Go hunting for a woman tennis coach and chances are you won't come across one. When the ratio of women coaches to men is approximately 1:32 (there are only 35 registered as opposed to the 1125 men with the All India Tennis Association), the question is, is the profession not suitable for women?
"It certainly is," said Radhika Tulpule Kanitkar, the country's only woman ITF Level 3 coach. "There are less women players in comparison to men. Automatically, the number of coaches is less. I feel that most former women players are taking to jobs related to tennis and not to coaching. Today, one has so many options like refereeing or officiating. These are other ways of staying connected with the game," added Radhika, who started to coach in 2002.
Coaching is demanding, and if one does not have the passion, it is not worth the effort. "It takes dedication to be on the court for hours," said Shalini Thakur Chawla, one of the two lady ITF Level 2 coaches in the country. "It's a great way to stay fit. I've always been involved with the game and discovered that I loved coaching."
Archana Venkataraman agrees. "It's a very unstable profession. Though coaching has a lot of money today, it's not a 9-5 desk job which pays you a designated salary. Unless women players have played up to a certain level, one can't sustain a good quality of tennis as coach," the ITF Level 2 coach said from Bangalore.
"Since it's a physically demanding sport, you need passion and dedication. Most women have other interests and priorities after their playing days. It would be great if more take to coaching," she said.
Have they ever faced discrimination? "Not really. I've never had to prove myself on court. In fact, I've had more parents coming to me, asking about their child's problems," said Archana.
"We welcome more lady coaches," said an AITA official. In the recent AITA coaches' workshop in Goa, only seven women took part out of the 200 participants. "At least we have more women coaches now. When I started, there were just the two of us," said Radhika.
Parents of a girl player always feel comfortable with women coaches on a tour. "I just hope the trend continues and more women take up the profession," she added.