Published: 09th July 2020
Hailing from the famed Siddi tribe, why young runner Shweta already wants to be a coach
What does it mean to be a women coach for athletes in India? Shweta Siddi, a middle-distance runner is training to become a coach at Bridges of Sports Centre in Mundgod
When Shweta Siddi started competitive running at the age of ten, it was beyond her parents' wildest dreams that she would one day want to become an athletics coach. Coming from a humble family in Bilki, located 30 kilometres away from Mundgod in Karnataka, Shweta is a state-level middle-distance runner who is currently training to become a coach at one of the centres started by Bridges of Sports, a non-profit organisation that provides underprivileged children a platform to pursue a career in sports. Shweta, who has been training with Bridges of Sports for more than three years, says, "I started running when I was ten years old and did it without shoes too. With my capacity to run and perform well in sports, I was selected by the Alva's College of Physical Education and Sports in Moodbidri. I trained there for a while and decided to return to my hometown when I got to know that there was a new sports club being set up close by. That's how I came upon Bridges of Sports."
It was here that Shweta, who has participated in various state-level and national-level events, decided to start training to become a coach to train young and aspiring athletes like herself. She says, "There are fewer women coaches to train athletes in India and that's why I want to become one." But there is something more that makes Shweta becoming a coach extra special. From her last name, it is obvious that she belongs to the Siddi community. What you probably didn't know is that they are descendants of the Bantu tribe from Southeast Africa, brought to India as slaves by the Portuguese, and who settled in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. "Coming from the Siddi community, helping other athletes, including those from my own village, represent India is a big deal for me and it is a matter of pride for my community," says the 19-year-old.
This young coach starts her day at 5:30 in the morning, she goes to the ground to help other athletes practice. "Training athletes involves training them to change the way they breathe to get a maximum amount of oxygen to their muscles. Then, of course, there are core exercises that can make them strong so that they can apply more force when they run. In the hostel, it is my duty to ensure that everybody gets the right nutrition. Runners of various categories have different nutritional requirements. For instance, a middle-distance runner like myself needs more carbohydrates and fats, while a sprinter needs more carbohydrates and nutrients," explains Shweta who keeps a strict check on the athletes' food requirements.
Shweta, who is a first-year Bachelor of Arts student at Mundgod Government Junior College, has been able to beat her own track records with rigorous training. She tells us more, "Earlier, it took me 110 seconds to complete 400 metres on the track. But with rigorous practice and intense training over the years, I am able to run the 400 metres in 60 seconds. There are different running styles and each style has a particular technique to cover the specified distance in the shortest time. It is the coach that helps the athlete achieve this through their training." The athletes at the Bridges of Sports' Mundgod centre began training only a few days ago. Shweta says that she is waiting for more kids to return to the track. "As per the government's guidelines, all the children went home due to the pandemic and the lockdown. We hope that they will be back soon to continue their training," she concludes.