Yeshi Dema’s life took a turn during an armed force children’s winter program, where she discovered archery. While her dreams of becoming a top-tier archer didn’t materialize however. Yeshi found her true calling in coaching. Her dedication caught the eye of the Bhutan Archery National Team’s head coach, leading to her role as an assistant coach.
Today, Yeshi is a full-time coach for the Bhutan National Team, preparing them for the upcoming 19th Asian Games. Her current goal is to enhance their techniques and mental resilience.
Yeshi’s motivation as a coach lies in her passion for the sport and the positive impact she has on athletes. As a female coach, she seeks to promote gender equality in sports and inspire the next generation with dedication and resilience.
Q. Can you go ahead with your introduction?
A. My name is Yeshi Dema, and I’m currently 30 years old. I have dedicated 9 years of my life to working in the field of recurve archery. I started my journey as a national archery player and represented my country for 3 years. Following my playing career, I transitioned into coaching, and for the past 6 years, I have been serving as a recurve archery coach. It has been a fulfilling and rewarding experience to share my knowledge and passion for archery with aspiring athletes.
Q. How did your journey in this field start, especially considering its conventional male-dominated field?
A. As a child, my passion for games and sports was evident, and I actively participated in various sports during my school days. Back then, I only knew about local archery; I had no idea that Olympic archery even existed. After completing class 12 with average grades, I was at home when I heard about Bhutan archery hosting a winter camp. I decided to take a chance and participate in the camp.
Before coming here, I thought there would be only boys, but when I arrived, I found out that girls were also participating. I also noticed that the bow was different from what I had imagined. I got carried away with this equipment, and from the winter coaching, I got introduced to this game.
Q. What are the fundamental differences between being a player and transitioning to a coach?
A. There are so many differences. Before, when I used to play archery, I took it as fun. However, when I got into the real game, I faced challenges. I had to maintain proper posture, use strength to pull the bow and arrow, and hit the target. It was challenging as an archer. Now, as a coach, it is even more difficult and mentally challenging. I need to understand the players and study their techniques. The enjoyable part is that we get to learn more when we meet different players and can assess their characters. According to the players, we tailor our coaching approach.
Q. As a former national archery player, what significant distinctions do you observe between Bhutanese archery and archery in other countries, considering your experience of playing internationally?
A. Compared to olden days, there isn’t much difference. In the olden days, there weren’t many equipment options, but now there is no difference when it comes to the equipment used in other countries. The only notable difference is that other countries have much more experience than us. Nevertheless, we are trying our best.
Q. How would you describe the level of support from both the public and the government towards sports in general? Additionally, do you believe that pursuing a career in games and sports in Bhutan is a sustainable profession?
A. If I compare with our old times, it is much better because, in the olden times, we were asked to study to get jobs. Now, we get many opportunities not just because of studies but also because of sports. I can say that we can now earn our livelihood by playing sports, and if we work hard on what we are good at, we can do even better. Let me give you an example of Chencho Gyelyshen, a football player. He is popular not only in Bhutan but also in almost all the countries in Asia. He is leading a good life by playing football.
Q. As an archery coach, are there any archers you hold in high regard or look up to, akin to the way Chencho Gyeltshen is esteemed as a prominent sports figure in the country?
A. If I talk about our archers, we may not be as well known as archer players from other countries, but I must mention our former archer player, Karma. She is our best and well-known archer; she has participated in a few Olympic games, and I look up to her. I coached her for 1 year, and she is a very hardworking and dedicated person. She doesn’t take a single holiday, not even government holidays or weekends. She comes here to practice and tries different ways to improve and compete head-to-head with international archery players. She has achieved good results in archery.
Before Bhutan gained free entry in the Olympics due to our small nation status, we did not need to qualify for Olympic Games. However, in 2019, Karma broke the qualifying target, qualifying for the Olympic games in archery. For me, she is one of our inspirations. After that, we have many archer players like her. Let’s hope for the best in the future.
Q. With the 19th Asian Games just around the corner, can you share your insights on the differences you observe between the current players and those from your time? Are you confident that they are prepared for the upcoming 19th Asian Games?
A. As I mentioned earlier, with changes in time, everything has improved, including equipment quality. We have even scheduled our training time to align with international time. Compared to us, players nowadays have broader thinking, and they are also very talented and confident. Initially, I had 6 archery players, but due to time constraints and their work commitments, only 3 could make it to the team – 1 boy and 2 girls. One girl is new; she has only played 2 international games, while the other two are senior players.
The Asian Games is the second biggest sporting event after the Olympics. They are trying their best, and as a coach, I am also giving my best effort. We have been training them since last year, so we cannot predict what will happen during the game, but I have high hopes from my players.
When it comes to archery, we have summer camps and winter camps that coincide with the school break. We don’t charge anything; we provide free coaching and free equipment for use. Please come forward and grab this opportunity because you might be the next Karma. We will try our best to nurture your talent.