Coronavirus lockdown has confined young kids inside the four walls of their homes and they are finding it hard to keep up with their day-to-day sporting activities. One such case of that of nearly 30 young footballers, who have been missing their weekend 4:00PM football coaching sessions by Sanjeet Sen.
Despite the COVID-19 lockdown regulations in place, All India Football Federation (AIFF) certified coach Sen has found a way to coach his students - through video conferencing.
Video conferencing is being used extensively by various organisations during this lockdown period for discussions and fitness drills but Sanjeet is giving complete training to his students by the means of video call.
Sanjeet began coaching two teams of U-11 and U-16 girls and boys in his apartment complex in Gurugram two years ago and then took his project to another level by taking a D-level coach certification from the AIFF.
Sanjeet decided to take his lessons into the virtual world with Microsoft Teams to help his students stay engaged.
"I decided to begin virtual football coaching classes to keep the kids engaged in these difficult times, but the response I have received is phenomenal," Sen said.
With Sanjeet's students talking about his virtual classes to their friends and families, he now has children from Kolkata, Mumbai and Bengaluru joining in the session.
"When normalcy is restored, I might even consider opening a virtual football academy alongside a physical one in the future. Who knows?" Sen exclaimed.
HOW DO THE CLASSES WORK?
Sanjeet has devised specialised warm-up exercises for the kids to perform them in confined spaces. On the video call, he monitors the children to ensure they are doing them right. The kids use the cameras of their devices to point at their feet to show the exercises to their coach.
He further worked on planning a format for the classes in order to keep them engaging for kids. He divided the class into four sections - Orientation session where he plays videos related to the theme of the class, a round of warm-up exercises, a session on theoretical aspects of the game and concludes it with a quiz or competition.
"We had to improvise a lot with warm-up exercises. For ball mastery movements like toe-taps, pendulum moves and dribbling, the kids use objects that are easily available at home like bottles and shoes instead of cones and markers," Sen explained.
Due to lockdown, Sanjeet has been able to invite guest speakers like Vaibhav Joshi, the team manager for the U-17 Women's National Team, and Geoff Wilson, a sports strategist, who has consulted organisations like FIFA, UEFA, FIBA, and Barca Innovation Hub, to inspire his students.
"Listening to the experiences and learnings of noted footballers creates a lasting impression on their young minds. I hope this will inspire them to improve their techniques when they play matches on the field again," he said.
Even the parents of the children attending the virtual lessons were impressed by the efforts of Sanjeet.
"Playing a physical team sport alone is not easy. But the classes are engaging and there's some light-hearted competition as well. Practice continuity is what matters most now," Subhadip Saha, a parent, said.
He said that the virtual classes had given his 10-year-old son Rayan Sarkar Saha a reason to look forward to weekends. "He gets to meet all his friends in one place. So much is still the same: birthday celebrations continue - and there are penalties for latecomers here as well."