A Tribute to Coaches, The Man Who Trained Stalwart Like Mary Kom

A Tribute to Coaches, The Man Who Trained Stalwart Like Mary Kom

Ibomcha and Mary Kom

Pic Credit: Yahoo News

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

– Timothy Gallwey


It’s Monday, 9th May 2004. My summer vacations have just started and so has the summer sports camp. Somehow getting up in the morning to go to school to just play football turns out to be much easier than getting up to go to school to study. I reach the school playground by 6:30 AM and take pride in the fact that I must be the first one to reach. I go to the sports room to take all the required training equipment, but to my surprise, it has already been taken out. Then I reach the football court to see that my coach, Chinmoy Mahato, is already setting up various drills.

For anyone reading this article, Chinmoy Mahato is not an important name. It does not bear any importance. But for me, he will always be the person who laid the foundation for my deep and profound love for the beautiful game. The above incident made me realize for the first time how important a coach is to a sportsperson and how hard it is being a coach. They are the first one to reach and the last one to leave. For an individual, it is only about their skill. For a coach, it is about all the pupils they train. An individual has to focus only on improving themselves, a coach has to focus on improving everyone. They teach their students to respect the game, the equipment, the playground, the officials and the opponents. They show faith in you when no one else would. They laugh with you, they cry with you, they suffer with you. And they are the ones who are the most proud and happy when you succeed.

The quote at the beginning very aptly sums up the importance of a coach. India won a total of 66 medals comprising of 26 golds, 20 silvers and 20 bronzes. One of those gold medals was won by Mary Kom in Women’s light flyweight 48 kg. The Commonwealth Games was the last major international sporting event at which she had not won a medal. But that was primarily because this was the first edition of the games she was participating in. Magnificent Mary has come a long way since winning her first World Amateur Boxing championship in 2002. Since then, she has been trained by many different coaches but arguably, the most important coach in her career has been L. Ibomcha Singh. So let’s talk about Ibomcha, someone you have probably only heard of in passing, yet whose students have given Indians many a reason to be proud and happy.

Ibomcha was himself a passionate boxer and a bronze medallist at the 1981 National Games. Like any other sportsperson, he also harbored the dream of representing his nation internationally and win medals at the biggest competitions. His dream was about to come true when he was selected for the national squad for the President’s Cup in Jakarta in 1996 but in highly dramatic fashion, Ibomcha was informed just 50 minutes before boarding his flight that he was not a part of the squad anymore. To compound his misery, no reason was stated. Most of us would have been so heartbroken that we would have given up boxing for good, but not Ibomcha. He told himself, “So what if I couldn’t become an international boxer? I will produce boxers of such high caliber that no selector in the country will be able to ignore or sideline them like they did with me”.

His dedication to training his students verged on obsession, but it was this grit that saw him produce champion boxers like Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Dingko Singh, Suranjoy Singh and Devendro Singh. His pupils have made India proud at the biggest competitions around the world and won numerous medals for the country. His great contribution to Indian boxing was recognized with a Dronacharya Award in 2010.

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No wonder Ibomcha enjoys a demi-god status in his home state of Manipur. We salute Ibomcha for his raw grit, determination and congratulate him for his glittering career and wish that his pupils continue to do what they do best.

– Aman Singhal, with inputs from Ariba Khan.