Sports raise the prestige of a nation and this happens in no small measure. Excellence in sports reflects a nation’s sense of pride, purpose and state of mind. This is evident from how India erupted with joy after a barren 12 days at Rio Olympics, all thanks to the gutsy bronze and the remarkable silver medals.
Despite a population of 1.3 billion, the equation of 1.3 billion and a cumulative number of 28 medals so far, seems quite facetious. Sport must never ever be independent of health and education. Structurally, it has to be integrated. In India, it is unfortunately not integrated.
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Information Courtesy: The Hindu
Certain Excuses Have Little Merit
India is one of the fastest growing economies and thus the excuse of being a poor country should no longer hold true. Many oil-rich Arab and poor African nations have excelled in sports and hence, the misconception that only money and robust infrastructure will guarantee success should be dispatched.
This article is an honest attempt at delving deep within the realms of sports to improve the performance of India in international sporting events. Here are my suggestions:
Develop Talent and Ambition from Grass-Roots Levels
Several governments and private bodies handled by corporates such as IMG Reliance, Mahindra etc., in India provide existing athletes better training and tutoring. This shall bring no more than 6-8 medals in upcoming Tokyo Olympics as coaching shall add sheen to the already existing potential of athletes. To win as many as 50 gold medals, it is important to develop talent and ambition from grass-roots levels. Tribal areas have the agilest and supple girls. It is important to catch them young. In coastal areas, little boys dive into oceans and swim like dolphins. If trained and tutored, they could become expert swimmers. The government should take the tried and tested initiative of identifying sports that have an inherent tradition in the country. Fencing is one such sport and it requires minimal investment. By picking young talent in 10-12 age group, excellent fencers can be nurtured.
Harness Women Empowerment
Women empowerment results in nation’s empowerment. Girls should be encouraged to compete. China and Russia have used this model to romp home with a significant number of medals. Unfortunately, in India, the success of women empowerment is confined to Bollywood silver screens. Cultural factors also play a vital role in influencing the career choices of athletes. For instance, Sakshi Malik’s parents had to face the wrath from community members for letting Sakhi participate in wrestling which is considered a men’s sport in Rohtak.
Combat Public Indifference
Public indifference to sports should be dealt with improving access to sports through better infrastructure and allocation of meaningful budget. The sports ministry should invite professionals drawn from different disciplines. It should start various academies and training centres. Every state should focus on at-least one sport. Rich socialites should adopt budding athletes.
Bridge the Long Calendar Gaps
Inefficiency in training can be attributed to the long calendar gaps. Annual training schedules should be drafted with uncanny precision. Athletes should undergo training at-least 300 days a year. Training should not be confined to sub-continental conditions. Athletes should complete every milestone in high altitude training. For all intents and purposes, formalized training schedules should encompass competitions and abroad training sessions.
Dietary and Food Supplements
Truth be told, there is a dearth of experienced sports doctors and nutritionists in India. Sometimes, nutritionists tend to suggest supplements which are under the radar of WADA (World Anti -Doping Agency). Dietary requirements and food supplements should be rooted with alacrity. The services of competent doctors with specialization in sports should be availed by elite athletes.
India is beset with woes arising from doping. To curb the malaise of doping, free seminars and workshops should be conducted periodically. Athletes should be educated about the perils of doping. They should be kept posted about international rules and regulations. Samples of the athletes should be checked often.
Sports Authority of India should establish its centres in tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 cities. The centres should be well equipped in terms of training infrastructure, accommodation and back-up equipment. Also, every SAI centre should house sophisticated performance monitoring equipment. A centralized performance monitoring database which is capable of storing the records pertaining to the health, fitness and performance of every potential athlete is necessary. A quick assessment of athletes can thus be facilitated.
