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What it takes to become a World No.1 like Saina Nehwal

History was created in March 2015 when Saina Nehwal became the first ever Indian woman to reach the coveted No.1 spot in the World Badminton Rankings after her win at the Indian Open Super Series, creating a formidable legacy in her chosen sport of badminton and inspiring countless young kids who aspire to tread on her footprints.  
Gone are the days when playing sports was considered just a pastime, as strong performers are now being identified early on to train specifically in their chosen sport to bring laurels for themselves and their country. 
For all those parents whose kids have set their heart on acing their badminton game and playing a good set at a professional level, remember to impart the following advice to budding sports stars- “Set your goals high, and don’t stop until you get there” , famous words spoken by Bo Jackson, famous American All Star athlete.
As the lady of the hour Saina Nehwal famously said “Intelligence with grit is the key to winning a tournament. Some people have this attitude more compared to others. It is natural.” 
If you feel your child “naturally” has what it takes to make it big in badminton and or any other sport, follow these simple steps for a great start in their journey towards the World No.1 position:-
1)    Encourage Development of Motor Skills- Right from the time your child is a toddler, encourage physical play through simple activities like playing catch, riding bikes, swimming, etc.
2)    Let them show you what they are good at- Give kids unstructured time to play outdoors and enjoy. This gives them a natural exposure to a variety of activities and people and helps them to find the ones that are most fun for them while creating good, lasting friendships on and off the playing field.
3)    Early on, try to identify what your child is excelling at but don’t try to live your sports dreams through your child. Cheer your child on in the sports they like to play.
4)    Once you have figured out that your child has a natural talent in a particular sport, enrol them in the sports skill enhancement and training programs with reputed teachers to start their training process.
5)    Help your child build an athletic identity in the sport of their choice. Tell them about famous sportspersons in their chosen sport, like Saina Nehwal and Pulela Gopichand in badminton, Sachin Tendulkar in cricket, etc. 
6)    Knowledge is Power-Encourage them to read about these famous sportspersons and their extraordinarily disciplined lifestyles that worked towards making them successful in their choice of sport to instil an early sense of discipline in your budding sport star’s life. 
7)    Rigorous training sessions, especially during early morning hours are the norm in pro-sports, help your child develop the enormous amount of motivation and self discipline to stay focused. 
8)    Help children to understand that in playing any sport, their control over three variables is the key for their success- their level of effort in learning and playing, how much they learn from experiences, and how they respond to mistakes.
9)    Teach young sports men and women about the power of resilience in sport, and instead of being afraid of making mistakes, how they can bounce back from them. 
10)    Encourage healthy living and healthy eating habits to maximise energy levels on and off court amongst kids. If kids are serious about pro-sports, nutritionists can be consulted to aid in formulating diet plans specific for child athletes. 
Most importantly, as parents, be prepared to live out your child’s sports dream. Try and achieve a balance between kids who are trying to establish their identity in the world of sports, coaches and trainers who are looking to get the best out of their students, and you as parents who understandably have a natural anxiety about your kids being successful and happy with the choice that they have made.  
In the end, quote Micheal Jordan- “Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” And that’s the long, short and wide of how to help your child get started on the journey towards the World No.1 spot like Saina Nehwal!

– By Namrata Sadhvani


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