One direction, maximum output: Bernard's mantra

Having travelled thousands of miles to become the country's high-performance director recently, the Irishman feels he has 'probably done a little bit more than stepping outside his comfort zone.
Indian Boxing High Performance Director Bernard Dunne during a training session at NIS, Patiala | BFI
Indian Boxing High Performance Director Bernard Dunne during a training session at NIS, Patiala | BFI

CHENNAI: There is a genuine sense of excitement in Bernard Dunne's voice while talking about the boxing talent in India. Having travelled thousands of miles to become the country's high performance director recently, the Irishman feels he has 'probably done little bit more than stepping outside my comfort zone'. However, the lure of the job was too much for him to turn down. Now, he's ready to embrace the new culture and 'maximise' boxers' potentials.

"I was looking for a new challenge and I like to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. I have probably done little bit more than stepping outside my comfort zone on this one (taking up an Indian role), I think I have taken a big jump... I was excited as soon as the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) made contact with me because I have worked with Indian boxing on numerous occasions in terms of training camps. They have come to my country on numerous occasions. We have worked together in Italy, Germany. I was aware of the talent that they have," he said to this daily in an interaction organised by the BFI, the governing body of the sport in the country.

Bernard himself was an elite operator during his active years. Nicknamed the Dublin Dynamo, he is a former WBA super bantamweight champion. More recently, he was associated with the Irish Athletic Boxing Association, helping shape the careers of elite boxers out there. Currently in NSNIS Patiala, he's not looking to make drastic changes in his early days. His goal is to ensure that everyone — athletes, coaches and support staff — are on the same page.

"For me, a lot of it is about observation. It's not about changing things, it's probably about enhancing them, maybe just moving directions a little bit. You've got good athletes, hard-working athletes, you've extremely hard working coaches, you've a support team that wants to use all its expertise to give the athletes every opportunity to shine. If I get those fully aligned, we'll be moving in the same direction. All of a sudden I can see the potential in the system, where everybody is rolling in the same direction. Sometimes the hard work has to be pulled back and just managed," he noted.

In terms of individuals, the 42-year-old wants his wards to have clarity in their minds, understand themselves better. "One of the things that I try to instill in my athletes is that they understand themselves, understand what it is that made them who they are, what it is from the family perspective to be here. Performing at this level, being at national camp, you have achieved an extremely high level of performance (...) So what is it that got you here, what it is that we can help to further your development. How can we fine-tune those one or two skills that you're really good at," he said."Outside of the ring, I look for honesty, I look for accountability. As much as I'm the leader of this (team), it's the athletes' career. The athlete must be accountable for it, because it's their life (...)"

It's barely been a week since he officially took charge and he's encouraged by what he has seen in Patiala. He has been taking notes and is hopeful that the boxers can make a good early impression during the upcoming Asian Championships in Amman, Jordan. "It's incredible to see the talent in this group and the team that is going to the Asian Championships. It's also incredible to look at the team that is not going for that meet. That's the thing that really excites me, there's an abundance of talent, but we just need to ensure that we get our planning and preparations right in terms of what's important in the next two years."

The BFI put faith in him so that he can turn those talents into world-beaters. Bernard is aware of the demands. "I'll have a bit of time when I come back from the Asian Championships. I will sit down with the BFI, my coaching team and the support staff. What kind of future do we want and we want to work on that. Right now, my focus is helping the athletes that's going to the Asian Championships, help them maximize their performance."

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