As we celebrate the phenomenal success story of PV Sindhu, we meet the ‘champion team’ to understand the actions of excellence that defined their success. It’s a ParentCircle Special!
By Rajesh Viswanathan
I have often heard people talk about actions of excellence leading to positive outcomes, defined as success. Well, to excel in any field of life, you need a performer and the support cast. The performer cannot thrive without a good support cast and vice versa. So, with this thought, when I visited Hyderabad to be a part of the grand welcoming ceremony for Sindhu, I tried hard to understand what made Pusarla Venkata Sindhu excel at the recent Rio Olympics, apart from her badminton skills.
The 24 hours I spent and the multiple interactions I had with the people who contributed to the success story helped me break down the qualities that scripted the Sindhu success story. Interestingly, these qualities are just about the same in any sphere of life and for anybody. As parents, the onus is now on you to take home the key benefits and unlock the ‘Sindhu’ in your child. Here we go with our list of ‘Sindhuisms’:
PV Sindhu was lucky enough to be born in a sporting family. Her father, PV Ramana, a former volleyball player, won bronze at the 1986 Asian Games. Sindhu’s mother, Vijaya, was a national-level volleyball player. Considering the sporting genes (read volleyball) Sindhu possessed, coupled with her height, 5'10'' inches, you’d have thought volleyball would be the obvious choice. But, Sindhu was keen to play badminton and her parents respected her decision. PV Ramana, Sindhu’s father, says, “Back in 2001, when Gopichand won the All-England title, Sindhu was thrilled. She was just six then and expressed her interest in badminton and that’s how the journey began. Every child has an inborn talent. It is important to nurture that talent. As parents, our job was to encourage her in the field that she chose.”
ParentCircle Exclusive: Watch the interview with PV Sindhu after she won the World Championship:
Hailing from a sports family, Sindhu was well aware, since her early days, that wins and losses are an integral part of sport. From the moment she held a badminton racquet for the first time, the message given to her was to go out and give it her best shot. Results do not matter much. “A win or a defeat doesn’t matter to us. It’s all about putting in that effort,” says PV Ramana. The early thumbs up from parents helped shape Sindhu’s personality in many ways. Sindhu’s coach, Pullela Gopichand says, “When we get players like Sindhu who are ready to push themselves, and when we get parents who are ready to support, what we get is an Olympic medal.”
Nothing can be achieved in life without discipline. Gopichand defines it by citing Sindhu’s example. “At just 23, Sindhu is an epitome of hard work and discipline. Her work ethic can inspire anybody. First training session at 4:15 a.m., no questions asked. Second training session at 7:00 a.m., no questions asked. You also have to give credit to her parents for this. They too wake up with Sindhu and they too dream,” says Gopichand. In an era where children struggle to wake up even at 7:00 a.m. before scrambling their way to the school bus, the story of Sindhu should serve as a ‘wake-up’ call. This discipline extends beyond the badminton court. Sindhu did not use her mobile phone even once in Rio and strictly stayed away from her favourites, sweet yogurt and ice cream.
One of the most special moments of the Olympic badminton final actually came after the match ended. Even as the champion, Carolina Marin was soaked in emotions, Sindhu went right up to her, gave her a pat, hugged her and even kept Marin’s racquet in the right place. These gestures grabbed worldwide headlines. Sindhu’s parents and mentor have given her some ‘invaluable’ value lessons. Sindhu says, “Sport teaches you to differentiate between on-court rivalry and off-court friendship. After the match, we are normal friends.” When we dug deeper, we also uncovered another great element that propelled Sindhu to glory. Coach Gopichand’s mother had recently advocated that each athlete should sing the national anthem before the start of a match. Isn’t that a brilliant idea? Gopichand adds, “It serves as a huge motivation. Sometimes, small steps that we take as parents and mentors can have a huge impact on the players.” Imagine the morale-boost Sindhu got post that.
When you have a mentor who says, “You are going out there not to beat another nation, but to win for your own nation,” you know you’ve got it right. It is an open secret that Gopichand has been more than just a coach for Sindhu. He has been her role model and a mentor who is always there for his players. Well, mentorship doesn’t begin and end at an academy. It is an important component at home too. Sindhu’s parents have been great mentors as well. “My mother resigned from her job several years ago and my father has been on leave for the last few months purely to be a wall of support for me. They knew this Olympics meant a lot to me and they wanted to be there to guide and help me in difficult situations,” says Sindhu. Several studies have shown that regular mentoring increases the chances of high self-belief and self-esteem in young children. One way Sindhu’s parents managed to build great self-belief in their child was through positive conversations. PV Ramana says, “At home, we try to be positive all the time. We talk positive things and try to keep away from negativity in every possible way.” Is there a genetic connection here? VV Subrahmanyam, a veteran journalist at The Hindu, who has seen the best games of both Sindhu and her father, opines, “Sindhu’s father was a fighter during his volleyball days. He was essentially a blocker and would not let the ball go past him. Self-belief is in the genes of this family.”
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. While physical strength can get you closer to the top, only mental strength can take you to the summit. Over the years, we have seen great personalities crumble from winning situations, but Sindhu has been just the opposite. Gopichand says, “Just a couple of years ago, Sindhu was a little too emotional. But, in recent times, she has successfully channelised that emotion into aggression and that was evident in Rio. She is a fearless athlete.” A fearless person too, Sindhu definitely understands the power of struggle. We saw that during the Olympics in Rio. “Sindhu is a player for the big occasion and she thrives on the big stage. I am very sure she will handle the ups and downs of life very well,” adds Gopi. “You will be surprised to note that Sindhu is a very calm person at home. The aggression you see on the court and the way she gets charged up just about show how she has toughened up mentally in recent times,” says PV Ramana. How did the transformation happen?
VV Subrahmanyam, who has seen the playing styles of both Sindhu and Gopichand from close quarters, attributes this to the coaching style of Gopichand. “There was a sea change in the attitude of Sindhu ever since she joined the Gopichand Academy. Gopi always pushes athletes to build on their strengths instead of brooding over their weaknesses. When a player is constantly reminded of her strengths, it is bound to have a positive psychological impact. I am not surprised to see that Sindhu is a very strong player not just physically, but even mentally," says Subrahmanyam.
During the Olympics, Sindhu’s focus was unwavering. The whole team of Gopichand, Sindhu and her parents worked as one unit. For two months, they planned and studied each and every opponent. They knew the exact tactical requirements for each match. As the tournament got deeper and the draw got tougher, Sindhu only got better. She was quick to realise that free points would pave the way for premium ones. That’s when her planning and strategy came to the fore. During the Olympic final, there was a point which lasted an incredible 52 strokes. Few things in life can test one’s resolve as patience does. One of the things both Gopichand and Sindhu’s parents have done remarkably well is to instil a sense of planning in their ward.
When you look closely at all the aspects discussed above, you’ll realise they are all the same for any profession.
Gopichand’s mother, Subbaravamma, who also manages the Gopichand Academy, is happy to see a change in the mindset of parents post Sindhu's achievement. The academy normally receives around 20 calls each day from parents enquiring about the admission procedure for their children. But, for a good one week after Sindhu’s remarkable feat, this number shot up to 500 calls a day. It hasn’t shown signs of abating since. Such has been the impact of PV Sindhu that, today, parents are willing to let their children take up fields other than just academics.
It really doesn’t matter which profession your child chooses – the question is whether he is getting the same support that Sindhu has been getting from her parents and mentors. Like Abraham Lincoln said, “That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.” Thank you, Sindhu!
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