Indian Sports needs an ecosystem that can open up employment opportunities for sports management and sports science graduates and empower sports through technology integration thereby boosting the startup culture and business around sports.

Amol Patil, our next pathbreaker, Academic Registrar at Sportz Next, aims to disrupt Sports Education through establishment of India’s first Sports EdTech, by creating a holistic education program along with industry collaboration so that the students can have practical skills and experience while working in the high performance domain.

Amol talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about starting his career as Sports Physician & Wellness Consultant with the Indian National Boxing Team, taking up the role of Consultant Advisor to Mission Olympic Cell, and moving on to work on bigger challenges of figuring out tech-based solutions for sports that that focus on sports performance, talent scouting and athletic management to shape up future stars in sports management and sports performance sciences. 

For students, a career in sports sciences might look glamorous, but once you enter this field, you will realize that the bars are set too high, and you have to be highly skilled and knowledgeable about many aspects of sports in order to win the trust of players, coaches and federation officials.

Amol, Your background?

As a young boy, I grew up in a very open environment where my parents were always supportive to explore new ideas and often encouraged me to take up different activities that included dramatics, debate, extempore speech, sports etc. I was a state level swimmer by then and have won many medals in local tournaments. My father being an Orthopedician with a hospital of his own, naturally wished that I should take up medicine for my graduation and then continue his legacy. On the other hand, I wanted to be a self-made person and was looking for an identity. Early in my teens I had established myself as a swimmer and a boy doing well in school academics. Though my analytical skills were very good, I wasn’t that good in mathematics and this ruled out my engineering options. Therefore, the next best choice that I had was medicine which opened the door to many opportunities.

What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?

I completed my MBBS from Grant Medical College. Then I did post-graduation at Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports in the field of Sports Medicine. I have also done Masters in Sports Sciences & High Performance from UCAM, Spain.

What made you choose an offbeat career in Sports Medicine?

After completing my MBBS came the big question – What next ? My father desired that I take up General Medicine as he believed that I was good with differential diagnosis and clinical examination. On the other hand, I had several thoughts after completion of my internship. I liked the musculoskeletal part of Orthopaedics but hated the road accidents and trauma, as they significantly affect quality of life and you spend more time managing patients. After a lot of brainstorming, I finally had a career option – Sports Medicine, that combined my interests – musculoskeletal problems, medicine and sports, with a practice mostly outside the hospital and no emergency. So, I did a post-graduation in Sports Medicine. As I entered this field, I realized that the bars are too high as you have to be highly skilled and knowledgeable about many aspects of sports sciences for the performance improvement of athletes, and sports injuries is just a small segment. Further, sports specific understanding is much required for a successful career. So, I had to further complete Masters in Sports Science & High Performance with more certifications for various skills required for the job.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

After doing my specialization in Sports Medicine, I wanted to pursue a career in Sports Sciences and therefore, I enrolled for a master’s program while starting my private practice in Patiala. 

It takes time for one’s practice to flourish and after about 2-3 months I started having a flow of patients mainly for their musculoskeletal problems. Good results and effective communication helped me set foot in the field and I had plans to shape my own program for lifestyle problems. 

It was December of 2016, when I had an offer to join the Indian Boxing Team as their Team Doctor. Initially I wasn’t willing as I had just begun my practice and it was going well. But destiny has its own way. I was kind of forced or morally kidnapped by some of the prominent figures in the field of Boxing, and reluctantly joined the team. We moved to Delhi for the national camp and that changed my course.

I was posted with the women’s team that had legends like MC Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, etc. The initial period is not easy for any newcomer. Therefore, it took me almost 3 to 4 months to settle down and win the trust of players and that duration wasn’t easy. Each day was a new battle where I had to prove to the world that I know my stuff and I am good at it. The sports ecosystem is  altogether a different ball game. It’s a glamorous world where many people want to take credit for the successes and especially the medical and science side, which is starving to jump on any available opportunity. And this was one of the reasons for my initial tough time.

Post August 2017, things started moving well. I had established myself as Team Doctor of the team and started working with authority, as by that time I had gained popularity amongst the players and coaches, which is quite essential. Then came the 2018 Common Wealth Games where I was the Contingent Doctor for India and many other World and Asian Championships where our team had excellent results like never before.

In due course of time, I was nominated as Consultant to Mission Olympic Cell and Scientific Advisor for Boxing Federation of India for national camps and Khelo India centers. The Sports Mission Olympic Cell looks after the welfare of probable Olympic athletes of India. I was on a career high. 

Just before the Tokyo Olympics, it so happened that my wife who was pursuing her MCh at AIIMS Rishikesh wanted me to come back as Covid had forced me to stay away from her in bio-bubbles and she felt alone at home. It was the end of March and I decided to quit the team and move to Rishikesh with my wife and explore something new. I always wanted to explore the performance segment in sports which involved innovative application of methods and technologies. This shift gave me that time and space to pursue my heart by venturing outside my comfort zone. 

