Written by Team ParentCircle and published on 27 May 2021.
Shooting should be introduced in the school curriculum, says Olympian Gagan Narang, who is also mentoring junior shooters to reach new heights
Gagan Narang, having made the country proud by winning a bronze medal at the 10m air rifle event at the 2012 London Olympics, 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 centers 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 popularize 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 the internet, studies, and sports, they won't manage to channelize 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 Is in place, there is no looking back.
Q: What is the right age for a child to take up shooting?
A: I would say around 11 years onwards. It is very easy to get the child into the correct posture, help develop focus, concentration and then prepare his/her body for the rigor that the sport demands. The challenge is to prevent him from early specialization.
Q: What role can parents play in supporting the children through their journey?
A: Parents really need to be the supporting cast. They need to realize 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 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 the right direction; get the right equipment, get the right programs, 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 sport so one has to either get to the ranges or contact the federation for the nearest facility.
Q: What are the training facilities available?
A: There are several facilities across the country. Gun for Glory has as many as over 15 centers 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 parent's and the coach's 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 on 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 the competition was no less satisfying.
Q: You won the bronze at London 2012. Great feat. But, you also missed the gold by just 1 point. How did you recover from the so-near-yet-so-far experience?
A: It was very sad to miss out on the gold in 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 the 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?
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 programs 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 them. In fact, 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 11? What should the child do to gain stamina?
A: It's 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
A: First of all, please be patient and give the child the right guidance.
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