Mangaluru: Despite a string of inconsistent results, the Indian administrators prefer to spend more money on foreign coaches than groom the coaches within the domestic circuit. This is the case not just in hockey or football, but in almost all sports in India. A look at the coaching panel for the teams at India’s premier T20 cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League, would stand as further testimony to this. In IPL 2013, not one Indian was the head coach of any of the 9 teams that were part of the cash-rich tournament.
As is the case in any debate though, there are two sides to the coin. Some may argue that foreign coaches are more professional, bringing in discipline and creativity, while others may be critical of the lack of opportunities given to Indian coaches to prove themselves at the international level. But when I asked one coach from Tamilnadu who has worked with many foreign coaches (he was reluctant to give his name) at the Warm-up field near Mangala Stadium, as to what was his opinion on Indian sports authority hiring foreign coaches to do the needful- he without any hesitation replied saying, ” Foreign coaches are professional in whatever they do, Indian coaches are still a bit amateurish. Foreign coaches are very serious and very determined to get the best results out of their athletes. Many athletes trained under foreign coaches have shown tremendous results of success in their sporting career”.
Being a coach of a national sports or athletic team in India is undoubtedly a difficult job. Politics, red tape and corruption have made many foreign coaches turn the other way. Understanding the local culture and language proves to be a hindrance. But despite all these barriers, there have been numerous success stories. Take Gary Kirsten, for example. Being the head coach of the Indian cricket team is equivalent to being a lamb ready for slaughter. But he excelled, helping India win the 2011 World Cup after a gap of 28 years.
Russian Vladimir Chertkov coached gymnast Ashish Kumar to a Commonwealth games bronze medal in 2010, while athletics coach Nikholay Snasraev was credited with the success of the middle distance runners at the Asian Games at Guangzhao. that said, there is definitely no dearth for talent in our country. Groomed in the right way, and trained effectively, Indian coaches may well exceed at the international level. In today’s sports arena, coaches are required to produce consistent results week in week out, and to do that they need adequate external support. But the Indian Government incentives for players to turn into coaches in India are poor, and the treatment meted out to the coaches is less-than-grand. For a country that is known to worship its gurus, this is a sad plight. So foreign coaches come into the scene, to transform Indian sportsmen or athletes into better and successful sportsmen or athletes.
And here we have Hugo Vanden Broek, originally from Netherlands and now settled in Kenya after he got married to Kenyan athlete Hilda Kibet, is currently employed as a coach for the Elite Distance Running Programme; he coaches a group of young talented Indian athletes, age 16-20 years and prepares them for the Olympic Games in Tokyo (2020). I had the opportunity to meet Hugo couple days ago at the Mangala stadium, and he was so friendly, polite, soft-spoken, and above all, a gem of a guy. He speaks Dutch, English (fluent), German (reasonable), French (reasonable) and Swahili (basic).
Dutch origin, Hugo Van den Broek who was born on 18 September 1976 in The Netherlands, is currently staying in Kenya. He had Special Education at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam (M.Sc.), with a minor in Child and Youth Psychology (1996-2000); Human Movement Science at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam (M.Sc.), including Anatomy, Sports science, Sports physiology, Biomechanics (1994-2000); and Gymnasium at Bonhoeffer College in Castricum, The Netherlands (1988-1994). Immediately after his graduation, he left for Kenya to train. During his stay he met Hilda Kibet. He worked as a social ability trainer for young criminals and in reintegrating sick employees back to work.
Hugo started running at the age of 15 and became the Dutch junior champion 10.000m in 1995. Since 2002 he is a semi-professional runner, specialized in the marathon. He represented The Netherlands at the European Championships of 2006 and 2010. In 2014 he qualified again for the EC, but due to an injury he was not able to start. His best performances are: 28.51 (10k on the road), 1.03.26 (half marathon) and 2.12.08 (marathon).
