Jwala Gutta's initiative brings back badminton's first Dronacharya coach SM Arif

Written by: Sujata Sarkar
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Hyderabad, June 6: Syed Mohammed Arif was the first coach to win the prestigious Dronacharya award in Indian badminton.

In his last 40 years of coaching, Arif has managed at least 150 international players. He had retired from full-time coaching in 2004.

File photo: From left: S.M Arif, Ashwini Ponnappa, Jwala Gutta and family

He worked as the coach of Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Hyderabad and Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium which was the cradle of making badminton players like Pullela Gopichand, Saina Nehwal and even Sai Praneeth who won the Thailand Open championship three days ago and now trains at the Gopichand Academy.

After a span of 13 years, SM Arif is back again as a full-time coach. This time, the initiative has been taken by his another renowned student Jwala Gutta.

Gutta has launched 'center of excellence’ of badminton recently in Hyderabad and she has brought the 74-year old coach back to her badminton training school as a mentor.

Arif said from Hyderabad on Monday: “It was not that I completely quit the game after retiring from my job at SAI 13 years ago.

"I used to visit at Lal Bahadur Shastri stadium and watch the kids and youngsters training under the current coaches of SAI.

"Even sometime, someone came to me for advice and I did not hesitate to offer them suggestions. But I had made myself away from full-time coaching which I had done for around 40 years without interruption.

"Anyway, I could not turn down Jwala’s repeated requests to join her centre of excellence and joined there as the mentor.”

Along with training the boys and girls of under-17 age group Arif also takes coaches education programme there in the school.

He revealed, “There are around six coaches in the centre of excellence and I also provide training on modern coaching there.”

But all apart, Arif, after having produced Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta has found a new talent while resuming his second innings as coach.

She is 17-year old Ira Sharma who has already created a sensation by the being the junior national champion last year. Arif says, “She will make India proud one day like Saina and Sindhu.”

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