With more than two decades of international playing, coaching and referring experience under her belt, ex-India women’s basketball captain Shiba Maggon‘s hunger for the game remains undiminished. She recently returned from a training stint in the US, called the “International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Programme”, and hopes to apply her learnings in India through a massive grassroots “Coach the Coaches” initiative. We spoke to Ms Maggon, via an email interview on her key findings from her weeks at the University of Delaware and the US Olympic Training Centre on what Indian basketball coaches need to do to catch up with their counterparts in the rest of Asia. Here are her thoughts.
Give us the details of the training programme that you joined in the US: application process, eligibility criteria, duration and venue.
This course is called ICECP (International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Programme). The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) nominates the name for this course. In my case I applied for it as I have been following this course for two years now and got recommended by both the authorities. Delaware University gave me provisional admission and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) funds the fee, boarding lodging air tickets. This scholarship is called the “Olympic Solidarity Scholarship for Coaches”.
It’s a long procedure of application. First the BFI approves your application and forwards it to the IOA, IOA then sends it to the IOC, IOC sends it to the international basketball federation i.e. FIBA. If you are the ideal candidate, FIBA approves your name for the course.
The programme started on 20th September 2014. In the first two weeks at Delaware University we attended study in classrooms, then one week we get to work with a division one NCAA University team. The next two weeks we stay at Colorado Springs at USOC (US Olympic Training centre) and study again in classrooms. Our tutors are from Canada, Finland, UK and US who have professional degrees in different aspects of sports. I will get a degree at the Switzerland IOC centre in April ’15, if I leave an impact of my program here in India.
You have captained the Indian women’s team in the past, played competitively for close to two decades, are an international referee and also coached the junior India and Delhi women’s team. Doesn’t this mean you already know everything there is to know about basketball? What motivates you to keep learning and trying to improve yourself?
That’s a good question. I’m a work in progress and keep striving for perfection. The game changes so fast, so how can me playing professionally for two decades help me to coach my player with latest techniques? All my past achievements helped me to deliver for some time but to help my country grow in basketball fast and strongly we all need to keep updating ourselves and learn more and more about game.
What prompted you to sign up for this programme abroad? What new things did you learn from this stint?
Two years back Miss Yuvika Harish Sharma (daughter of current BFI CEO Roopam Sharma) informed me about this course and how it can help me understand sports better. I tried to enrol in this course but as I said it’s a long procedure and I could not make it earlier. This year I was fortunate that Madam Roopam recommended my name and FIBA Director Mr Zoran Lukic approved my name. The mission of the USOC and University of Delaware’S (UD) International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program is to provide national level coaches and those responsible for the development of the sport national coaching structures in their countries with a practical program orientated towards developing proficiency in the areas of sport sciences, talent identification, athlete development, coaching education, coaching management, grass roots sport development and ethical aspects of coaching at all levels of competition and across multiple sports.
As far I m concerned I went there with a different mission that I will be able to develop a coaching manual; but after attending the course I realized we are 5-6 years behind middle Asian countries. We are introduced to basketball at a very young age let’s say of around 7-8 years of age but we miss on three stages: 1) fundamentals, 2)learn to train, and 3) train to train, and all of the sudden the kids are trained to compete when they are 13+. This results in reducing age (sic) to get results.
USOC and Delaware combine covered 40 different topics related to coaching. We were given classes about child growth, training players according to different age groups following LTAD format, elite strength training programs, talent hunt, mental toughness and preparation, biomechanics of body and physiology, recovery and regeneration and fluid balance.
You have now returned to India in order to pass on the knowledge that you picked up to other Indian coaches. Where do you think our coaches currently lack (is it in terms of strategy/basketball knowledge/people management or any other area)?
I will not say we lack because I know my fellow coaches are hungry for knowledge. I will just say that we need to be exposed to such courses more often. I have always maintained that coaching is bigger than playing. If I had to summarise my philosophy in one line, I can say that coaches are the fuel which ignite the player’s future. At every level of training, (from beginner to advanced) coaches plays an important role in a child’s life. So there has to be integration of physical education program, community coaching and elite coaching.
