after a certain level?
GB: I believe it is a common problem in India. Till a child reaches 14-16 years, playing sports is quite manageable but it becomes expensive after that. If you get a scholarship it’s well and good. But if not, then parents definitely give preference to a child’s career. The training programmes are improving but we have a lot of ground to cover.
TT: On the AITA’s role in providing budding talents with infrastructure.
GB: The association has certainly done a great job with six courts and a wonderful setting for players here but we still require more. In the US, there are parks, which have a football ground, golf course and tennis courts. In our country, most people who are into the game are members of a club, which is not affordable for many. Schools should also promote the sport. One good thing is the indoor courts that have come up in Assam and Nagaland.
TT: What do you think about the youngsters from Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur who are making it to the AITA circuit in the last few years?
GB: The physical stature of the Northeast players is an advantage and the latest batch of boys and girls from the region is quite encouraging. They have great potential but need the coaching and logistical support.
TT: What do you think about the recruitment policy of some private sector companies as well as the government?
GB: Some of the petroleum giants are employing the finest talents in the country. Others, including some government institutions, too, are doing a great job by supporting these players and in a sport like tennis you definitely require the support.
TT: On the AITA coaches’ education programme.
GB: With the current system, things will definitely move towards the better. We are into the 15th year of the programme and there are around 500 certified coaches now.