Nisha Millet is a swimmer and coach from Bangalore who, represented India in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and among several others won the Arjuna award from the President. Her swimming career began at the young age of 9. After a sixteen-year career as a swimmer, Nisha is now imparting her knowledge through a Bangalore-based academy, ‘Nisha Millet’s Swimming Academy’ she founded in 2004.
Nisha is the elder daughter of Aubrey and Sheila Millet. Her younger sister Reshma is also a national level swimmer.
Nisha, please take us through your life and career so far
I was born in Chennai. Owing to my father’s transferable job with MRF Tyres, we travelled quite a bit and have lived in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Assam and Chennai till we finally moved here in Bangalore for our swimming careers in 1994.
We played all sorts of sports while growing up. My father, who is a good swimmer himself, coached us in swimming after school hours. I began to enjoy swimming. I started training under a coach that trained a team at the pool. Within three years, I had won at quite a few competitions. My parents realized that Bangalore had the best pools and coaches, and that’s when we moved to Bangalore for better coaching and prospects in swimming.
To back up a little, I must mention that as a child, I once fell into a pond. The fear of water never left me and my father wanted me to get over my fear and that’s how swimming happened for me.
I finished my schooling and college in Bangalore while I became a senior national swimming champion. Swimming was always my priority. My attendance at school and college was always roughly 10%. I would be training outside, at national camps in Delhi or away for competitions. For fifteen years, my schedule while at home included waking up at 5 in the morning, swim in the pool for 2 hours before school/college and back in the pool after school from 5-8 pm. I would swim 16 km every single day. I learnt time management right from the beginning. I did my schooling from Sophia school and graduated with a BA in Psychology from Mount Carmel College. Our parents were very supportive and gave their ‘everything’ to our careers. It really has been a team effort. They wanted us to focus on swimming but ensured that we balanced our academics.
My goal was to qualify for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I was to undergo training for a year in Australia before qualifying. It was ‘a dream come true’ when I qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics in just three months. I utilized the remaining part of the year to prepare rigorously. Around this time, I was presented the Arjuna Award by the president.
While training, I started developing severe back ache. I returned home after the Olympics and met some fifteen doctors until one day a Coimbatore-based doctor found a benign tumor on my spine. I was on my feet around two months after surgery. This was 2002. But it was not until 2003 that I could begin training for the 2004 Olympics. I narrowly missed qualifying for the 2004 Olympics. Swimming is an amateur sport in India. Till about recently, endorsements happened mainly for cricketers, I am glad it’s changing, I am happy for the recognition that some other sportspersons such as Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal are receiving.
My parents had spent close to 90 lakhs on our careers. Sometime in 2004, I decided to quit swimming. This decision upset my parents. I turned to my other passion – coaching. I had started coaching when I was 15, and decided to plunge into it full-time. I was dating Bikramjit back then. We got married and decided to make coaching a full-fledged business. We underwent an Australian certification – Australian Swim Coaching and Teachers Association. This was 2009. Initially it was just one pool and Bik and I would coach. In the last decade, it has grown to 10 locations and a team of 20 passionate coaches. We have maintained a ratio of 1 coach for every 8 students. We also invite parents to see their kids learn swimming.
Up until last year, I was taking 8 classes a day. Its only after the twins were born 7 months ago have I reduced my involvement. I want to be there for my daughters.
Nisha and Bik have two lovely twin daughters – Adele & Ariana
What are your dreams for the future?
I want to see my academy do well. It is a conscious decision to not teach the elite. We train beginners, perhaps for inter school events. We would like our students to train from us and join a more tournament-focused school later on. I am proud that a few of our students are now training for national level swimming competitions.
Who or what are your inspirations?
My father is a big inspiration. He is strong willed and independent and I have imbibed that from him. He is a very positive guy. My father is recovering from a urinary infection turned paralysis and has been bedridden post surgery for the past 20 months. He now tells me he wants to begin walking before his granddaughters outrun him!
Leander Paes is another huge inspiration. I have followed his career very closely. During the Olympics when he greeted me I was speechless. So are Mahesh, Mary Kom and Abhinav Bindra.
Please take us through some special moments in your career
The opening ceremony of Olympics is forever etched in my memory. Many 5 am mornings and grueling days were all worth the Olympic experience. I had tears in my eyes seeing the Indian team march.
What career advice would you like to give?
Kids in India need to stop obsessing over the fields of medicine and engineering. This is also a message to parents.
Choose what gives you joy. Of course, this may not be possible for everyone. You could devote some time to your passion over weekends. Give whatever you undertake your 100%. There is no shortcut to success. Learn from everyone around you. Most successful people are down to earth. Be modest. Scale up your goals as you go along. Make money to make a difference.
As far as swimming is concerned, parents need to organize finances very well. This also involves speaking to foundations that could sponsor training. A lot of hard work goes into swimming. I’ve missed several weddings and birthdays but if I were to look back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
It helps to know your priority; you can’t top in class and also become the top swimmer. Also, there needs to be a balanced approach. Having a decent score in academics helps. A friend of mine won medals in swimming at the national level but quit swimming to become a doctor. Anil Kumble is an engineer who took up cricket full-time.
If you are considering becoming a swimming coach, do get a proper certification. American Swim Coaches Association conducts certificate courses in India.
Image Courtesy – Nisha Millet
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