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29th August 2021 is one of this year’s special dates for Physical Education and Sports Fraternity in many ways, Firstly it’s National Sports Day (The Birth Anniversary of India’s greatest sporting legend). Secondly, this national sports day comes in the backdrop of India’s best-ever performance in the Paralympics Tokyo 2020, which according to experts, may prove to be a foundation for future Olympics glory and India’s success story in other games as well at the world stage.
We need to acknowledge the fact that recent Olympic success is a result of structured talent identification and grooming programs under initiatives such as Khelo India. We have witnessed great enthusiasm and awareness in the country like never before with respect to the Olympics and Sports. Therefore, we need to utilize this momentum to engage more and more youth in sports, in order to develop a large pool of talented sportspersons, who can then win medals for the country at international sports competitions. As we move forward towards becoming a developed economy and a leading political power in the world, it is obvious that we will be expected to do well in sports as well. In my opinion, if we implement the following measures, we will certainly become a sports superpower as well, considering our demographic dividend.
Strengthening Physical Education Teachers:
We cannot ignore the role physical education teachers play in shaping children in their formative years towards becoming world-class performers. Considering this the new education policy also lays great emphasis on improving the structure and delivery of Physical Education in the country. There are few major issues though which need immediate attention. The stature of a Physical Education teacher should be at par with the teachers of other subject areas. Since Physical Education teachers are responsible for children’s holistic development, they need to be provided with specialized training and they should be empowered financially as well in order to make it a lucrative career option. This will help to bring in more talent in the field of Physical Education. There is certainly a need for a dedicated council for Physical Education as sports are on the lines of the National Council for Teaching Education. Hopefully concerned authorities will expedite these reforms along with the implementation of New Education Policy 2020.
Development of Sports Infrastructure at Grassroots Level:
There is no doubt about the fact that in the last three decades we have developed great sporting infrastructure in the country. We are world leaders when it comes to games like Cricket, Boxing, Tennis, Kabaddi, Weight Lifting etc. But the hard-hitting truth is that this infrastructure is limited mostly to big cities only. When the majority of the population in India is still rural, the development of sports infra in cities only doesn’t justify the true sporting potential of our country. Therefore, the development of sporting facilities in rural areas should be considered as the utmost priority. Most village schools in India don’t have any sports facilities and this needs to change. All the stakeholders need to divert their efforts towards setting up coaching academies, stadiums, annual tournaments etc in villages across India. In my opinion, the Government must involve India’s corporate sector as well in this campaign, or private companies can be encouraged to divert the majority of their CSR funding’s towards the development of sports. All of this is already happening, but it’s limited to cities. We need to bring this change to the last mile and last person of the country.
Incentivizing Participation in Sports:
If sports took a backseat in India, then we all are to blame for it. The narrative with respect to sports had been generally negative. It is not common in our country for parents to motivate their kids to engage in sports, as parents we want our kids to excel in academics but we never realize that sports will ensure the overall development of the kid and some of them may become potential contenders for medals in international competitions. This thought process needs to go away as soon as possible. I believe that one of the reasons behind this thought process is the hardships our sportspersons have to face financially. We have not made participating in sports lucrative enough, hence everybody wants their kids to concentrate on academics rather than sports. In my opinion, sports should be incentivized approximately starting from school-level games themselves. For example, if a kid participates in school games then he/she can be incentivized by exempting school fees or schools can sponsor their training, equipment etc. This can be followed for every age group and level by incentivizing sports persons appropriately.
Adoption of Sports by States and Central Universities:
Haryana is already a role model in this sense, although unofficially, the state has literally adopted sports like boxing and wrestling. Both these sports are supported and promoted by private entities, government and citizens of Haryana. The model seems to be successful as the majority of medals in these sports come from Haryana. UP has now officially adopted two Olympics sports for special promotions, UP govt. has also announced a Sports University in Meerut. This model can be replicated across India, where Universities and states can adapt and streamline their efforts towards the development of selected sports with respect to their demography and availability of resources.
Professionalism in Sports Administration:
We already have many successful models of sports administration and management in our country. Cricket has presented exemplary examples of professionalism in sports administration. Other games like Tennis, Golf etc have also efficiently functioning administration bodies in place. Therefore, we need to follow the same models in other sports as well. Most importantly Sports Administration bodies should be controlled and managed by ex-sportspersons. It is obvious that they will have more knowledge about the sport, hence the culture of putting in non-sportspersons in top positions must go, if we want to be a world leader in sports. Non-sports persons can definitely contribute towards sports administration but it should be limited to being a patron or by appointing them in specialized positions which cannot be performed by sportspersons in the board.
It’s fair to say that we are somewhat moving in the right direction when it comes to Physical Education and Sports, but this has to be done together on a mission mode. Teachers, Parents, Children, Coaches, Government everybody has a role to play. Becoming a sports superpower will require super efforts as well and I believe, as a country, we are ready to put in that kind of effort. The Tokyo Olympics undoubtedly has strengthened our hope to see India’s name at no.1 in the Olympics Medal Tally, and that will be the greatest tribute to our Olympics legends, countless sportspersons, coaches and teachers who kept on working for the country and produced champions from time to time despite insufficient systems and lack of resources. This National Sports Day let’s pledge to change this and let’s commit to giving our sportspeople their appropriate dues for national service.
Dr. Piyush Jain
Secretary – PEFI