For thirty years, Dr P Nagarajan has been scouting talent from the remotest of villages in the State, and this has seen his club, the St Joseph’s Prime Sports Academy, rack up championship after championship over the years. He has almost been a father figure to many of the most successful athletes from the State, and according to him, scouting and nurturing talent has to be a long-term plan.
“There is an abundance of talent in India, especially in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. And our duty is to spot such youngsters and give them the right guidance. But that doesn’t mean one trains them for three months and stops there. Such a process is long-term, and it’s up to coaches like us to make sure we take them under our wings and direct them in the right path.”
Nagarajan says girls from backward areas are especially talented, but social stigma forces them away from sports. “This is a big problem in rural areas. We have seen many girls who have the aptitude and talent for sport, but India is a patriarchal society. Most families in such areas just want to marry the girls off, and feel sport is not suited for women. This has to change in a big way,” he stresses.
He started the Prime Sports Academy in 1999, and some of his current wards include national record holder, long jumper K Premkumar and SAG 110m hurdles gold medallist Gayathri Govindaraj. Both have come from poor families.
“I picked up Prem after watching him at a school event in Thanjavur. Since we are both from the same area, we connected instantly, and he agreed to come to Chennai and join my club. Gayathri has been with me for almost 15 years,” Nagarajan says.
He also feels lack of a proper ground in Chennai is a major drawback. “Despite having many national-level athletes, the city does not have a proper ground. Nehru Stadium has the required facilities, but only recently have we been able to use it.”
As Rio Olympics approach, Nagarajan will be a busy man, but one does hope he and his wards (whoever makes the final cut), can make a good impression!