His work experience : 2014-The Kenya Experience, London-Coach and organizer training camps for athletes of different levels, in Kenya; 2012-2014: Personal coach of international marathon runner Hilda Kibet; 2010 – 2013: Assistant coach for Gabriele Nicola, coach for a group of international Kenyan top athletes,including: Lucy Kabuu – Mary Keitany – Gladys Cherono – Hilda Kibet – Lydia Cheromei – Flomena Cheyech; 2007 – 2014:Professional athlete and coach of young Kenyan athletes (age 18-24); 2002 – 2007: Arbeids Desk, Heemskerk, The Netherlands-Rehabilitation coach for 2500 employees; 2001 – 2002: BIG, Barneveld, The Netherlands-Social Ability Trainer for young criminal offenders
Hugo’s Athletics career include: 2014: Qualification European Championships, DNS due to injury; 2011: Personal best half marathon 1.03.24; 2010: European Championships marathon, position 14; 2006:European Championships marathon, position 22; 2004 :Personal best marathon 2.12.08 (Amsterdam marathon, position 5); 2001:Start (semi-)professional career, half marathon in 1.03.43; 1995: Dutch junior champion 10.000m – first time representing The Netherlands; 1992: started running. Other, in 2013: Designed and built a guesthouse, see www.runninginiten.com; and in 2012: Founded Kibet4Kids foundation to improve public primary education in Kenya. In the first year the Foundation raised around 38.000 euro and built 2 classrooms, among other things. (Log on to :www.kibet4kidsfoundation.org)
Hilda Kibet , wife of Hugo is now a Dutch runner of Kenyan birth. She obtained Dutch nationality in October 2007. Hilda and Hugo split their time between Iten, Kenya andCastricum, in the Netherlands. She won a series of road running competitions in 2007, including: the Egmond Half Marathon, New York City Half Marathon, City-Pier-City Loop, Parelloop and British 10km London Run. The following year she won the New York Mini 10K, succeeding her great-aunt Lornah Kiplagat, and made her Olympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she was fifteenth in the 10,000 metres. She won the women’s title at the 2008 European Cross Country Championships at the end of the year. She ran at the World 10K Bangalore in May 2009 and although she was one of the pre-race favourites, she finished fourth overall. She returned the following year, but only managed sixth place.
Hilda opened 2010 with a personal best run of 1:08:39 at the RAK Half Marathon. She ran in the 10,000 m at the 2010 European Athletics Championships, but just missed out on the medals by finishing fourth behind Jéssica Augusto. She won the Dam tot Damloop in September 2010, running the fastest 10-mile time of the season (51:30). At the Frankfurt Marathon in October she ran a personal best time of 2:26:23, which was only enough for sixth in the quick race. She set a new best for the half marathon with a run of 67:59 minutes for fourth at the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon in February 2013 She was the fastest Dutch athlete at the Rotterdam Marathon with her third place finish in 2:26:42 hours.
Following are the excerpts from the exclusive interview with Hugo Van de Broek:
Q : Where did you grow up and did you grow up in a fitness- or sports-oriented family?
I grew up in a city called Castricum in The Netherlands. Our family wasn’t particularly sports-oriented, but since I was a little boy I always had a lot of energy so my parents stimulated me to do sports and to play outside.
Q : What sports did you play during your youth and were there any sports that you really disliked?
I was playing football (soccer) every day outside on the grass fields close to our home. My friends and I also played hockey and baseball sometimes. Apart from that I joined a club for judo (until brown belt) and later football. From the age of 15 I started running and knew immediately that it was my sport. I can’t think of any sport that I disliked.
Q : Was running a part of your sports conditioning when you were in school?
Not in primary school, but at a young age I did realise that I never got tired, while other children did. When I was 13 I ran a competition, a 3000m road race with 400 other kids and became second (without any training). I liked that and started doing more road races, which I all won, although I was never trained. At the age of 15 I became a member of a club and started training. Then I realised that there were other kids who could run better than me, but they were running track races at a national level.
Q : When did you first know you wanted to dedicate your life to running?
At the age of 15, within a few months of starting training at our athletics club. I enjoyed running because it was a perfect way to use my energy and also I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t depend on others, but was completely responsible for my own progress. I realised that the harder I worked, the better I could run. That was a great feeling.
Q : How did you get started on your running career path and where did you get your initial education?
My running career started at the athletics club in Castricum, where I lived. Castricum is situated at the coast of The Netherlands. It has a large beach and a much larger forest. You can run through the forest for hours without ever being in the same place. We also happened to have one of the best running coaches of the country. I did my education as a Masters in Sport Science at the university in Amsterdam.
Hugo van den Broek finishes as 5th in the Amsterdam marathon in a personal best of 2.12 (2004)
Above: Hilda Kibet wins the gold medal at the European Championships cross-country of 2008 in Brussels
Q : Now that you are an established expert in your field, what importance do you place on conditioning as part of an running program?
I think the basis of each running program should be running. Running on the track, on the road, on the grass/soil. Doing long runs, fartlek, sprints, hill work, all that is important. Apart from that I think it’s good for most athletes to do weight training and core-exercises, but this should not be overly emphasized.
Q : Poor coaching is perhaps the biggest reason why Indian athletes don’t do well in international events- what do you have to say?