We just need to develop a coaching organization or a system where all the coaches follow the same guidelines and talented players are picked up young and trained with the vision of medals at international events. Coaches have the power to change the world and we all need to walk together, understanding our responsibility towards the future of the players and country. Fundamentals across the world are same; it’s the approach that is different and that needs to be changed. We are no less than anyone in the world; we have the same zeal and talent.
Which are the cities in India that you plan to cover as part of your “Coach the Coaches” initiative? How has the response been so far? How many coaches have signed up for the programme? What are the proposed dates of your India tour?
I wish I could straight away start the program in the whole of India but I have to first measure the success and failure of the program so that we can bring in changes to make it better and take it to other cities. So for now I will be doing the program in Delhi for the next five months in five schools and three academies. The academies are special because each one of them falls in different category: one is in a village, one at a community centre and one at an elite sports academy. I will be helping the coaches run the program and I will monitor the course. As I mentioned earlier, our coaches don’t lack, they just need to be trained better and exposed to real training aspects. So I am glad to say I will be working with 10 different coaches who never trained at the national level but they are the first coaches any child goes to.
Usually ego comes in the way of coaches trying to learn from other coaches, as they think they know it all and become set in their opinion. What do you think will be the main challenges as you begin your India tour?
I am sure ego comes in between but again it’s the approach to how you want them to learn. It’s their course, they have to walk with me. They have been coaching for years and I am sure I will learn from them equally. It’s not about me it’s about US. On numerous occasions, I get calls from different elite coaches and we all share our opinions. It’s about sharing knowledge and not competing as to who’s better. We all have one target: to compete at the same elite level of Middle East Asian countries.
I believe you will be focusing on the 8-12 age group training. Please tell us why you chose this age group and not say 13-17? Is this programme meant for coaching for beginners i.e. fundamentals?
After my studies at US and discussions with other countries’ participants I realised that we train our kids to compete missing upon important stages. And if at all we do that, we mug up everything. As per different scientists, it takes 10000 hours or 10 yrs of training to the peak of elite. I started training when I was 13+: two years of training here and there and finally ending up at SAI when I was 15+. I was a star in my age group when I was 16+ but I missed out on the Junior and Youth Indian teams because I did not reduce my age and finally when I got my first exposure at international level I was 19+. When I reached the peak of my talent in 2001 at the age of 23, I was in the top five players of Asia. I was behind middle Asian countries players who reach their peak at 17+ or 18+. Geethu Anna Jose reached her peak when she was 25. So the gap is six years, which we cannot fill in at the elite level but at the grassroots level by teaching the players properly right from the age of eight or nine. We also need to know that as our body changes at different age blocks we can train certain physical abilities and skills in that block. We miss upon this as well.
You came up with the very interesting idea of using a 10 year old girl as a “test case”. What is the idea behind this? Tell us more about how you plan to conduct your “Coach the Coaches” sessions.
The girl’s name is Mauli. She is already playing basketball and will be training with me for some time and there are two more kids along with her. We will be making videos of her training to help the coaches understand the concept. There will also be hand outs, but I believe video training can help us better. We will do certain stages with her which the coaches will be following to train their players. I am fortunate that Coach Scott Flemming agreed to work upon this video and he will also be training the girl. As I said, it’s not about me, it’s about basketball in India and it’s growth, so we will be adding more coaches in our videos at later stages so that we can have our own video manual for Indian basketball. The base will be taken from FIBA’s ‘Basketball for Young Players’ book as well.
You met BFI CEO Ms Roopam Sharma recently. What assistance has BFI promised for your proposed clinics?
I went to US only because Roopam Ma’am recommended my name. She has been with me in this journey right from the beginning. I submitted my project at USOC with her consent and this project is not about me it’s about Indian basketball and its growth. BFI will be supporting the project completely.