This man’s obsession with sports was labeled ‘crazy’ until his team won ‘impossible’ medals in National-level tournament

From representing the Bihar handball team 12 times in several championships during his teenage to becoming the most-loved coach of the city. Rajesh Singh’s story is an inspiration for every sports lover.

Rajesh Singh
Rajesh Singh addressing Physical Education teachers on International Olympic day

So, did you quit sports?

When Rajesh Singh, a 43-year-old, lost his father in 1997, his dream to wear Indian handball jersey scattered. Now, he wasn’t just a teenager who aspired to become a handball champion, but also a responsible son who had to support his family financially.

“Of course not, sports is my first love. I can’t stay always from the playground for too long. So, I decided to become a school sports teacher and encourage children to participate in games and sports”, said Rajesh. 

Meeting his first and best student 

When in 2006, he joined a public school in Bokaro, he saw a 12-year-old girl practicing hard for the long jump event. Although she could jump farther than any other girl in the school, Rajesh suggested her train for throwing events such as discus throw and shot put. “She had a perfect body type for throwing events. And, I was sure she could do better in those events.” 

In her first attempt, she became the champion in the school 

Niharika Puhan winning gold in CBSE cluster in 2010

He was right. After a few months of rigorous training under him, she bagged two gold medals in the throwing events in the CBSE cluster and became the first girl from the school to qualify for the National-level school championship. 

“That was the biggest breakthrough. We went for the Nationals and everyone was expecting us to win a medal there too. But, she missed the bronze medal by a whisker and secured the fourth position in the tournament. That defeat was tough for us but the response and support we got from the school and students were overwhelming. It encouraged me to work harder for my students.” 

Her victory was an inspiration for all girls in the school, and Rajesh gained respect as a coach. “Her victory opened doors for other students in the school. The participation of both girls and boys increased in the school’s sports events. Next year, she bagged a silver medal in the National Championship and two gold medals in the CBSE cluster.”

We talked to Niharika Puhan who is currently based in Delhi and working as a sports trainer in a government school. “His training is different from other coaches. Sir is a strict man and keeps you on your toes all the time. He worked twice hard than I did. I remember one time when he was trying to teach me a new technique of throwing a discus but I wasn’t getting it right. That day, he threw discus more than I did until I got the hold on the right technique. His arms swelled and he couldn’t move his hands much the next day”, said Rajesh’s first student Niharika Puhan. 

“Whatever, I’m today is because of him. I’m following his path by encouraging children to participate in sports and helping them to develop an interest in unpopular sports in India”, she added.

Victory continues with some hiccups 

(Rajesh Singh with his champion Boy’s volleyball team)

Under Rajesh’s guidance, the school gained the name in sports across the state. Every year, people looked forward to his team in various tournaments. He not only trained students in athletics but also in team games such as volleyball and basketball. Every year five to ten students qualify for the Nationals and his team continues to win the maximum medals in CBSE clusters and become its champions.

“In 2017, for the first time my volleyball team, both boys and girls became champions in the CBSE cluster”, he recalled it as one of his proudest moments. “This was a huge victory. In Nationals, our boy’s team won a bronze medal. We were all very happy.”  

This speaks a lot about his excellent training and commitment to the development of sports at the ground level. “School is the best place for students to find their interests. So, parents should allow their children to explore their options and not force them to dream something they don’t want to.”

His experience and bond with student’s parents.

Most of the time, parents are concerned about their children’s studies and want them to withdraw their names from the sporting events. “Parents of many female sportspersons are hesitant to send their daughters to other city or state for the tournament, but I convince them. My team is my responsibility regardless of their gender. They all are my sons and daughters.”   

A compliment from Arjuna Awardee, Bagicha Singh

The female athletics of Rajesh’s school were practicing in Jamshedpur’s JRD Tata sports complex when the Arjuna Awardee, Bagicha Singh came and said ‘these girls have enough potential to become an Olympian and bring laurels to the country.’

“There are many talented young sportspersons in India. If school students are trained properly and get proper guidance, we can surely see improvement in India’s Olympic tally”, he said.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a sports teacher at school?

“I feel bad when boys or girls with the potential of getting Olympic medals quit sports. Many don’t pursue sports professionally after school ends. The problem is, our society is still interested in creating doctors and engineers more than sportspersons”, he said. 

Despite all his achievements, we rarely know people like him who are trying their best to improve the condition of sports in our country at school level. 

After all, he is just a sports teacher. But, remember so was Keshav Banerjee!

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