I think the reason why India is not big in running, is the fact that there are not many people entering the sport. Most young kids are going to cricket. That is beautiful game and I like watching it, but obviously there is a lot of running-talent lost because people chose to do cricket. That is fine, it’s everyone’s own choice. But if you want performances in running, it would be good to test people in schools at the age of 10-15 and advice them to do a certain sport, like running, when they seem to be talented. Those with talent for long distance running, most likely will not be talented for cricket, so they can have more success by choosing for athletics. That’s what we are trying to do now with Procam and SAI: scouting talents at a young age.
Q: Is there a strength and conditioning coach who will help athletes become a better athletes? How would you describe the overall attitude of the team?
I think I know enough about strength training, so I give my athletes that, although (as I said) the most important part
of their program is running itself. The attitude of our team is one of dedication, focus and working very hard, while not forgetting that training should also be fun. We are dealing with young people and it’s important that they feel comfortable with what they do.
Q : How would you describe your coaching style?
As personal. I try to look at each athlete and learn from them; how is the character of this person, what type of athlete is he/she, what type of training does he/she need at this moment? This is a non-stop process. As a coach you never stop learning. Once you stop learning, you better stop coaching. My style is also science-based and I try to evaluate on a daily basis; I always ask myself whether we are on the right track, or I should change something today or tomorrow.
Q : Has language been a big problem for you here in India while training athletes? How do you manage with it?
It’s not a big problem. The athletes do not all speak fluent English, although some do, but they all understand me. When there is any problem, we have the 2 assistant coaches that are working with me. They are Surrinder Paul and Omvir Singh. They can always help translating.
Q : How do you feel being in India and interacting with Indian coaches and athletes?
It’s very interesting for me. I enjoy the culture of India, and specially the authentic and traditional Indian food and in general being here.
Q : You are not only a highly-respected person, you are also a globally-renowned running coach. How did you evolve from a runner becoming a athletic coach?
Since 2007 I lived in Kenya, together with my wife Hilda Kibet. She is a physiotherapist and also a world-class runner. From 2008 I started coaching her and also a group of young Kenyans. I helped many of them get a scholarship for an American university. This was nice to do. From 2010 I became an assistant coach to Gabriele Nicola, who is coaching a group of Kenyans who are absolute worldtop. I’m talking about people who run worldrecords. That was another good
I kept running until last year. In 2014 I ran 2.15 in the marathon and qualified for the European Championships (in India it would have been enough to qualify for the Olympics), but unfortunately I got injured one week before the Championships and then decided it was time to stop top-sport and focus completely on coaching.
Q: What challenges have you faced along the way, whether it’s training difficult personalities or mastering advanced training methods, or even managing your own daily busy schedule? How have you overcome those challenges and what lessons have you learned because of those challenges?
There are so many challenges in this sport/job but I like that. I try to look at everything in life in a positive way. Without challenges life would be boring. They make life interesting and you learn from it. The main challenge is always finding the right training and right approach for each athlete. In India there are specific challenges: the distances here are so great, that my athletes sometimes have to travel more than 40 hours to a competition. That’s a big challenge. Another challenge is the fact that most running here happens on the synthetic track. I don’t really like that, but it’s a bit hard to change, since there aren’t many dirt-road / soil-roads available.
Q :What advice would you offer to other coaches, trainers, physical directors who want to take their business up a notch?
My main advice is; keep learning. Learn from your athletes, learn from books, read scientific information, etc. Try to improve yourself day by day. I try the same.
Q : What are your own goals and objectives? Where do you see your profession going in the next 5-10
I hope to be attached to this program for the next 5 years. What happens after that I will see.
Q : What’s your message to the amateur athletes who are looking forward to be star athletes?
Work hard, but also understand that running is a matter of training and recovery. After a hard day of training, take a day if easy running. Without recovery (easy jogging) the training will have no effect. Look for a good coach and a good group. Train together with others.
It was indeed a pleasure to have close encounters with Hugo, and it was a very memorable interview. All I can say is that even if the Indians are to raise the bar slowly and steadily, it’s not going to happen without foreign coaches. The choice is very clear: keep the good coaches back or be ready to weep again after the 2012 Olympics. Nothing else matters at this stage. Hugo will surely train his athletes to be better athletes and win laurels for India in future International athletic championships, including the Olympics Games in Tokyo in 2020. I on behalf of Team Mangalorean wish Hugo all success in his athletic training career, and may God bless him for all his efforts and dedication that he is putting in training some of our Indian athletes.
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