Dust has settled following Rio Olympics but not before huge noises were made, on the poor performance of a country of over a billion people, Spearheaded by the knowledgeable media and self - appointed specialists, blaming the government for ill prepared contestants due in turn to poor facilities in training institutions, coaches and managers for projecting themselves more than the sports persons.
The face savers, Sindhu in badminton and Sakshi in wrestling along with Deepa in gymnastics won peoples admiration with a sigh of relief and pride. Their achievements have been suitably acknowledged and showered with money and promises of job. Their public felicitations invited few sarcastic comments on the country and its people; they have been effectively countered leaving us flustered. The same kind of reaction, almost a complete replica of praise and innuendos will again be seen and heard after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It is well known we do not learn from our mistakes, instead enter in to the infamous blame game instead what we need is a serious and sincere introspection.
The foremost amongst many reasons for our failure to produce world class sporting talent in various fields is lack of sporting culture in our society. Individual house hold treats sporting activities and interest of a child in sports secondary to education. They can- not be blamed entirely, with exception to cricket no other sports person has a real chance of getting a decent job in government or private sector, stories abound where a national champion ends up as a hawker selling “gol guppas” It is unfortunate but true and does not augur well for the aspiring sports enthusiast.
The society must learn that outdoor sports not only help in developing physical health but also a contributor in fostering healthy mind, assuring improvement in academic performance. Encouragement therefore must come from the family. While it is true that every professional can-not earn like Tendulkar or Dhoni but there are few green shoots growing in other sports where these sportsmen and women can find meaningful employment.
It is also true that cricket today offers best chances to earn good money other sports like hockey, football, tennis, badminton and now Kabaddi are also gradually opening up chances for professional to earn. Encouragement from families is critical (like Sindhu’s) but government’s guaranty in employment will go a long way in providing financial security. Many public sector banks, railways and other state owned enterprises are already providing jobs; others must emulate reserving some percentage for state and/ or national level sportspersons.
The initial thrust of sports must begin while child is in school. Schools both government and private must provide basic infrastructure for sports. Unfortunately majority of schools do not have a playground and any sports infrastructure where pupils can spend few hours to pursue their sporting interest. While affluent class can afford to join clubs majority can only watch from outside envying the privileged ones luck. Rural and semi urban school pupils are totally deprived of this outlet hence left to stagger cursing their situation.
Mobile phones computers and other electronic devices attracts children they spend time at home to play games, watch programs, at times unsuitable for growing mind, keeping them away from the playground. The parents again can help by dissuading their children from addiction to these gadgets but encouraging picking outdoor sporting activities.
Despite many clubs and academies all over India, where the cost becomes a prohibiting factor, government remains the largest provider of sports infrastructure in the country. The ministry of youth and sports through sports authority of India established various centers to train sports persons in the country. Aims and objectives of the SAI are noble but largely unachievable, their funding is inadequate and management lacks professionalism.
Despite all the flaks the government gets they remain the only hope for countless number of aspiring sports persons. The infrastructure created may not be amongst the best but critically important for training. Delinking from government control to professionals with increased funding can make a difference assuring better performance by our sports persons in international events.
Established in 1984 the sports authority of India with nine regional centers and two academic institutions has provided facilities for sports person to pursue their interest; In addition they provide diploma & degree in physical education and sports medicine. Although funding has been increasing over the years it is still grossly inadequate for increasing number of participants.
Since the funding comes from the government, majority of governing body of sports authority of India consists of ministers, secretaries or government appointed sports persons or sports promoter, to maintain strict control over the organization. Without taking much sheen out of the organization, it has become an extension of sports and youth ministry, carrying with it the curse of cronyism, lethargy and obstructionism with unrestricted nepotism and delays in decision making rendering the institutions in capable of producing world class sports persons. Although flashes of individual brilliance do occur, like PT Usha and Deepa karmakar but majority fails to compete with the sportspersons of other countries.
Role of corporates can- not be emphasized more, besides employing cricketers and few hockey players, there is complete absence of large corporate houses in sporting activities of the country until the IPL in cricket started in 2008. It started as a business venture attracting talent from the remote corners of the country, offering opportunities to lesser known cricketers. In the same vein football, hockey, badminton and now Kabaddi has been promoted by business groups ushering in the culture of associating business with sports, a development which will pave way to larger participation in future.
Nearly every sport has a federation formed to run the sport in a professional manner rendering the players facilities like ground, Equipment’s and logistics, organize training and competitions, exposing the athletes internationally etc. Quite a few get government assistance in addition to money earned through matches. While a few federations run professionally popularizing the sport nationally and internationally but majority has failed miserably. They have bogged down by infighting within themselves and flopped consistently in producing internationally acclaimed sports persons.
We Indians have a habit of being over critical to losses and overzealous to successes forgetting the efforts of our sportspersons, totally oblivious of the hard work, dedication and personal sacrifices the individuals put in to bring glory to the nation. We hurl satirical comments and criticism even abuse leaving them demoralized and deeply wounded. We must understand failures and success are two sides of the same coin, learn to respect and encourage rather than belittle and disparage, remember one can- not win all the time a looser today will win and win handsomely in future.
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