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Leaders in Sport: Interview with Sahil Uttam, Director of Greenshoots Health & Leisure

After the great response to our series CXOs on the run’, Sportskeeda is proud to present a brand new series – Leaders in Sport. In this series we pick the minds of personalities who are involved with development of sports in India. Through this series we aim to bring forth things that can be done to improve the state of sports in India.

Today we are in conversation with Mr. Sahil Uttam, Director at Greenshoots Health & Leisure Private Limited, an organization offering age appropriate sports and fitness programmes for children between the ages of 4 and 12 years.

Sahil Uttam

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where does your love for sports come from?

I was born and brought up in New Delhi where I did my schooling. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Marketing form European Business School, London after which I moved back to India and worked in Public Relations for 18 months. I have been in the retail industry for the past 5 years. I have always been exceedingly passionate about sports since a very young age and that enthusiasm has developed over the years.

How did you get into sports? Which sports do you play and follow?

I was fortunate enough to have been surrounded by people that were as enthusiastic about sports as I was. Friends and family played a very important part influencing me to watch and play sports. In school, we got the opportunities to pursue different sports on a regular basis and I feel that inculcated a sporting culture in me from a very young age.

I play football, cricket, golf, badminton and tennis. I primarily follow football but I try to keep in touch with as many sports as I can.

Do you follow any team/s closely? Who is your favorite player/s?

I support Arsenal F.C. in the English Premier League and Dennis Bergkamp is my favorite player.

Do you think we often overlook sports and their importance in our daily life?

In India, it is understandable that preference is given to education. However, exposure to sport contributes significantly in learning valuable life skills and it should be an integral part of our lives. Having an association with sport from a young age can make a difference to an individual’s overall development and can contribute to developing a well-rounded personality. In some cases however sports are overlooked at a young age, as it does not hold the same weight age as higher education in the mindset of people.

A lot of organizations in India have come up that either coach sports or are into sports management. Do you think that’s a sign of things to come, that in the future India will have a solid sports infrastructure in place?

It is a step in the right direction that more focus has been brought into sports development in India. There are a lot of budding ventures focusing solely on grassroots development especially in the rural areas of the country. Hopefully, within the next few years we will see a change in the attitude of people that enables them to consider sports as a genuine career option rather than a pastime or hobby.

The equipment at Greenshoots Health & Leisure

The equipment at Greenshoots Health & Leisure

Tell us about your organization, Green Shoots Delhi. What is it about?

Greenshoots is India’s newest entrant into the growing children’s health and fitness space and amongst the first to focus on the residential market in Delhi NCR. Our company actively looks for tie-ups with housing societies to deliver well-defined and high quality sports programmes to the children of residents at their own doorstep for our 12-week modules.

The Greenshoots curriculum provides a platform to learn a range of diverse skills and activities appropriate for children in a safe, interactive and fun environment. The curriculum has been designed in consultation with accredited sports consultants and coaches. Our goal is to aid in the social, physical and psychological development of the child through sport

Do you think we in India have embraced the sports culture fully? If not, how far do we need to go to achieve that?

As mentioned before, there are numerous organizations focusing of the development of sports, which is certainly a positive development. However, as of now, we have only scratched the surface; for a population of the size of India, there is certainly a lot of further scope to develop a progressive sporting culture.

What do you think is needed for India to have a more conducive environment for sports on an all-round basis? What do we need to do to develop sports other than cricket?

Primarily, we should look to breed a solid sporting culture from a young age. There is too much government influence and bureaucracy that leads to playgrounds and open spaces being out of bounds for young kids and that discourages them from stepping out and playing sports. Private investment at the grassroots level can add a much-needed boost to the high demand for quality training facilities for budding sportspersons.

Better facilities and training methods will encourage kids to try various sports. With reference to the question on developing sports other than cricket, I feel greater exposure on TV for other disciplines would go some way in redressing the current imbalance

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Indian sports today? Is it corruption, indifference, lack of natural athleticism, or something else?

To single out one would be undermining the importance of the others. I feel it’s a combination of the indifference at the household level, political issues between state organizations and the inaccessibility to good infrastructure for talented children to develop their skills further.

What would be your advice to parents of budding sportsmen or people looking to enter the sporting world?

Parents need to be convinced about the impact that sports can have at a young age. Sports can develop an individual’s overall character and personality. Important life lessons such as teamwork, sportsmanship, dealing with winning and losing amongst others are imparted through sports.

Do you think India can become a global sporting super power like, say, Spain or Australia? How long do you think that is going to take?

At a nascent stage our focus should be on developing a mindset, infrastructure and a social culture that accepts sport as an integral part of early development. That should be the focus of the day. Once the building blocks are in place, we can think about further improvement. I feel the focus right now should be on our commitment to constant progress as opposed to comparing ourselves to other nations.

Sachin Tendulkar said that India can qualify for the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar. Do you concur?

Similar to the previous answer, the focus should be on consistent qualification in to top-level regional tournaments and establishing a structured and popular domestic game. Once we do this, we can focus on higher goals. Whilst it is difficult to disagree with somebody of Sachin Tendulkar’s reputation and track record, I feel 2022 may be a bit early. Nonetheless, I would love to be proven wrong.

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