It’s hard to believe but without adequate infrastructure, Yogendra Agarwal, 42, a former UP table tennis player and employee of Northern Railway, has been producing quality players for some time now.
A look at the Northern Railway’s table tennis academy here gives an idea of how difficult it is for the paddlers and coach to train on a regular basis.
The pillars inside the one-room academy allow paddlers on one side to play only the forehand, whereas those on the opposite side can play only the backhand. “We don’t have any option but to practice like this,” says young trainee Divyansh Srivastava, who is currently India No 3 in the under-12 category.
“For me, it was quite difficult to start with, but it is part of our training and we are enjoying this,” he adds.
After quitting the UP team, Yogendra began his journey as coach in 1990 at the KD Singh ‘Babu’ Stadium, but soon shifted base to the NR Academy.
“Even before I started playing, I had a wish to coach and when I got the chance to do so in 1999, I was happy to quit the game,” recalls Yogendra, who has trainees like Archana Pandey and Neha Sonkar, who are No 3 and No 4 in their category.
Yogendra, who won medals on the domestic circuit, including a bronze at the 1990 school nationals, accepted that other than training Priyanka Tayal, he has taught the finer points of the game to UP’s ace paddlers like Parag Agarwal, Atin Rastogi, Gaurav Khanna, Piyush Bajpai, Anuj Agarwal, Mandeep Singh, Divyansh Srivastava, Akriti Srivastava, Adarsh Srivastava, Nibha Tripathi, Archana Pandey, Abhishek Jaggi and Shantanu Singh.
“It was like a dream come true when Divyansh emerged victorious in the West Zone ranking event last year and went on win bronze at the nationals in under-12, bronze in team championship, etc,” says Yogendra, who spends almost 12 hours with his trainees from 7am.
Divyansh, the son of a truck driver, had no money even to buy his bat, but Yogendra was sure of his emergence as a talent and bought him kit, bats, etc. “He (Divyansh) is like my son and I can go to any extent for him as he is altogether a different talent and I am sure that next year he will be winning the national championship.”
Other than Northern Railway officials, Yogendra has the support of near and dear ones, who help him financially as well as with logistics so that his trainees keep winning medals at the state and national level.
Nowadays, his academy is full of trainees (around 30) and Yogendra has been working hard on their training. One hopes in the days to come the strongly-built coach will produce more talent for the state and Indian squads.