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Mr. Saurabh Mishra
Founder & Director - (Khel Mitra)

01-06-2020

Athlete Management : My perspective & Experience

It is said that Indian Athlete do not win because of the system, but despite the system. If that is the case , one can understand that job of athlete management is no lesser than a Herculean task. My experience of working with some top athletes in the country is not exception to this aphorism. For someone like me, who considers it the most fulfilling job to become the part of the struggle and to contribute to the success of those who alone have the privilege to raise the national flag on their shoulder when national anthem is played in front of the world, it’s naturally an exciting experience. However, the other side of this job is to deal with a callous system wherein complexities of procedure are as much a norm as efficiency is an exception. It’s a system which revolves around the bureaucratic inertia, administrative apathy and insensitivity of sports federations.Nevertheless, in the continuous pursuit of finding the true purpose of life, my soul is in my element with unflinching determination which far outweighs the ordeals posed by the system. Managing an athlete and that too, a world class, requires the highest level of perseverance. You have to accept both good and bad encounters with equanimity. You must have the quality of striking a captivating balance between the athlete’s comfort and obligation to various institutional stakeholders. The different aspects of athlete management , in the light of my own experience ,can be explained in following ways :

Communication Management : 

The first and foremost thing which makes an athlete uncomfortable is communication. Whether it is a correspondence through letters or via emails, sportspersons find it tedious to write or reply any formal communication. Their technological advancement is just confined to social media. Currently, I have the email ids and passwords of 4 of the top international athletes in the country.  Making the matter worse is the fact that in most of the cases I have realised that even top international Indian athletes do not have the knowledge of working and even some basic English. Moreover, filling the whereabout details on ADAMS which is essential for Doping test purpose, is another inconvenience that athletes face. Many times I have filled up such details on athletes behalf. In a recent case an international athlete was served with a notice of whereabouts failure from AIU (Athlete Integrity Unit) of WADA. Thus the implications of this simple looking process could turn out to be serious. 

Sponsorships and legal Management :

Getting sponsorships for athletes is one of the most vital requirement in athlete management. For an average international athlete, its still a distant dream to become a brand ambassador of a multinational company. Given the fact that sports has become expensive and support from government or federations is not sufficient for the most of athletes, you will have to push the envelope to generate funds usually from CSR to fulfil the training requirement of athletes.If such efforts bear fruits, athletes being unaware of technical know-how of agreements and contracts, it becomes the responsibility of manager to take care of such things. In some cases, I had actually negotiated the terms of contract in order to make it more favourable for the athletes. If your athlete happens to face doping charges, you need to stand by him like solid rock and mage his all legal affairs.

Logistics and Event Management :

To fulfil the day-to-day requirement of an athlete may not be the job of an athlete manager but in my case it was as much important to do as other things in view of the fact that I was closely involved with top athletes in the run up to the most important event of their lives – Olympics. So I had to ensure that athlete did not get to indulge in anything which engenders any aberration in his daily routine. For , during the preparation of a competition, athlete’s life does not move beyond the distance between his resident to training place.

Training Management :

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say that it is the most onerous part of athlete management. Especially in India, where athletes lack the understanding of nuances of world class training, techniques and diet ; athlete manager has to build a proper team ,which includes coach, physical and conditioning trainer, dietician, psychological expert and others. Given the fact that there is no institution in India providing world class sports science expertise, it becomes an arduous task for managers to ensure availability of these things.Apart from these, you would be doing one of the most gruelling works in India if you are dealing with Babus and officials of ministry and federations. I have the most hands on experience of running from pillar to post for many months to get sanction for training of my athlete and to get funds released for the same. Many times I felt totally frustrated to the extent of crying alone and letting these things bother to my athlete. I witnessed all the ills associated with this oppressive system and came to know exactly why India do not win many medals in Olympics.

Health Management :

Contrary to general perception, the body of an athlete is more sensitive than that of common people. So in order to stave off any potential disease or injury, the athlete manager needs to keep himself on his toes in assisting the athlete because a simple disease can put the athlete behind few weeks on his training schedule. Moreover, a simple injury, if not taken care of properly, may result in complete rest from several months to years and to the extent of ending the career of the athlete.With India ranks 3 rd in doping, both intentional and unintentional, dietary planning becomes extremely important. In view of the fact that there is no institutional mechanism in the country whereby an athlete can secure a dope free highly beneficial food supplements, the manager needs to be fastidious. He needs to coordinate with all the stakeholders and give an impeccable consultation and sometimes procurement of supplements to the athlete. A bit of carelessness may lead to an untimely death of his career.

PR and Media Management :

In a country obsessed with cricket, it’s a challenging task to find space in newspapers, not to speak of tv. I remember visiting the offices of various media houses and requesting them to give small coverage for my athletes when they won medals. PR and media management is directly related to brand building exercise of athlete which in turn helps add value in the brand of athletes. It was one of the main reasons by which I managed to get a handsome amount for my athlete through crowdfunding. Moreover, PR exercise is crucial for damage control if any negative news related to athletes spreads. In this regard social media presence is also of significant value which makes way for the athlete to get the status of celebrity.

Personal Management :

If you are residing with an athlete, you need to ensure that not even a single thing should bother an athlete. You just don’t have to take care of every aspect of sports life but many times you need to stand behind him like a pillar to support him emotionally as well. As athletes lead a very disciplined life and even the slightest of things have the potential to make him angry. Many times you will have to tolerate the illogical whims of the athletes. He can take the toughest test of your patience. The fall and rise in the life of an athlete are bound to occur. You need to motivate him consistently if his daily training schedule does not go as per the planning our wish. This responsibility turns many folds if he doesn’t perform well
in the competitions.

Conclusion :

They say that sports do not build character, they reveal it. As per my experience, they reveal the character of the athlete manager as well. Athlete management is not one of the easiest things to do in this world. It takes a lot of patience, perseverance , empathy and understanding ,etc. You must be well rounded person and not let the little things bother you. You need to be responsible for your actions and keep up to date on different events. In one line, I can say that the role of an athlete manager is like an umbrella. You need to protect your athlete from the rains of worldly obstacles to minimise his struggle in his journey to the success as much as possible.

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