A new name made the list when the National Rifle Association of India announced the national coaches who will take charge of the Indian shooting team in the build up to the Paris Olympics in 2024. Joydeep Karmakar, who finished fourth in the 50m rifle prone event at the London 2012 Games has been appointed chief national rifle coach, who will look after the 50m rifle team.
The 42-year-old has reportedly declined taking up a similar position when approached a few years ago. But he brings with him no shortage of experience when it comes to coaching, given that he has his own academy set up in Kolkata.
In an interview with Scroll.in, he talks about how different this experience will be, how the expectations have changed over the years, and his personal goals as coach, among other things.
Excerpts from the interview:
How different will this role be to the one you have experienced by running your academy?
In our academy, there are many shooters and students. The prime objective is to spread awareness about the sport, to facilitate and provide infrastructure for non-shooters to become shooters. That’s been the primary objective in the academy.
Now here, you’re dealing with shooters who are really good and representing the nation. You have to be very calm, composed here. I’m not saying the other job is easy, but both are different altogether. For this you need a high level of experience. Humbly, I would say I do have that knowledge of shooting. Being there, done that, of course I haven’t won a medal at the Olympics. But at least I have been through the path where I’ve had to learn, re-learn, and unlearn particular things. I didn’t have a coach, I learnt it for myself, the hard way. That gave me enough experience to understand what is right, what is wrong, what to avoid and what to pursue.
If I had a coach, I’d have had somebody to tell me the correct line and I wouldn’t have known anything else. The trial and errors gave me the biggest experience one could have.
Does the trial-and-error experience help you, as a coach, to know what can happen when you’re doing something incorrectly? Do you feel you have more information about how things can go wrong if not done properly, and how it can go well if done correctly?
Absolutely. More often I’d tell my students not to follow me if I know I’ve made a mistake. It’s not just about telling them what is right, but also telling them to avoid the mistakes I’ve made in my life. That is also very important.
We always think about coaches who are heroes and you should follow them. But I’d say at times don’t follow the things that I have done. That’s the experience I have gained through my mistakes, and I can tell people not to follow them.
There are so many expectations on shooters now, compared to your generation or the ones before you. Is that a good thing?
Isn’t it what we’ve worked for? This is something we’ve all worked for. Once we dreamt that this sport would be popular, people will be talking about it, people will be expecting things from us, people will be taking care of us, giving heed to us.
I think we’ve gone the right way, people are taking notice, people are expecting. That’s what sport should be about.
This is the nature of the sport that you begin to grow popular, then they will spend on you, they will know the stars, they will expect results from you. You will have to perform under pressure. This is a performing art.
The media attention too… I remember I won a World Cup medal and returned home, there were maybe just three lines written in a newspaper about the medal. Now it’s different.
This is what we wanted. When people read about me tomorrow, they’ll have expectations from me too. They’ll know I’ve been a shooter, I’ve won medals, now I’m a coach. They’ll expect results from me, I am answerable there.
Our shooters had gone to almost every tournament before the Olympics. How do you find the balance between exposure and burnout? Is that something that will need to be changed?
It’s all relative. Back then, they were over trained, so maybe sending them to all competitions was not a good idea. Now I’d say it’s the opposite. But it’s all relative.
We have a new team now with maybe 60 percent new faces who haven’t had any international exposure. This is the time, I think, we need more exposure.
We had seasoned shooters who had a lot of experience in international competition, but now we have a new team. We need to be smart about planning things.
Of course, I wasn’t part of the system before Tokyo, so what I can comment on is only based on what I heard from the media.
You mentioned planning. How important is it?
It’s very important. In individual sport, every individual will have different plans also. I would respect the system and administration who will take a call where individuals will have to settle in a cohesive manner. It may not sound very democratic, but (without it) may have the potential to break apart where everyone is going astray and nobody is accountable at the time.
There has to be a bit of freedom for shooters and a certain bit of team spirit where they work together and plan together. You cannot go out being individual, and you cannot be completely regimental in a team thing.
There were calls of conflict of interest for some of the coaches who have their own academy and are also national coaches. You too have your own academy and now you’re the national coach. How do you see this?
I do have my own academy, by my name in fact. But I think the conflict of interest pointed out at that time and even now during the course of selecting coaches, was more about what we heard happened – the my shooter, your shooter kind of thing.
An example I’d say is that, the NRAI is giving the contract for three years. Now in these three years, a professional might not wait to leave their job or business just to do this. Now what will you expect a coach to do after those three years? They won’t be setting up a grocery shop, they’ll be looking to get into something to do with their sport, coaching is one of those things.
This is not that much of a conflict of interest. Maybe there were a few personal students also in the mix, but I think we’ve learnt from our mistakes so that we will work more towards the common goal rather than just look at individual names and faces.
I believe in one thing, which is if you’re the coach of a team or nation, you have to be very unbiased and not think about any name or faces, or stars. Everyone is a star, and those who aren’t, your job is to make them stars. We need to have a philosophical change when you have this responsibility. I think we’re maturing to not make the same mistake.
You’re a part of the fourth-place club at the Olympics. Now in this position, is this a way for you to get across the line, even if it is as a coach?
Both roles are related but different. As an athlete I had my role to play. I did something which was a bit of an accomplishment but also had disappointment. Now I’m past that. I’m not carrying any baggage or lamentation.
But definitely I’ll be happy if I have a ‘Chak de’ moment in my life. That’ll be perfect redemption.
What are the goals you hope to achieve personally?
Very honestly, even as an athlete I didn’t have any personal goal to achieve. It was about the journey for me. If I would have won an Olympics, I would have been mad-happy. Individual excellence can’t be expressed by any medal. But definitely, I would also love to see India do well at a 50 metre event at the Olympics. I think I was the only one to have reached a final.
One goal would be to see India win a medal in that event, and then see India win five medals at the Olympics.