June 2nd, 2017
In India, only elite athletes, national and international players get opportunities and sponsorships, but the support for grassroots sports persons is very meagre. Though there are plenty of sports enthusiasts in India, the opportunities available for them are meagre. There are no proper coaches, broken infrastructure, no sponsorship and no training facilities for budding athletes. Support for grassroots players in India is absent.
Bridges of Sports works with children from economically and socially backward communities (8 – 14 year age group). Irrespective of gender, disability and economic background we give them an opportunity train, excel and have a career in sports.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Nitish, the founder of Bridge Of Sports, said, “My friend Santhosh is the first Indian to represent India in Dakar Rally, one of the toughest rallies in the world. No one supported him for the first two years. Now, he is supported by a multinational company, and he is fine. So it is not about the talent but the lack of opportunities to showcase their talent. Only the lucky people get opportunities and sponsors. Many kids drop off from district level tournaments because of no monetary support from the school they study.”
Nitish also shared the following example of how the broken sports support system is failing talent: “One of the NGOs we support is My Angels Academy. A kid from this organisation got selected in the Liverpool Academy for football training. The kid was not able to attend the camp because the NGO was not able to raise funds of Rs 5,00,000 for training even through crowdfunding. In villages, the situation is even worse: kids drop from district level games because they cannot afford Rs 300 for travelling.”
Bridge Of Sports did the extensive groundwork for understanding the scenario and how the support system for sports is in India. They travelled to different parts of the country, interacted with Olympians and coaches and students.
Nitish approached Shika Tandon, an ex-Olympian swimmer who holds the record for fastest swimming in India, and Bharath Chetri, India’s 2012 hockey captain, for their inputs.
- The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has good good centers only for national or international players.
- On grassroots there is not that good support system for local level/budding players.
- Lack of support both from government and private.
- Shortage of coaches in except in cities.
- There is lack of 35,000 coaches every year in India.
The aim of Bridge of Sports is to train grassroots sports persons and connect them to elite sports institutes like JSW, Jain and Manipal. This idea struck Nitish from Teach For All, which is present in 33 countries. Teach For All has a two-year fellowship where graduates from colleges are placed in community schools.
Bridge Of Sports approaches villages, local communities, local colleges and local sports academies for collaboration. Volunteers from these organisation visit government schools and orphanages and train the students in particular sports. The volunteers’ trainers are provided with a 24-week curriculum which consists of detailed instructions. The trainers also collect data of the players. The data includes both sports and academic data.
National Sports Corps (NSC)
Bridges of Sports is creating National Sports Corps (NSC) which consists of ex-athletes, physical education teachers, coaches and volunteers from the local community. They will be trained and placed in schools and communities as coaches on a two-year fellowship.
NSC provides the following:
- play materials to pre-schools which will aid learning
- skill support to make the schools inclusive for differently-abled kids
NSC is using sports as a tool to retain children in government and low-income private schools and increase their attendance rates by creating safe play areas and providing good sports facilities and training.
Also, NSC will identify grassroots sports person in villages and schools and supports them in participating in the taluk, district, state and national-level sports tournaments.
What have they done so far?
- Conducted district-level sports meet for differently-abled children in Chikkamagaluru district in association with Special Olympics Bharat on March 19th, 2017. Over 100 kids participated.
- On April 6th, 2017, on the eve of International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, they introduced Blind Football for the visually impaired at Asha Kiran Blind School in Chikkamagaluru.
- Hosted ten-day Sports Social Development tour in Karnataka for an NGO, My Angels Academy (based in Vikaspuri Slum, Delhi), to create awareness about the possibilities of sports in social and economic development from 13 May 2017 – 23 May 2017.
Support to the Siddi community
In 1987, the Sports Authority of India decided to use the natural athleticism of these Indian- African to win medals under its special Areas Games Program. They had started training in sports with the help of Sports Authority of India (SAI) to win an Olympic medal for India – so that they finally get accepted in India – as Indians. But, unfortunately, SAI stopped the program, and most of the siddi children dropped out of school (only five siddis remained in school). The siddi community represents Indo-Africans who have faced racism even after residing in India for over 400 years. To support Siddi Community Bridge Of Sports started a sports program in their school. With this program around 30 siddi kids registered to join back in the school, through local campaigns.
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