Masters of the Junior League


Can students excel without good coaches? Most definitely not. And yet coaches never find recognition. Lorraine Parakel speaks to three school sports coaches in an attempt to understand what keeps them going


Dennis Coutinho, Dayanand Shetty and Nagesh Bhise are sport coaches at schools across Mumbai. While Dennis Coutinho coaches Holy Family High School, Dayanand Shetty coaches Dominic Savio High School and Nagesh Bhise coaches St Xavier's High School for Girls. All of them work with one goal - to win matches and bring glory to their team and school.

Ever since Dennis Coutinho started coaching the boys' football team at Holy Family High School, the team has been a runner up in the Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA) tournament in football. Dennis says, "The main aim has always been to gain the Division I position and maintain it. As of now, we have qualified for the Division II position and as a coach, it has never been easy. The class 10 students are more focused on the game as it's their last year and they also want to score 15 to 30 grace marks in their boards through their association with the school sports team. But what's really interesting about teaching children is that learning becomes an everyday process! Many a time, I learn from my students too. The school is extremely supportive and encouraging, but I feel it's the parents who often want their children to focus on academics rather than sports. I wish that would change."

After being a national-level representative of Maharashtra in athletics for four years, Dayanand Shetty went back to his school to serve the institute that had made him an excellent athlete. Dayanand says, "It's a wonderful feeling to coach your own school. I tried very hard to get a job in the Western Railways in 1998, but due to a few circumstances it didn't work out. That's when I realised, and even made up my mind, that coaching is what I should turn to. And what better place to start than with my alma mater? I have always wished to give back to my school for having made me the person I am today. And this is the best way to do so. Athletics needs a lot of hard work and energy and it's not an easy task, but I hope to train the students of my alma mater into becoming even better athletes than me."

Dayanand trains at the Dominic Savio High School and this school has always dominated the Tata Shiv Mumbai School Sports Association and also the Willingdon Gymkhana Championship. Dayanand says, "Our principal, Christino D'souza is very helpful and supports me in all the decisions I make. Training these school children has never been difficult as I start training them at the age of six. I enjoy coaching as each day one learns and teaches something new. The job of a coach is not easy. One needs to keep abreast with the changes taking place across the globe. I research and surf the net for good, innovative and different training techniques. And when the team wins an award, it seems like all the work and effort has been worth it."

2008 was a glorious year for Nagesh Bhise. That was the year he joined St Xavier's High School for Girls as a coach. That was also the year the school won the third place in a throwball tournament organised by the District Sports Office, the second place in the Mumbai School Sports Association meet and the first place in the Ryan Zonal Athletic Meet in throwball. The team followed up this winning spree by winning the first place in the Seniors' Throw Ball Championship in 2009. Nagesh says, "As a coach, my biggest challenge was to convince everyone that even girls have a bright future in sports and that they can excel! When I was a school student, the boys' schools dominated every sport. A girls' school hardly participated in sports events, so winning an event was almost unheard of! But after becoming a coach I have realised that training girls is a task by itself. It has its own set of rules and guidelines, but having said so, I would also like to add that they are players in their own right. I have managed to get them the recognition that was once reserved only for boys' schools."

Nagesh adds, "As a player, one does not bother about what coaches go through, but now I realise what it takes to make a new team every year. Every year, you meet new players from a particular age group and they keep advancing to the next class and eventually pass out. So you have to keep faith in every team that comes up and believe in them for them to be able to win a championship."