Mansher Singh’s advice: Young shooters should be protected after Asian Games high
Before you stop your child from playing video games or ‘shooting games’, which test a player’s speed and reaction time, be warned. The kid might just emerge as the country’s top shotgun shooter, with the right kind of guidance and training.
The Indian team’s senior shotgun coach, Mansher Singh, says he has never stopped his wards - many of them in their teens - from playing video games as they “reduce the reaction time” during actual competition.
“But I always draw a line. I don’t want to see those gizmos after 10:00 pm. That’s the time my wards should be in bed,” says Mansher whose trainees - trap shooter Lakshay Sheoran (19) and double trap marksman Shardul Vihan (15) - won silver medals at the Asian Games, a unique achievement, considering that till the last Games at Incheon in 2014, only the old guards were holding centrestage in the discipline.
The other day when Vihan, from Meerut, said his favourite pastime was playing PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, an online multiplayer game), after clinching silver in double trap, a few faces in the media group were left confused.
That, perhaps, was the secret to his quick reaction time in competition and also the killer instinct. “In video games, he is constantly trying to beat someone, so he brings that mindset into competition. For him, it’s cool to beat someone. For him it’s not about money... that he’ll get a prize-money of Rs 1-2 crore. He is too young to think about money,” says Mansher.
Mansher, who has won the national trap title more than a dozen times, is recipient of the Arjuna Awards and has clinched the Commonwealth Games gold in 1994 at Victoria, says, regular involvement and interaction with those who have won international medals has helped the junior immensely. “In fact that’s become the norm. Junior shooters are being trained by ‘iconic champions’ and that, in turn, is giving them the motivation to win, to perform as well, or better, than their idols,” says Mansher.
The second-most important factor he says is the availability of guns and ammunition. “A 12-year-old who achieves a ‘renowned shot’ score becomes eligible to import a gun and ammunition. And, within two to three years, he makes it to the national junior or senior squad and starts contesting for medals at the international events,” says the senior team coach.
Train with seniors
For him, another key ingredient to producing champions is to train them with the senior team. “The juniors who make it to the national squad must compete at the senior level. That is something I have enforced since the junior training programme for shotgun shooting came into being in 2014,” he said.
For Mansher, who competed in his first Olympic Games (1984 Los Angeles) as an 18-year-old and whose last quadrennial games were the 2008 Beijing Olympics, says that being able to understand the young shooters coming from humble backgrounds, and with limited exposure, is what’s making Indian coaches so successful.
“Foreign coaches are not able to fill that part. They (kids) need to be protected in order to build their self-confidence. I cannot throw a shooter who is from a rural background and with very limited exposure to the world to go and train with a foreign coach.
“The way these children are brought up in India, it’s more of a hands-on approach of parents. I try to simulate that same hands-on relationship with the kids, their likes and dislikes. The other day Shardul wanted to have baked beans for dinner. I took him out so that he could have his fill. Kids will be kids and a foreign coach will not understand that. You have to treat them like children, yet give them the aptitude of an Olympic-level athlete, that’s what we want to achieve,” concludes Mansher.