This was the turning point and I joined a group of like-minded people to create something different and groomed the educational vertical by the name Sportz Next in order to impart quality and skill based education, with industry integration, for empowering the young resources of this country so they have the right know-how for the jobs they are seeking in the sports ecosystem.

At the same time, we realized that Football is the next big sport in India and conceptualised Global Soccer Conclave – a platform for bringing all stakeholders to discuss the ideas and ways for empowering the ecosystem by bridging gaps. Startup culture had just started to evolve in the country and we felt that sports technology is the backbone for future development and we conceptualized the innovation arm by the name Global Sports Innovation Hub to find sustainable technology solutions for better sports performance and experiences for strengthening our sports ecosystem.

Thus, it’s a journey from a Medical Doctor to a Scientific Advisor and Entrepreneur in the Sports Industry.  

How did you get your first break?

I think my first break was my assignment with the Indian women’s boxing team as mentioned earlier.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Well, we all know that sports has glamour, and every odd individual would like to be part of the pomp and show. Doctors and Physiotherapists are no exception. When I started my career as Team Doctor with the Women’s Boxing Team, I had to face several issues because of excessive interference from other doctors and physiotherapists who were not directly employed by the federation, but somehow tried to make their presence felt while treating athlete’s problems. Many a time I had to literally scientifically prove my diagnosis, and treatment options in an unbiased way in front of coaches and federation officials so that what I have prescribed and planned for the athlete’s injury / condition is being followed and we can take things ahead. It felt as if I am appearing for my exam again and again, and every time there is a new examiner who wants to make sure that I know my stuff. Ordinarily, in medical practice such things are not encountered and you don’t expect to learn at medical colleges, but in elite sports, things work differently and you have to endure all of these unpleasantries to establish yourself as a good doctor by winning the trust of players, coaches and federation officials.

At times during competitions it so happened that our top performing players were injured and their participation was crucial for India’s medal tally. I remember 2 or 3 such incidents when I had spent sleepless nights after taking some bold decisions and asking the player to continue playing with the injuries. Finally, when we had those medals secured, I got the satisfaction of doing something differently for performance enhancement in challenging situations when many common doctors would have restrained the athlete from playing. 

Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?

I am the Academic Registrar at Sportz Next where we are shaping the future Performance Directors and Sports Management individuals through practical insights and industry integration experiences to augment their educational journey while pursing the Masters and Diploma programs with us in collaboration with leading foreign institutions.

I am also the Executive Director of the Global Soccer Conclave where we are connecting with different football ecosystems in the world and bringing their representatives on one platform to discuss the performance and business side of football for a better tomorrow.

The other vertical where we are focusing on at this moment is the innovation hub where we have created a global platform for showcasing sports tech solutions and connecting them with potential buyers and investors at the same time along with building awareness around the sports ecosystem 

AIBA (now IBA) is the International Boxing Association that governs the sport of Boxing internationally and strives for the development of the sport globally through its affiliated national federations. I have done my Ringside Physician certification back in 2018 from Budapest and this particular certification is essential to be a Ringside Doctor during any of the international boxing events

I also have a FIFA Diploma in Sports Medicine, which is a great informative and football specific learning initiative under FIFA – the world body for Football which is focused to provide practical insights on injury management, rehabilitation, nutrition and medical screening for football players.

What skills are needed for your role? How did you acquire the skills?

Domain specific knowledge, imagination and perseverance, leadership, research, etc

What’s a typical day like?

It involves many meetings and discussions with various stakeholders and the team, including research and ideation for further projects and finally ensuring the execution of tasks by office people.

I also enjoy teaching during few of the online lectures for the Sportz Next students for their masters and diploma programs.

What is it you love about this job? 

I am following my passion and nobody is stopping me from doing it. In short, I am the boss here.

How does your work benefit society? 

Sportz Next is producing quality human resources for the sports industry and will form strong pillars in the future. The knowledge and networking platform of Global Soccer Conclave will be the unbiased forum that will bring out solutions for today’s challenges in the ecosystem and connect the global dots to overcome them. The GSIH (Global Soccer Enclave & Innovation Hub) will open up new employment opportunities for sports management and sports science graduates and empower sports through technology integration thereby boosting the startup culture and business around sports.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

I am one of the persons responsible for drafting the Centralized Athlete Injury Management System (CAIMS) under Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports for its TOPS athletes which is an ambitious project for addressing the heath and wellbeing of probable Olympic athletes. This was my last assignment at SAI before I left my job.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Follow you heart

Future Plans?

To figure out tech-based solutions for betterment for sports performance, talent scouting and athletic management along with delivering quality education with industry integration to shape up future stars in sports management and sports performance sciences.