CV Nagraj dronacharya of Hyderabad tennis
It's been the same in tennis coach CV Nagraj's life too ever since he started the School of Power Tennis in 1991. The celebrated coach was recently conferred with the Dilip Bose `Lifetime Achievement Award' by the AITA in Kolkata.
Sport runs in Nagraj's blood.His father CD Venkat Rao was a university-level cricketer and mother Rajeswari a tennis player. Nagraj preferred his mother's sport but soon gave up playing as he felt his calling lay in grooming youngsters. “I did quite well as a player, but I gave up playing once I realised that Iwill not be able to make it to the international level. Also by then I had a brush with coaching and decided to take it full time,“ Nagraj told ToI at his coaching centre at the RRC ground.
Nagraj's first stint with coaching was when he was just 17. “In 1978-79, PN Misra asked me to help out at a coaching camp in Siddipet.Icontinued to play for several years but coaching had caught my imagination and it grew with the years,“ Nagraj said.
However, the transition was not as smooth as he would have expected. His first setback was when the club where he was plying his trade lost out a lot of players to a new facility that was started at the Gymkhana. Just because they had a qualified coach. “That prompted me to secure a degree in coaching rom the National Institute of Sports,“ said Nagraj.
In addition, Nagraj completed BPEd and then did his MPEd from Annamalai University in 1987. Al hough these degrees earned him a physical education teacher's post at HAL, he couldn't be at peace with himself in that role. He began to explore avenues and in 1991 decided to become a full-time coach. He started his school at the YWCA in Secunderabad.
Nagraj had to move out of YWCA five years later and RRC became the new and permanent address for his school. Since then, Nagraj has grown in strength as he has been able to produce 10 players who have gone on to represent the country. Apart from J Vishnu Vardhan, who participated in the 2012 London Olympic Games, four others played in the Davis Cup and five in the Junior Davis Cup.
Six hours in the morning and four in the evening at the coaching centre has been Nagraj's schedule for the last two-and-a-half decades. “My whole day is spent at the centre as there is a lot to be done for the players,“ he says.
Although it sort of weaned him away from his family, especially from his daughter during her growing up years, he managed to balance it as he didn't socialise much and also his residence was not too far from RRC.
Like in any coach's career, Nagraj's most and least memorable moments too concerned his wards “My most memorable moment was when Vishnu played at the Olympic Games,“ said Nagraj. The lowest point, obviously, is when a student gives up tennis. “I was really saddened when the likes of Susheel Narla and Anant Sitaram gave up tennis. They had so much potential and it seemed as if all my efforts had gone down the drain,“ he said.
Nagraj feels that drop-out rate in tennis is very high because parents cannot afford the expenses after a certain stage and also many of them use it as a means to get admissions in colleges etc.
“Money is a big issue. Even players like Vishnu and Saketh Myneni still struggle to raise funds to play in tournaments. It's not easy turning into a professional. Only 2 percent of those who go to a coaching centre turn professional,“ he said with a tinge of sadness.