One cannot call India a predominantly sporting country without having a strong system of identifying and training athletes at the grassroots. However, it is sad that not only do schools not encourage sports among its students, often forcing an academic career choice but even higher educational institutes fail to give too much importance on sports.
As recently in August, a bill was introduced by the current government in the Lok Sabha. It chalked out plans to start a National Sports University in Manipur. While this announcement was met with a lot of appreciation by the general sporting community of India, the fact remains that the talks for this project began back in 2014. That was when the first announcements had been made public about the State Government acquiring lands for the proposed University.
While this might certainly be seen as a step in the right direction, one can clearly conclude that this is not a priority when it comes to allocating funds for the University and take concrete action for the building of the same.
Granted, over the years, India has had a lot of sporting contribution coming in from the states collectively known as the “Seven Sisters”; and a development strategy, if put in place in Manipur, would certainly reap results. However, it is important to carry on with this kind of development and ensure that this step is not a rarity.
The long term plans, which should be put in place, are the establishment of more sporting institutes like this. Ideally, the way forward should be the initiation of such plans in most major sporting regions of India. More importantly, a structure should be put in place to ensure that the plans follow through, that concrete steps are taken after the process has been initiated.
Furthermore, the most important step should be a sincere effort in changing the mindsets of the parents. Currently, if ever a child expresses the desire to take up sports seriously as a career, a major percentage of households would discourage them from doing that. And that is where the problem creeps in.
Change, it is said, begins at home. Perhaps this is what the battle cry should be for Crusaders of sports in the country. It should be made clear that the field or the track or the court or the board is a perfectly viable place to express one’s potential if one has the knack for it.
Along with the grassroots, the advanced levels should also be taken care of. To change the mindset at the grassroots, it is but natural that the sport in question reap results. On this front, work has already begun with the introduction of a stricter Target Olympic Podium Scheme.
And lastly, an athlete participation is necessary to bring about any change at any level. To battle the bureaucracy that most athletes claim to deal with in their developing years, sportspersons should be appointed at the helm of organisations. They are the idols, the gurus, the people to best understand the system and bring about a change in it. There is some positivity on this front with the appointment of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore as the Sports Minister yesterday. How much change will that bring about? One can only hope and wait.
Sports are an important part of Indian tradition. Only if we nurture it can it reap results. Only if we are able to show results will there be more young blood to nurture. It is a constant process.
Tata Tea is petitioning the HRD Ministry to make sports a compulsory subject in schools, and urging the people to join the movement to bring in a change right from the grassroots. It is certainly a cause worth fighting for.