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  • Vijay Krishnamurthy

How sports coaches at the grassroots can benefit from technology

In this article, our guest columnist, Vijay Krishnamurthy, a Sports Research Scholar (Ph.D.) and an Executive Coach (ICF) sheds light on how coaches at the grassroots level can gain immensely from being more receptive to the benefits of adopting technology for technical as well administrative aspects of their profession.

During the national lockdown in March 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Suraj, a junior tennis player based out of Bangalore, was confined to his apartment for several weeks. Once the city got into the unlock mode, Suraj decided to resume his training. Unfortunately, the academy was too far to travel back and forth, and his Coach was unwilling to take the risk since the pandemic had not subsided. With extra time on his hands to find a solution, Suraj, a Gen-Z digital native, took to the internet. Within 24 hours, Suraj had found a mobile app that lists neighborhood tennis facilities for hourly rentals at an affordable price. Although the Coach knew several tennis facilities have mushroomed within the city, he was pleasantly surprised how a piece of technology was able to provide a suitable solution. This made Suraj’s Coach reflect upon how the use of gadgets and software apps in our daily lives may have started as a mere accessory a few years ago, but today it has taken center-stage to almost any transaction we indulge.

Benefits of technology

Every sport has transformed in the past decade. At the start, technology's role was limited to broadcast media that included aspects such as instant replays to assist a referee to make accurate decisions. Now, gadgets and associated technology have permeated to the players and coaches, even at the grassroots level.

For a Coach at the grassroots, the daily tasks fall either into (a) administrative and (b) technical. The latter is what Coaches love to be doing since it involves the on-court training program with the athletes. However, it seldom works out that way. The volume of administrative work that comes along is deceptively high. The list includes court-booking, student attendance tracker, issuing fee payment invoices, and more. The overhead of recruiting a dedicated admin staff in smaller academies is a luxury very few Coaches can afford. The Coach unwillingly doubles-up as both administrative and technical, and this area is where technology can play a critical role. With the plethora of low-cost software available today, each of the administrative tasks can be automated via technology to avoid manual work. By doing so, the bandwidth of time and energy available for technical training components can significantly increase for a Coach.

Coach Education

Coach education programs traditionally focused on the physical training segment, with further specialization by sport and skill. While it may have worked f

or the pre-digital era, today’s Coaches can gain immensely by harnessing technology to their advantage. Every aspect of athlete management – physical fitness, mental conditioning, nutrition, sport science, psychological, and technical assessments have corresponding technology tools to aid the Coaches.

If the Covid-19 global pandemic has taught us one critical thing , it is adopting technology to keep things going. Integrating relevant pieces of technology can allow the Coach in several ways. Pro Sport Development (PSD), a social enterprise that uses sport as a vehicle to impact the lives of marginalized communities, faced a similar challenge during 2020 since Coaches had to operate remotely.

“The Coaches at PSD faced a steep learning curve to adopt and integrate technology into their daily working and in engaging with their athletes. Using different communication platforms, they had to create engaging content on building rapport with the athletes online since physical presence was not feasible. The learning has been invaluable, and that it has helped upskill our Coaches to keep moving forward.” said Suheil Tandon, Founder of Pro Sport Development.

Innovative Solutions

For sports organizations at the grassroots delivering services, the key is delivering quality training day in and day out. Moreover, for centers located in Tier-2 or Tier-3, the dependence on a technology platform becomes a need rather than a want. With a centrally managed sports curriculum mounted on the cloud server, the Coaches can access lesson plans anytime, anywhere. Be it booking a venue, hosting a tournament, or talent identification, a technology platform's possibilities can broaden the horizon of a Coach's skills and competencies. Sportz Village is one such organization that works with schools and academies across India. To scale sports education services across the nation, especially at schools, an innovative strategy to build capacity is the key.

“The technology backbone, which has been around for a long time has clearly come to the forefront now. Our team designed a module called Play-At-Home that contained a mix of physical fitness drills, videos, and sports-based quiz to engage the children creatively. Our survey findings indicated that Play-At-Home was delivered by more than 300 Coaches to 60,000 children across 29 cities in 130 schools across India. The key learning during 2020 21 has been the need to innovate and gamify sports education by harnessing technology” said Saumil Majmudar, the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Sportz Village.

Regardless of which sport, or what certification level, technology is one layer that can cut across every Coach’s daily job by adding value. Based on the user's needs, different components of technology can be integrated in a meaningful manner in sports coaching. Technology, therefore, is a critical enabler that benefits both the Coach as well as the athlete to navigate obstacles that could be a simple administrative chore or an unprecedented situation such as the pandemic. Skillful adaptation of technology by Coaches at the grassroots and integrating their requirements into the framework is the best way forward.

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