Life, Love, and Shuttlecocks: An Interview with Arun and Arundhati, the Power Couple cum Coaches at Gopichand Academy

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Arun and Arundhati are former badminton players who are now Badminton coaches at Pullela Gopichand Academy. They married each other in January 2016 and have a son, Adharv Arun Vishnu. 

Arundhati, a former National player, has been playing since the age of 8. She represented India in Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and various other prestigious tournaments. Since 2016, she has forayed into professionally training badminton. She has been coaching National Badminton players ever since. Arun too has a number of accolades under his belt. He was No.1 in Mixed Doubles. He has bagged 5 International titles and 6 National titles, representing the country in Asian Games, Thomas Cups, BWF Championships, Asian Badminton and more. He has been coaching some of the top Indian badminton players like HS Prannoy, Chirag, and many more. The couple have been the assistant coach to Pullela Gopichand and have been pillars of strength to the rising stars.  Their job entails providing constant support and guidance to the players during the tournaments. 

Tell us how the preparation of the BWF Championship is going, which is scheduled from 21st August? 

Arun: The preparation for the BWF Championship is going great. I have been handling Women’s Mixed Doubles and  Mixed Doubles, assisting Gopi Sir. We have our good wishes with all the players and expect good results from them. Satwik and Chirag are already in Denmark and we are expecting a medal from them given their exceptional tuning, momentum with each other and their incredible performance in the previous matches. After Japan they took a break and was training with Mathias Boe. They have been consistently training and even in Denmark their practice and sessions are on. Moreover, the Japan Open and Korea Open has provided them with good confidence to perform well in BWF Championships. 

How about other players like HS Prannoy and PV Sindhu? How is preparation going for them? 

Arun: HS Prannoy has been in great form and his preparation has also been great. The main thing is that they should stay free from injury, and coaching is going well, so I feel they are in a perfect state to perform well. Sindhu has recently changed her coach, Hafiz Hashim who has been working with her for two months now and he was himself a champion. Quick results are difficult to be expected from any coaching as it requires rigorous training and time for one to adapt to the new techniques and coaching methods while switching trainers. Though we feel she will perform well in this championship as her game is strong. 

Okay so coming back to you guys, Arundhati provided us a gist in our previous session with her though we would love to have your insights as well. How did you both come together and how was it for you both?

Arun: Arundhati has been training since 2006 with Gopi Sir and I joined in 2008. Ever since we knew each other. Traveling, spending time with each other in the academy, that’s how everything started. Eventually everything started falling into place and one fine day we decided to get married to each other. 

Working together in the same field can be both exciting and challenging. How do you manage to balance your personal and professional lives? 

Arun: We try to keep our professional and personal lifes different by keeping our badminton career on the court, though we do have some discussions every now and then at times. 

If we are going through a down phase we try to help each other and use our strengths to our benefit to uplift the other one. By working as coaches, we have realized that our lives have transformed a lot over the years, where previously we used to take care of ourselves but now we are concerned about the well-being of others. We are constantly trying to come up with strategies or ways to make the players’ game better so they can perform well. 

Sharing passion for the same sport and working in the same industry do you guys also have any ‘friendly debates’ over differing coaching techniques?

Arundhati: Sometimes…as he is more of a doubles player and I am a singles player so we train our respective skills. Moreover he is with Seniors and I am with Juniors though a lot of times I take his perspective on what different coaching strategies I can implement with my players to help them perform better. 

Arun: During our time singles and doubles used to train together, where four singles and four doubles used to train together, with the coach helping both. But now things are different as individuals have started shifting early to doubles, mixed doubles or singles according to their skillset and all formats have different coaches. 

So Arundhati do you recall any time Arun might be coaching and any advice he has provided which clicked well. Same for Arun. 

Arundhati: So like I stated previously, Arun is with doubles and I am with singles players. Whenever my kids are keen on indulging in some doubles drills, I always go to him and take his help to teach my kids serve, service returns etc. He always comes and helps me and my players, providing them training and guiding them throughout. This way players are also really content as they get to learn some new insights and he is excellent at it so it shapes well for us. 

Though you guys have different domains, singles and doubles. Both have different technicalities, attacking and defense. Doubles have forward defense whereas singles you cover up the entire field on your own. What are the key challenges for players out  there trying to switch as Arun has doubles and you have singles mindset?

Arundhati: So generally what is happening is players start singles and then switch to doubles. Before switching they have explored the entire court themselves. Mostly they start with singles when they want to get into this sport at an initial stage. Like Arun said, players want to switch early to doubles like when they are 15-16 years old, by the time they know the court and strokes. With their talent we guide them towards doubles and Arun takes over. 

Arun: One needs to play singles to understand if he/she is fit for singles or doubles. Singles helps to cover the court better though it is difficult to do that starting with doubles, so it is advisable for one to start with singles. 

Badminton can be intense! How do you two unwind and leave the court behind when the day is done?

Arundhati: We don’t get much time nowadays because of our kid as most of our time goes by spending time with him. 

Arun: The time we get is around 10 when he goes to sleep when we ourselves are exhausted and go off to sleep. Sometimes we watch movies and go for lunches and dinners. 

RAPID FIRE SEGMENT

Who’s the more competitive one when you’re practicing together? Any friendly rivalries?

Arundhati: Both of us are equally competitive when we are in court. And when they play doubles together it doesn’t go well. So we stopped playing together and played against each other as we both wanted to win which is why we left our rackets at court. 

You’re both experts in the world of badminton. What’s one skill outside of coaching that your partner possesses and might surprise people?

Arundhati: He is an excellent trader and he has good knowledge of it. 

Arun: She has keen interest in literature and writes excellent poems 

Describe each other’s coaching style in one word

Arundhati: Arun is more of a quality work 

Arun: She is a mother more more than a coach 

Name your partners all-time favorite movie

Arun: She is a Marvel Fan 

Arundhati: Arun loves all Malayalam movie 

What’s your partner’s dream travel destination?

Arundhati: Maldives 

Arun: Sweden. She stayed there for two years and kept saying she wanted to return back so it’s Sweden for her. 

Your favorite Bollywood/Hollywood Actor/Actress?

Arundhati: I like Priyanka Chopra 

Arun: Dwayne Johnson 

Recommend or let us know the last books/blogs/posts etc. you find quite interesting

Arun: Gopi Sir’s book as its quite sensational and worth a read

What’s your partner’s favorite sport other than badminton?

Arundhati: Arun loves football 

Arun: She loves swimming and she swims really well. 

If your partner could switch lives with someone for a day, who would it be?

Arundhati: I feel he should switch lives with me and go through it 

Arun: Her mom I guess 

What’s the one hobby your partner would take up if she had more time?

Arun: She would start a restaurant as she loves food

Arundhati: He would do trading as he is excellent at it. 

CynergySports thanks & wishes Arun & Arundhati, a safe health & a great 2023.

Onwards & Upwards…!!

We thank you for your time & your support to the badminton community.

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