Image Courtesy: Sports Authority of India
Hire Foreign Coaches
I would like to recall the incident when Malleswari had to fund herself for 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. She went on to bag a bronze medal in the weightlifting event. Despite her constant appeals, the then sports ministry paid scant attention. Hiring foreign coaches is something which India does very often in Cricket. When it comes to other sports, prospects pertaining to the recruitment of foreign coaches are banished. This is because there are waves of uncertainty in aspects such as eligible remuneration, duration of engagement, performance expectations etc.
Fine-tune the Skills of Home-Bred Coaches
Training home-bred coaches so as to enhance their skill sets and techniques shall have long-term positive consequences. Remuneration of home-bred coaches and players should be competitive. Otherwise, future generations may distance themselves from pursuing a career as sports coaches.
The concerted efforts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Governments in this regard are laudable. When PV Sindhu won the Olympic Silver, the Telangana Government declared not only a piece of land but also a cash award of Rs 5 crore to her. The Andhra Pradesh State Government too followed the suit by declaring Rs 3 crore to PV Sindhu and Rs 1 crore to P. Gopichand.
No More Obsession with Cricket
People of India are obsessed with the gentleman’s game. Almost everybody is enchanted by the amazing stroke play of Virat Kohli. Sachin Tendulkar is adulated by almost every Indian. There is nothing wrong in eulogizing cricketers. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, we excel in cricket. As a matter of fact, we have events like IPL to cash in the fandom. It is to be kept in mind that only 10 competitive nations play cricket. Hence, our pride in cricket and only cricket seems illogical. Excessive domination of one sport doesn’t augur well for a progressing economy like India.
The Sports Ministry should organize IPL like events for various sports such as Football, Badminton, Tennis, Archery, Swimming, Boxing etc. Such events should be commemorated with indelible veracity. Indian players will be able to learn from their foreign counterparts and subsequently enhance their skills.
Lack of sponsorships and significant funding was sighted as another reason for poor performance of players in international events. The onus inherently lies on the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to persuade not only public sector companies but also private sector players to contribute to NSDF (National Sports Development Fund).
Cricketers have always been ceremoniously showered with fat paychecks and immense attention. When it comes to the remuneration of athletes of other sports, the Ministry of Sports is yet to level up its ante.
Race-walking is an alien sport to Indians. Manish Rawat, a farmer and a waiter, who lives on a pittance of Rs 1500 per month was mocked, booed and heckled on various social media platforms by the hoi-polloi for practising race-walking. Is this expected of us?
Unbiased Media Coverage
Given the magnitude and intent of Olympic Games, it seems reasonable enough to cover every Olympic event in depth. That being said, media keeps other prestigious events such as Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and The National Games of India at arm’s length. This doesn’t resonate well with aspiring sports athletes. Media should play a constructive role in encouraging sports and motivating athletes. Unbiased media coverage is the need of the hour.
Fixated Mindset of Indian Parents Should Change
The fixated mindset of Indian parents further accentuates the woes. Indian parents want their off-springs to become engineers, doctors and MBAs. Can we envisage an India where parents encourage their kids to become the next P V Sindhu or Mary Kom or Milkha Singh? A marked departure from conventional thoughts is welcome.
Upkeep of Stadiums
Many stadiums in India are dry and laden with pot-holes and bumps. The ill-maintained grounds are replete with injury-traps. Indian authorities can take cues from China and Soviet bloc countries in this regard. Stadiums in China and Soviet bloc countries are properly maintained and hence, they were rightly termed ‘Medal Factories’
Seriousness is Mandatory
The humbug over Indian officials’ penchant for carelessness and lack of seriousness is known to all and sundry. In Rio Olympics, OP Jaisha, the full marathon runner, collapsed at the finish line and gained her consciousness after 3 excruciating hours only to find herself in a bed. Indian officials failed to provide water refreshments. Indian officials who ditch their duties should be sacked with no second thoughts.
While there are no quick fixes, a transformative agenda with a combination of long-term vision, high-octane performances, hard-boiling execution, change in the fixated mindset of Indian people and officials shall fetch positive results.