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Navarra's tennis tips for Indian kids

Source: PTI
February 03, 2006 15:18 IST
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It is a known fact that Indian children lack the right environment and habits to be top athletes, but when the word comes from a seasoned pro, the message carries even more weight.

"They are doing everything wrong to be a sportsperson, you know," says Mose Navarra, former member of the Italian Davis Cup team and fellow pro of Mahesh Bhupathi on the ATP Tour.

The 31-year old Italian has now been roped in to play a key role in 'Mahesh Bhupathi Elite Academy', located on the outskirts of Bangalore.

Navarra, who has worked with Bob Brett before, is the chief coach and programme director at MBTA. Here he discusses some of the issues that have led to a lack in sporting culture in India.

The shortcomings: A lot of work has to be done on them. The biggest lacking is fitness, it is not upto the level of the kids abroad. Technically some are talented but it is raw quality, they have to be shaped. Some even don't know to surf on the court.

You must also know your limits. If it is going to be like at the Australian Open, you must be prepared to be on the court for hours under the sun. Unfortunately, the (Indian) kids are too much protected (by the parents).

We are looking for potential (at the MBTA), not exactly how much they have won. At this age, the result does not matter. At the age of 14, the kids have to run more, tennis itself is not so important.

The food habits: The diet is very bad. You cannot be eating butter chicken and all the masala. You have to start eating in a different way. There has to be less fat. The kids I see playing tennis in India, they are all from good families and they tend to have a lot of fat.

If you are going to be a professional tennis player, it has to be for lifetime.

The mindset: Tennis is an individual sport, you have to shape that kind of mentality. This is a sport where you start early. At 14, you have to be a little man.

It is not going to be easy for them. They tend to keep a lot inside themselves but am happy with the way things work. I have been here quite a bit before, I know the Indian people. When I tell them to do something, they do it 120 per cent.

Navarra has had no problems in agreeing to shift from Borghetto Santo Spirito in Italy and make Bangalore his temporary home for the next two years.

Having been to India quite a few times before, he understands them well and has been able to appreciate the youngsters' difficulties in coming to terms with his methods.

Bhupathi has kept the Elite programme -- now up and running for nearly two months at the Nike Bhupathi Tennis Village -- a low key affair without even a ceremonial launch.

The MBTA Elite, conceived on the lines of now defunct BAT Academy of Chennai, has four boys and five girls as resident trainees to start with and has plans to expand in a big way in the coming years.

"The idea is simple. There is lot of talent in this country but nobody is there to help. I want to try and do my bit," Bhupathi said.

"We want to try and build champions," he added.

The former world number one doubles player said the programme would need a lot of money to be successful.

"It would any where around Rs 25 lakh for a kid, to take care of their travelling and every other things. We are trying to raise money through corporate funding. Nilekani has donated some amount," he said.

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