From Jaspal Rana guiding the next generation of India's promising shooters to Sjoerd Marijne rediscovering his mojo with the women's hockey team, here are the nominees for the Coach of the Year award.
As a bunch of young Indian shooters had a breakout year on the international stage in 2018, some of the credit must go to national junior shooting coach Jaspal Rana. The Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medallist has had a hand in shaping the careers of Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary, Anish Bhanwala and Adarsh Singh. Rana believes in lessening some of the pressure on young shooters. "You don't need to coach them too much," he says about his work with the junior shooters. "They are already capable of winning medals at the big stage. Your job is to keep them grounded." He has largely succeeded in that.
Massimo Costantini's second stint as the national coach from 2016 onwards -- his first ended in 2010 -- completely turned things around for India's table tennis players. At the Commonwealth Games, India won gold in the men's and women's team events and Manika Batra won the women's singles title. At the Asian Games, India won a TT medal for the first time. The men's team also finished tied-13th at the World Team Championships -- their best-ever performance.
One big difference Costantini made was in bringing the team together, which had an especially positive impact on the men. "For the women, his camps made a huge difference since almost no one trains abroad," former Olympian Neha Aggarwal told ESPN. World No. 28 G Sathiyan says his planning was impeccable. After Costantini resigned due to personal reasons in September, India is now on the lookout for a coach who can build on his good work.
Indian players were not able to match their heroics of 2017 -- when they won seven Superseries singles titles between them -- last year, but they remain among the most respected ones on the badminton circuit. The lone big title win, PV Sindhu's at the World Tour Finals, was not enough for fans whose expectations keep going up each year -- thanks to the standards set by the trainees at national coach Pullela Gopichand's academy in Hyderabad. The proven success of the systems put in place by Gopichand and the players' past performances mean it is only fair to expect big things from Indian badminton in the immediate and near future.
Randhir Singh Sehrawat
One of the standout coaches in the world of Indian kabaddi, Randhir Singh Sehrawat took Bengaluru Bulls to their first PKL title in 2018. Bengaluru's Pawan Kumar Sehrawat, the star of the PKL 6 final against Gujarat Fortunegiants, credited Randhir's strategic nous for the team's win and said the coach's trust in his abilities made a big difference to his performance. Despite Pawan's slightly below-par form in previous seasons, Randhir asked him to go all out during raids all season. The approach, which also allowed the Rohit Kumar to concentrate on his captaincy, clicked all too well for the Bulls.
Removed as coach of the Indian men's hockey team after they could not win a medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Sjoerd Marijne made a good fist of his next job. With him at the helm, India's women's team made it to the World Cup quarterfinals (losing to Ireland on penalties) and then reached the final of the Asian Games after 20 years. Though the team lost to Japan in the final in Jakarta -- thus missing out on direct qualification for the 2020 Olympics -- they seemed to have turned things around finally. Marijne's approach of making players take a bigger role in tactical planning will now face its biggest test as they seek to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
Vijay Kumar Sharma
India's nine weightlifting medals -- among them five golds -- at the 2018 Commonwealth Games proved the benefits of the modern methods followed by head coach Vijay Sharma over the past few years. One of the things Sharma did was set up individualized training programmes for each lifter at national camps -- a huge change from the one-size-fits-all approach largely followed before him. Though Indian weightlifters disappointed at the Asian Games later in the year -- former world champion Mirabai Chanu could not take part because of an injury -- Sharma's work with them should ensure they deliver stronger performances in the future.