Tête-à-tête with Vijay Divecha

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His love for golf began in 1962 at the age of seven when he accompanied his father to the golf course. Over the past two decades he has dedicated his life to raising, mentoring & coaching the next generation of champion golfers in India. At 40, he gave up a lucrative corporate job and began life as a golf coach. Divecha teaches at the Eagleton Golf Academy, Bengaluru and his most prominent student is 2015 Asian Tour No. 1 – Anirban Lahiri. Divecha has worked with Anirban since 2002 and since 2004 with 2015 PGTI Order of Merit winner Chikkarangappa & more recently 2015 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year Udayan Mane. Golf Digest India caught up with coach Divecha to get his thoughts on the game.

GDI: How would you say the existing infrastructure and framework for golf coaching & grassroots development is?

Let me start with a bit of background from the past. As far as coaching is concerned it was completely unorganized as we had no formal education program to produce coaches.

Since its inception in 2004, The National Golf Academy of India (NGAI) put an organized system in place for certification and education of coaches. There is obviously so much more we can do. In the past, people who coached at clubs were not really asked about their qualifications.

Now, clubs are more aware and ask for certifications and only if you are qualified can you coach. So that’s a huge step forward. However, in my personal opinion, it’s like getting a degree in college. Certification is a good thing to have but it is only a starting point. I talk to coaches in our educational programs and tell them that they are now at the starting point of the race but it’s now time to run it. These are personal initiatives that coaches have to take for themselves to enhance their skills. Seminars and educational programs are good and they always make you better. However, the ability to pass on the technical knowledge & skills to your students in as simple a way as possible is a very personal skill that each coach must develop. Another area is that we need to have more practice facilities. Most clubs feel that there are space constraints for practice facilities but if you want to grow the game it is important to set aside enough space in every golf club for practise facilities…for putting, for the short game and for the long game. If we want the game to grow and if we want more golfers to play the game and improve, practise facilities are part of the infrastructure needed. Essentially 90% of golfers in any club don’t take lessons. That should tell us that we need more people to use practise facilities if they are made available.

As Coach of the Jaypee Greens Greater Noida Team at the Louis Philippe Cup 2016 with Shamin Khan, Mandeo Pathania & Udayan Mane

GDI: The way forward to grow the game?

We need to do a lot of grassroots level development. This includes bringing new people into the game, creating new facilities for these people to be introduced to the game and finding other solutions to increase the growth. We can’t do much about what was done in the past and our current situation. However we can influence the future and I think it’s a responsibility that everyone involved with the game must undertake. Essentially promoting the game amongst juniors and the next generation. Every club in the country must feel the need to run a junior program through-out the year. Once new kids are brought into the game, a pathway to take them forward should be provided. It becomes the role of every golf club and every golfer if you really look at it. Grassroot level development also includes bringing other adults into the game at whatever age. We are a young country and I don’t see any problem in bringing 25-30 year olds into the game. Not everybody is going to take golf up as a career but if they play golf for the rest of their lives, we are growing the game!

The ability to pass on the technical knowledge & skills to your students in as simple a way as possible is a very personal skill that each coach must develop

We must make many of our coaches specialize in grassroots development and ofcourse they must get as much if not more respect and pay than coaches who work with elite players. Right now we only honor coaches who are working with elite players. What a specialized grassroot level coach does is so important for the game. You won’t have elite players if they weren’t brought into the game by these coaches.

Even to have an Anirban Lahiri or Jeev Milkha Singh for example, they would have been introduced to the game somewhere and by someone. That is grassroot development. This is the way forward as I see it.

GDI: How do we ensure that we keep producing more champion golfers competing with the best in the world?

If anyone wants to excel in any sport, they have to be passionate about it. To become a champion, you must really believe in yourself and be fearless. The reason I say this is because I hear this quite often from players. They don’t want to change anything because changes take time. The way I see it is that maybe they don’t know how to make the change. It’s making a change to find the next level of your game.

That is the hallmark of developing a champion’s mindset. A champion is never satisfied. They want to find the next level of their craft all the time. The coach’s job is to show them the next level and the player’s job is to fearless work towards attaining that level.

We need to incorporate the field of sports science into our athlete development programs. This includes a sports medicine doctor, physios, trainers, nutritionists and sports psychologists to name a few.

GDI: How are you coaching Anirban now that he is in America?

I meet Anirban roughly every two months. Based on our schedules either he comes here or I visit him. I normally go to work with him only when he takes time off from tournaments and not during a tournament.

GDI: What areas in teaching & coaching do you feel need to be strengthened?

We need to incorporate the field of sports science into our athlete development programs. This includes a sports medicine doctor, physios, trainers, nutritionists and sports psychologists to name a few. We need to build a team around the athlete which is like a support system for their development. This is where sports science contributes to ensuring that there are no injuries and optimum fitness and endurance levels are maintained.

Ofcourse we don’t have control over contact injuries or accidents but we can control wear and tear related injuries through training, fitness and endurance. As I mentioned earlier the first thing is that you need to have passion for the sport. Support from the family is essential because I don’t know anyone who has done it without family support. Have strong self believe and most importantly ensure that you work with a coach over a longer period. If you look at any of the young players now like Jordan Spieth or Jason Day, they have worked with the same coach for a long time. So it is important to find somebody who will take you to where you want to go. There are always exceptions but most of the top players in the world have that strong bond with their coach.

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