Soon after the long jump competition, Volker Herrmann is involved in an intense discussion with M Sreeshankar. The high performance director for athletics is reviewing Sreeshankar’s performance to which the long jumper nods his head in approval.
While Herrman is able to converse in English with Sreeshankar, his interactions with other long jumpers are not as fluent. Most struggle with English, and that is a falling that Herrman has now planned to eradicate.
Herrman, a German, is ready to learn Hindi in an aim to improve his communication with athletes and coaches across India. He is planning to ask the Athletics Federation of India for Hindi lessons given that it is a language most athletes understand.
“It’s important to communicate in the local language and understand exactly what they are trying to say,” Herrman said. “I have been trying to get this underway and most probably after the World Championships I will start learning the language.”
The 39-year-old was appointed in June and has been travelling to different national camps of AFI to plan, strategise and understand the system. But even before he had accepted the job, Hermann had expressed his desire to learn Hindi and conveyed the same to AFI.
“I told them that I want to learn the local language,” he said. “I see that athletes are from different states which have completely different languages. Part of my job is to travel to different SAI centres so I think Hindi can be the language I speak when talking to coaches and athletes.”
Based in Patiala, Herrman has travelled to Bangalore, Trivananthapuram, Bellary and Delhi to familiarise with the athletes practicing at these centres.
But he realised that English may not be the best language to communicate with all the athletes a lot of time is used to explain what exactly he wants.
“There are different languages in the states so I thought of learning Punjabi, Tamil and others but they are completely different to each other. It is best is to learn at least one language,” he said.
With the World Championships scheduled in September, the plan can get started only in October. And while communicating with Sreeshankar was not an issue, Herrman is determined to understand what other athletes feel as well.
“We had a coach and athletes workshop where I asked the members if they are ready to take some English classes,” he said. “They were very positive about the idea and said they will learn. I said you learn English and I will learn Hindi,” he said.