New Delhi, July 27 : Stressing that he is looking forward to building an attractive, energetic, and intense football side, former English footballer, Ashley Westwood, who recently came on board as the Head Coach of I league club RoundGlass Punjab Football Club (RGPFC), tells IANS, "In this role, I am looking to provide the team with the highest level of coaching and technical analysis along with good tactical awareness. I am keen on establishing our side as a strong contender in this season's I-League." Adding that his major focus areas will be establishing a style of play that is high intensity, this graduate of Manchester United Academy, says, "I am sure our fans will come to love that. Focus will be on further developing the players that we have and creating opportunities for our brightest academy players. I will ensure that the club builds upon its strong debut season last year." Talk to him about the importance of football clubs and the lack of the same in India, the Bridgnorth-born says, "Yes, professional clubs are definitely important. Investment in building better infrastructure in India is crucial. The more professional clubs/academies we have, the more people will be exposed to the game from a young age." With a view to spot talent early on, Westwood feels that the key is to give a chance to children between ages four and six to play so as to gauge if they enjoy a particular sport. "If you don't enjoy it, then you can't play that sport for long. So, it is important to spot kids who are enthusiastic about it from an early age. From there, you just have to give them the right platform, coaching, and facilities to build their skills and capabilities." Adding that sports clubs and academies not only play an important role in talent spotting, but also nurture young talent by providing the necessary facilities and guidance needed to develop skills and build great players, he says, "Academies and clubs also focus on developing the basic fundamental and psychological skills of young players to improve their performance, which, in turn, helps shape them for the future." In a country like India where not many parents encourage children to take up sports professionally, Westwood feels that considering the fact that participation in sports is an important part of a child's physical and mental growth, it must be encouraged from a young age. "It's important that parents support their children in their career choices. If they see that their child is enthusiastic about football, they should let them take up the professionally. Also, I feel It is also important to educate parents on the importance of sports and how it helps build a healthy lifestyle, self-confidence, and improves leadership skills." Westwood, who was the Head Coach for Bangalore FC says that it was a great learning experience, something that will help him in his current assignment. "It was my first coaching stint in India, and it went very well. My vision is to take RGPFC to greater heights building on its strong start last season," he concludes.
(Sukant Deepak can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)