Vijay Divecha – Champions are not made in the gym

Vijay Divecha was very impressed with the performance of Anirban Lahiri in last week's Presidents Cup

Vijay Divecha with his boys

October 03, 2017: Vijay Divecha is one of the pre-eminent golf gurus in India. The success of his wards has served to underline his abilities to bring the best out of his students. Divecha toggles between Bengaluru and Ahmedabad as he endeavours to shape the stories that define Indian golf.

In this exclusive conversation, Anand Datla caught up with Divecha. Read on and enjoy this conversation filled with insights and wisdom from India’s premier golf guru.

GI: It was a performance that reminded the world about the heart and spirit of Anirban Lahiri. When did you first notice this grit and determination in the golfer?
Divecha: It was indeed great to see his play at the President’s Cup. His ability, character and commitment have never been in question – right from the start. As a junior, Anirban was not necessarily considered very talented. However, through his hard work and dedication he has developed himself into a talented player. This requires a belief in oneself and that is what I noticed in him. Over the years we have also added to these basic work ethics by ensuring that we develop not just our skill sets but also our mindsets. I noticed these qualities in him as a junior.
GI: What is the kind of role you have played in shaping and sharpening these instincts in Anirban Lahiri?
Divecha: My role as a coach had to go beyond just swing or skill sets. Over the years young sportsmen require guidance on many fronts and it has to be provided. The guidance may be on life balance, on financial management, on values, on communication skills, etc. The role I have played is a question that should be asked to Anirban. Having said that, I think his performance and conduct should speak for the years of work we have put in. And an important part of what you see is the values he has learned from his parents- that is a huge contribution to what you are seeing today.
GI: What do you think makes Anirban such a wonderful team player in an individual sport like golf?
Divecha: Anirban makes friends very easily. Team Championships do bring out the best in people and boundaries are broken and friendships formed in that kind of environment. I think Anirban likes to feel part of something bigger than himself and that probably brings out the team spirit in him. He likes to play his best for the team and it means a lot to him.
GI: You have always spoken about values being just as important, if not more, as skills. Can you please elaborate on the lessons you teach your golfers?
Divecha: Skill sets are important – BUT Champions are not made in the gym – as the greatest champion of them all Mohammed Ali said and lived his entire life proving it by his actions. Champions are made in the mind first. They have an inherent sense of their destiny and where they will go. Obviously they are not born with it — it is developed during their journey. This journey of development, work ethic, dedication, belief, commitment, and many other areas which lead to better performance is what we work on.
For example, practice is an area which is extremely important in the development of a player. What you practice, how you practice, is your practice leading to any learning, is it leading to any change in your current ability level, can it be measured, are all part of the journey towards developing yourself into becoming A GOOD LEARNER- if there is one attribute I imbibe in all my students it is this. Every experience is an opportunity to learn. Having learned one has to take it forward. The other values of becoming a good human being and an ambassador for the game is a responsibility you carry.
All my students are also developing their mindsets. Fixed mindsets are restrictive and growth mindsets put you on the journey of developing yourself into becoming a lifetime learner. This is one of the values that I enable my students with.
In essence all these areas lead to deep learning.
YOU ARE THE MASTER OF YOUR DESTINY – is my underlying message to all my students.
GI: This has been an agonising season for Anirban. Brilliant one day and then burdened on the next. How do you think he can manage to find the consistency he needs to do justice to his talent?
Divecha: To a large extent what you say is true. Moving to USA and the PGA Tour is a huge move. Playing amongst the best players in the world is something that one has to adjust to. The schedule is punishing and a small injury can become a setback to your journey. However, he has now overcome these things and is taking the learning forward. We don’t look at it as agonising, though agonising it may seem, we are understanding the journey forward. Mr.Jack Nicklaus gave Anirban some very good advise and we are going to follow his advise in the coming season.
Anirban is a guy who wants to perform well all the time and I think he has realised that it was putting too much pressure on his performance. He has learned from this and I am certain you will be seeing a different Anirban during the coming season.
GI: Who are the golfers you are working with full time now?
Divecha: Anirban Lahiri, Chikkarangappa, Udayan Mane are the ones you have already heard about. The ones you have not heard about you will hear about because of their performance. I would not like to name them because it would put too much pressure on them. Anirban was also someone who was not known when we started working- you heard about him when he started performing.
I have many full time students that I work with at The Kalhaar Blues and Greens Golf Club in Ahmedabad. The environment is one where development is a key element and learning is the result. I set very high standards for my students and I am committed to each and everyone of them. I personally nurture them and do not use assistants. The environment also enables the senior players to share with the younger players and that is one of the unique things that we have created over the years.
The younger students get to see and play with senior players and that is a huge part of their journey.
GI: Among the juniors have you seen some new talent that excites you and brings hope for greater success in Indian golf?
Divecha: I cannot answer this question. All my students excite me.


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