Present tense, but future bright for grass root sports

I’m just going to throw this out there. Last Friday, a friend who works in the sports department made a baffling remark on the state of grass root sports in India, “There are so many sports being played in India. Where is the time for kids to play sports in the school? Their parents’ focus is on academics”. In one bizarre stroke, he had stoked multiple issues—India’s obsession for elite sports, along with the grown-ups’ lop-sided imposition on their children to pursue academics in comparison to providing hardly any support or motivation to excel in sports.

The global trend, especially in the US, the world’s leading economy and sports powerhouse, is that sports and education are compatible and complementary to each other for holistic growth of the young.

My mind immediately raced to the India-State Level Disease Burden Initiative Report of 2017.
The report notes that lifestyle diseases like heart and chronic respiratory diseases now kill more people in India than communicable ones like tuberculosis or diarrhea in every State in India. Faulty lifestyle—increased consumption of junk food, lack of adequate exercise, physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, has resulted in more Indians falling prey to lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, etc., in the period from 1990 to 2016.

Here we go. India’s expenditure on sports in the last 70 years is completely skewed in favour of elite sports as against the spending on grass root sports. There’s a pressing need to focus on nurturing a strong school sports system which is not only aligned with our elite sports but to also provide a strong social and economic safety nets to the youth which is keen on pursuing sports as a career.

It’s time to throw those canvas shoes and put on the spikes, to sprint with the rest of the world.
Former 800m runner at the 1984 Olympics, Charles Borromeo is ready to exchange his 1982 Asian Games gold medal to fight for such a cause. Borromeo knows the role of holistic education in his life. “After winning the Asian Games with a record time and then representing the country in the Los Angeles Olympics, I was fortunate to get a career breakthrough in India’s arguably finest company, and then rose on to the corporate echelon and also shaped the company’s sports policy and implementation programme. However, without proper education, sports can become a hurdle to the overall growth and prosperity of young talent,” he said.

The former 800m specialist’s stance is strongly supported by hockey legend Dhanraj Pillay. The mercurial former India captain said, “Education is equally important for our youth which is interested in taking up sports as a career option.”
In 2015, the School Sports Promotion Foundation (SSPF) in collaboration with the Sports Authority of India, launched the Schools India Cup tournaments under the National Talent Search and Nurture Scheme.
The Schools India Cup is conducted in five sports in a three-tier structure, starting from the district level right up to the national. The tournament exposure for children in the 10-15 age group galvanizes talent across the remote districts in India, which is vital for any talent-hunt mission and any affiliation of special talent is possible through mass participation. The path-breaking step comes in the form of National camp exposure and a chance to be selected and honed at Centre of Excellence which will be ‘temples’ of holistic education and specialised sports training. These young talents will be the face of India’s future champions – confident and versed in best of both sports and academics.


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