Ten years ago, tennis coach Aditya Sachdeva noticed a little boy. The child would accompany his tennis-playing sisters to his coaching centre regularly. While the sisters practiced, he would pick up the balls. "He would listen carefully to every instruction I gave out," Sachdeva recalls.
"One day while his sisters rested, I asked him to hit a few balls. What amazed me was his ability to read the tennis courts," said Sachdeva, who then exhorted his parents to make him joining his coaching centre. But with two of their children already playing the game, the parents could not afford their third child joining coaching. "I told them I will coach him for free," Sachdeva added.
And that's how his relationship with the young tennis star Yuki Bhambri began. "It's been a great journey so far. It began in the junior series and has continued to this day, when we are looking at ATP 250 tournaments. As Yuki grows older, he keeps proving himself," Sachdeva says.
He is modest when one talks to him about his contribution to Bhambri's success. "As a coach, you impart the same skills to all your wards but Yuki's ability to apply them is what sets him apart. Moreover, he constantly pushes me to find answers to new challenges. Yuki's like a son to me," Sachdeva proudly says.
Another coach echoes his thoughts. Cricket coach Sanjay Bhardwaj is not new to adulation. First Gautam Gambhir and then the latest teen sensation Unmukt Chand have done him proud. And he can't choose between them for they both are 'perfect 10s'. "I'm lucky to have been able to coach them. My work was recognised due to their achievements," Bhardwaj says.
"I share a father-son-like relationship with Gautam. I owe him my livelihood and he has gone out of the way to help me. Unmukt is like a chhota Gambhir. 'I must give my life's first cheque to my guru,' he had told me after coming to me with his cheque book when he turned 18," the coach added.
Olympian Sushil Kumar too says he owes his stardom to all his coaches and that they mean everything to him. For a man who left his home to pursue the sport at a tender age, akharas are the modern-day gurukuls.
"Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in India. Like in old days, we give importance to guru-shishya relationship. In our akharas, we consider everyone who helps us become a good wrestler a teacher. Guru sab kuch hota hai (A guru is everything). During competitions, during Asian Games and Olympics, you always consult your coaches. Only then do you hit the mat. They are the ones who'll always be with you to show you the way. And when you are not with your family, they are the ones who support you in everything you do," Kumar said.