In his 20th year in the sport, ace shooting champion Gagan Narang is still going strong and gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics. Having made his country proud by winning a bronze medal at the 10m air rifle event at the 2012 London Olympics, Narang went on to triumph at the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow with a silver and bronze medal each. His shooting academy, Gun for Glory is considered among the best training centres in India, across different sports. The champion has been helping young shooters to perfect their sport. He spoke to ParentCircle to share his views on children taking up competitive shooting.
Q. Shooting is still a very niche sport in India and needs a lot of support. What can be done to popularise it?
A. I think shooting needs to find a place in the school curriculum, just like chess. It builds concentration, endurance and stamina. For the sport to grow, the teens and the tweens need to be exposed to it. Once they pick up their rifles/pistols, parents should take the initiative to help them learn and actively participate in the sport. In the beginning it is a good thing if they are exposed to as many sports as possible, so that they can pick from a reasonable range.
Q. How can we get more children to be interested in this sport?
A. Shut out their iPads and smartphones and get them to the playground. Parents play an active role in that. Electronic de-addiction is very important for today's generation. Internet is a huge magnet and a distraction at the same time. Unless the time is divided between internet, studies and sports, they won't manage to channelise their energies into active sports.
Q. What are the prerequisites for a child to learn shooting?
A. There are no prerequisites really. For any child to learn a sport, he/she has to be interested in it. It all starts with the interest and then the 'intent' to do well. Once you have both the 'I's in place, there is no looking back.
Q. What is the right age for a child to take up shooting?
A. I would imagine around 11 years onwards. It is very easy to get the child into correct posture, help develop focus, concentration and then prepare his/her body for the rigours of the sport. The challenge is to prevent him from early specialisation.
Q. What role can parents play in supporting the children through their journey?
A. Parents really need to be the support cast. They need to realise how much is too much. They should not be doing too much or too little. There are some parents who push children very hard because they want to get instant results, which is not possible in sports. Everything is a process. At times, that ends up in injuring the child. So parents really need to understand the weight of the situation and act accordingly.
Q. What are the biggest challenges that one might face in shooting?
A. There are several challenges on the road to becoming a professional shooter. Firstly, he/she has to find a mentor and coaches who would give right direction; get the right equipment, get the right programmes, funding and then finally shooting good enough scores to make the national team. There are several stages to it.
Q. What are the facilities needed in the country for making shooting more accessible as a sport to aspiring kids?
A. One needs a range, accessibility to equipment and coaches. It is not impossible to get that in today's India but is not easy either. Shooting isn't a club sports so one has to either get to the ranges or contact the federation for the nearest facility.
8. What are the training facilities available?
There are several facilities across the country. Gun for Glory has as many as over 15 centres across India. Besides that there are private facilities run by other shooters. The shooting federation too is helpful when individuals approach them.
Q. How can children be kept motivated, as the sport needs a lot of practice and precision?
A. In the beginning it is the parents and the coaches' job to keep the kids motivated. And the only motivation should be to win an Olympic medal. Once the kid is into the sport, then he/she is able to motivate himself or herself. There is no need for external factors.
Q. Shooting is a precision sport. What kind of life skills does it enhance?
A. It makes one a complete individual. You learn professionalism, managing self, discipline, precision. All of these have a huge impact in one's life because they are essential life skills.
Q. You are a true champion. What has been your biggest moment?
A. My biggest moment in the sport was the bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012. But shooting 600/600 twice in competition was no less satisfying.
Q. You won the bronze at London 2012. Great great feat. But, you also missed the gold by just 1 point. Did you miss it badly? How did you recover from so-near-yet-so-far experience?
A. It was very sad to miss out on the gold at London. But a lot of pressure had built up going into the London Olympics and I just had one mission- to win a medal. So it was like the monkey off my back when I won the bronze. However, the one gut wrenching moment was 2008 Beijing Olympics when I missed reaching the finals on countback. That served as the springboard to my successes in the next four years.
Q. You had once said that your parents had sold their plot to buy you the gun. Can you elaborate on that story? Does shooting need plenty of sacrifice from parents?
A. My dad and mum did sacrifice a lot. I came from a middle class background with working class parents. They went beyond their limits in order to support me and a sport that was a very expensive proposition 20 years ago. Right now, a lot of it is available through programmes at the shooting academies. The reason I wanted to start GFG was to give back to the system - to help children with the facilities I did not have while growing up.
Q. Often in shooting, it is seen that the difference between the top place and the tenth place is hardly a point or two. How important is mental strength and should that be a focus area from a very young age for children?
A. To be mentally tough is critically important in any sport - more so in shooting. One will get several roadblocks on the road to glory, that is why, it is very important to form strategies and find ways to deal with it. In fact, by winning over those key moments of adversity, brings out the best in athletes.
Q. What are the nutritional requirements for a shooter, say at the age of 10? What should the child do to gain stamina?
A. Its too early to get so deep into the subject..Keep things simple and as they are initially. Let the child’s mind evolve on its own. Nutrition is important and early detection of food allergies helps in the long run.
Q. What’s your message to all the readers of ParentCircle, India’s fastest growing web and mobile platform in the space of parenting?
A.Please be patient and give the child, the right guidance.
Hitting the Bull’s Eye - Quotable quotes from Gagan
- “It all starts with the interest and then the 'intent' to do well.”
- “Parents really need to be the support cast. They need to realise how much is too much.”
- “Shooting makes one a complete individual. You learn professionalism, managing self, discipline, precision.”
- “One will get several roadblocks on the road to glory. Winning over those key moments of adversity, brings out the best in athletes.”
Hall of Fame
- Bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics (10m Air Rifle event)
- 4 gold medals each at the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games
- Prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2010
- Shattered the world record at the 2008 ISSF World Cup Final
- Runs ‘Gun for Glory’, a world-class shooting academy at multiple locations
Shooting Academies you can check out:
1. Gun For Glory Shooting Academy
Where: Multiple locations
What to look out for: The courses offer shooters Gun testing facility, peak performance management and a link up with an educational institution.
Whom to contact: +91 20 652 860 06
More details: http://www.gunforglory.in/
2. Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range
Where: New Delhi
What to look out for: A range to contest finals, a trap-and-skeet range and a new armoury building.
Whom to contact: 011 2604 7802
3. Sportzcraft. Inc
Where: Multiple locations
What to look out for: Basic Weapon Training, Pellets, Targets and Scoring
Whom to contact: +91 11 410 55220, +91 987 114 5252
More details: http://sportzcraft.byethost32.com/?i=1
Rayan Sports Rifle Shooting Academy
What to look out for: International shooter as a coach
Whom to contact: 088678 66898
More details: http://rayansportsrifleshooting.com/
3. Rifle Association
What to look out for: Shooting and training facility in air weapons and small-bore arms.
Whom to contact: 24932736, 24930064
More details: http://www.maharifle.org/
Also in the Learning with the Masters series, read our interview with P T Usha: