Chennai’s top sports coaches will keep your kids active all summer long with everything from surfing to rollerskating.
By Sonali Shenoy
Hand eye co-ordination with hopscotch. Hyperactivity cured with roller skating. Sports have always had holistic advantages and this summer is brimming with possibilities if you know where to look. If your little one is unsure which sport to give a go during the holidays, there is R Natarajan, who was once titled South Asia’s Fastest Man, offering a one-month-long programme on talent identification. “I’ve been doing this for the last 15 years, and we take the kids through multiple sports as well as track the whole process on video, so the parents can have a look themselves,” says the founder of India Sports Promotion Academy.
While children can dabble in multiple sports starting as early as age five, “I would say the right age to select a sport is between 11 and 12 years,” says Saumil Majmudar of Edusport, which has integrated physical activities in over 400 school curriculums over the past seven years across 100 cities in India. “By this time of course, the child should have tried out the fundamentals of at least four or five sports, and from thereon keep playing more than one to prevent injuries and any chance of a burnout,” he adds.
And lucky for parents we’ve cut the research time in half by bringing together some of the go-to coaches for everything from squash to surfing. They’re fun, they don’t teach by the book and some of them have even been to the Olympics and back.
Cyrus Poncha, Squash
Where: Indian Squash Academy, Chetpet When: April to June
After 20 years of coaching squash and a Dhronacharya award — you would imagine Poncha to be a fairly intimidating sort. But it turns out, the 40-year-old who has rolled out champions like Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal is as fun as they come. “When we’re doing summer camps with the kids, we play everything from hopscotch to dog and the bone. They love it, and they learn movement and co-ordination at the same time.” With a limited 50 slots available for school goers, aged six to 12 years, we suggest you dial in a hurry. Rs 4,000 for 12 sessions. Details: 9940050510
R Natarajan, Athletics
Where: SDAT Stadium on Poonamallee High Road, Vana Vani School, IIT Campus When: April 22 to May 14
South Asia’s fastest man about a decade ago, Natarajan takes his passion for speed very seriously. So much so that he even did a PhD on it. Or more specifically on ‘The Role and Efficiency of Hamstring Fibres on Relationships with Plyometric Exercises and the Effect of Sprinting.’ But for children, he keeps it simple. “We use eight kinds of speed drills that cover stride length, frequency, power and reflexes. Some of these Usain Bolt is known for using,” says the founder of India Sports Promotion Academy. And with his programme, the 47-year-old guarantees a noticeable improvement in one’s track abilities within a matter of weeks. “An eight-year-old boy should take about 16 to 17 seconds to run 100 metres. This programme will shave an easy two seconds off that time frame,” he states with confidence. Don’t believe it? He promises before and after video footage to keep track. For children aged five to 15 years. Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 (depending on age and requirement). Details: 9444223535
R Chandrasekhar, Cricket
Where: Asiatic Cricket Academy, Pallavaram When: April 9 to May 24
If you thought the T20 format takes the focus off real cricket, coach Chandrasekhar can find 20 reasons to prove you wrong. “With the game moving so fast, the kids want to learn faster and put in a lot more effort these days, sometimes even requesting to come twice a day,” says the 37-year-old. “And thanks to larger-than-life idols like Virat Kohli and Sachin, they are never short of inspiration either,” he adds. The BCCI qualified coach who has been teaching for over a decade at the Asiatic Cricket Academy in Pallavaram teaches little ones as young as 10 to whip their basics into shape by setting bowling targets, fielding drills and even placing emphasis on ‘clear yelling’ across the pitch while
running between wickets!
Rs 6,500 onwards.
Michelle Wellman, Horse Riding
Where: My Pony Club, Harrington Road When: April and May
She’s probably the only horse riding instructor in Chennai who’s actually been to a ‘horse college’. And when you meet this expat who has been teaching riding for over 13 years now, it shows. “Just like humans, horses too have different kinds of personalities,” she shares. So often, Wellman realises that her lessons go well beyond the basics of riding. “I see youngsters getting better around people and there’s a boost in their confidence after they get comfortable on their own pony. Also, they learn adjustment, because if a horse doesn’t trust you, it most certainly will not listen to you.” With only four kids per batch, for more one-on-one time with this instructor, life lessons on a horse could be the best thing you gift your little one this summer. Rs 4,000. Details: 8939547773
Where: Nungambakkam, Chetpet, Teynampet, ECR and Ramapuram
When: April to June
If Sigamani met Arnold Schwarzenegger, they could probably have a face off. The martial arts maniac who started by learning a traditional Adi Murai from his grandfather at the age of eight, has gone on to cover everything from Jiu Jitsu to Submission Wrestling to Sambo since then. And each fighting form took him to a master in a different part of the world to up his Terminator resume. Rolling his experience together in one hard core Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) course, the founder of Combat Kinetics says, “We’ll teach your kid three basics that should have him or her set for life — striking, grappling and the ultimate take down.” The 33-year-old who also runs federations in India for Jiu Jitsu, MMA and Sambo says, “It’s great to find that parents are more encouraging of combat sports these days, and we’re happy to say that there is an equal number of girls trying them as well.”
For 10 to 16-year-olds. Rs 3,500 plus taxes, per month.
Where: Anna Nagar Tower Park
When: April and May (weekends)
This rollerskating coach has been teaching for so long that his students have brought their kids to learn from him. With over 2,000 students in over 20 years, including relatives of singer Malaysia Vasudevan and actor Rahman of Billa fame, Krishnan has one word of advice. “Get your balance right, everything else will follow.” The former national champ also teaches school goers with hearing and speech difficulties and often draws parents with hyperactive little ones as well. “Skating is a great way to release energy and improve concentration,” says the 40-year-old, as he zips around a bend with ease. Well, strapping up wheels under one’s heels never fails to get one to focus — this we assure the skeptics. For three-year-olds and above. Rs 3,500 (inclusive of skating kit). Details: 7299304673
Where: Orca pool at Lady Andal School, Harrington Road
When: April 25 to May 11, May 12 to May 28,
May 30 to June 15
At 67, most senior citizens have trouble bending to play with their grand kids. Mukundan, on the other hand, can actually compete with kids for laps in the swimming pool. The former national swimming coach says, “I wake up at 3.30 am just for my own personal time in the water, before I go about my classes in the morning and evening.” An old timer who encourages kids to play outdoors and eat desi, to stay acclimatised to the city’s weather, he says, “The numbers for swimming are going up every year. In fact, before even announcing the dates for our summer camp, we have 50 children waitlisted.” And it’s no surprise, with almost half-a-century of experience under his belt, he is one of the few that teaches at the competitive level as well as newbies in the pool. For seven to 16-year-olds. Rs 4,000. Details: 9444029113
What sport is best?
♦ Get your child assessed by a coach for their talent
♦ Make it a point to ask what his or her interest is
♦ Zero in on classes that are nearby for a more sustainable commitment to practice sessions
♦ Think long and hard about the scope of the sport in India, in terms of recognition, and thereby whether it is worth your time in order to
pursue professionally (R Natarajan, founder of the India Sport Promotion Academy)
Where: Bengal Association, T Nagar & St Michael’s Academy, Adyar When: May 1 to 20
What sets this table tennis coach apart from the rest is his unique background in performance analysis. Having travelled extensively with the Indian national team for the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and for the London Olympics in 2012, this 30-year-old likes to keep things interesting with innovative teaching techniques. “The game is constantly evolving. Remember when the Chinese started that backhand flick? Nowadays, practically every match starts that way. So staying current is key,” he tells us. This is probably why his coaching style covers a lot more than just service and returns — think video analysis, motivational talks from physiotherapists for a fresh perspective and, of course, the occasional visit from his famous sibling, currently ranked World Number 32, Sharath Kamal. For five to 25 year-olds. Rs 6,000 Details: 9884218626
Murthy Megavan, Surfing
Where: Covelong Point Social Surfing School When: April to May
This fisherman-turned-surfer is something of a celebrity on the waves. Starting off over a decade ago with a broken wooden window for a surf board, he now coaches the likes of actor Arya and cricketer Murali Vijay. While most would consider his modest beginnings, of bait and net, a background that he had to overcome, Megavan sees it as his greatest asset. “I was raised around the ocean, it is where I am most at home,” smiles the 36-year-old. Ask Megavan how long it takes to catch a wave ‘standing up’ and the 36-year-old responds that mere five days can do the trick. At his surf camp in April, he says, “I will be covering everything from paddling to board balance to how to manage changing currents.” This coach does have one prerequisite, “You have to know to swim!” For five to 15-year-olds. Rs 7,000 including breakfast. Details: 9840975916
A Robin, Football
Where: MCC School, Chetpet
When: April and May
If you know this football coach, you know that his love for sports is addictive. His wife is a former national high jumper, and now his elder daughter, who played football for the state, is so crazy about the game, she wants to quit engineering! Of course, he isn’t encouraging this ‘goal.’
According to Robin, who will be coaching the Chennai FC team this year, “The biggest mistake coaches make in the early stages of a sport is that they treat kids like adults.” Instead, he recommends more ball time for every newbie to get more comfortable — be it bouncing, catching or kicking. Also, the 49-year-old adds, “Don’t intimidate a tiny child with a tall goal post. We need to create sizes that are more appropriate to age and height and this will automatically work as a confidence builder with every score.” For seven to 15-year-olds. Rs 2,200. Details: 9092066044
Sandeep Syal, Golf
Where: Madras Gymkhana Club Golf Annexe
When: April 18 to 29
A summer camp is where golfing guru Syal found his love for the sport. So the 33-year-old who played pro until last year at both the Professional Golf Tour of India and the Asian tour, is stoked to be heading one in April. To break the kids into that perfect swing, he says, “We play a little baseball because the technique is similar and it’s exciting for them because most have never played baseball before.” If you thought golf was more an older person’s sport, courtesy the movies, this coach informs us that, in fact, kids learn remarkably faster than their parents. “Our youngest learning with me is eight. And little ones grasp the basics in two weeks; for adults it can sometimes take up to a month-and-a-half.” Rs 4,500 for members, Rs 6,500 for non-members. Details: 9900079582