I love sports, and since you are on this site, it’s a safe bet to say that you love sports too. Yet when we are asked if India as a country is where we want it to be as far as sports are concerned, we would say “Eh, not quite.” Much as we take pride in our passion for sports, we are aware that our country isn’t a frontrunner as a sporting nation. There are a lot of things which can be done to improve the standard of sports in India, to produce more Olympic medals and more importantly, to usher in a culture of fitness in the country. Here are some ideas to do that-
It ought to be mandatory for every single person in the country to run or jog or walk for fifteen minutes at least every single morning. Something as small as that can make a world of difference. For you to be able to participate in sports, developing your basic core fitness through running is essential. It would help keep away diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure and obesity. One in every three Indian is projected to be obese by 2030. This is one simple step which can help prevent that.
The best way to develop sports at the grassroots level is to integrate it as a goal for schools to pursue. The combination which schools possess is priceless – infrastructure with a structured group of children going through it. Most schools have an open field, a lot of them have at least a basketball court. And they have a couple of hours a week which they can dedicate to sports for the kids. According to the next five year plan, it’s expected that sports in schools will be taken more seriously at the school level, thus enabling the development of young talent. Initiatives such as marks for sports come to mind too. There is a world of untapped potential in schools, we just need to tap in to it.
A lot of kids pick up sports because of what they watch on TV. Increased coverage of sports on TV also makes way for companies to invest in advertisement slots, which promotes the market for the sport. Once prospective investors see that a sport enjoys high visibility, they will see it as a viable venture to invest in it. Increased coverage of sports on TV also creates fans of the sport who then take up the game for real.
India has some of the richest people in the world. Instead of having them splurge on rich toys, they ought to direct their spendings to sports. The Hockey India League‘s franchises have said up front that they don’t expect a profit until a few years time and that this investment is more of a marketing initiative than something they plan to get returns on. Our sports federations are registered under the societies act; profit is not their driving motive. Private sector is all about monetizing things, they can take sports to the next level because their focus is long term, not just what they can make today.
Increase the number of facilities which people can use for pursuing sports, and increase the accessibility and quality of the existing infrastructure. There are a lot of sports for which you just need some open space and equipment, but to pursue any sport in an organized manner, one needs proper facilities to play. Elite athletes also require proper facilities to train and push their game to the next level.
People generally prefer to watch the EPL or NBA over Indian football and basketball. The reason they give is that the quality of the game is better in those foreign leagues. Well if you had a choice to watch a game between Manchester United and Arsenal over watching your kid play in a game, which one would you watch? Which one would have you cheering your socks off? According to me, we just need to make our sportspersons as familiar to us as the stars of the foreign leagues and we need to relate to them. Sports need to be marketed better. Maybe design profile cards of players so at a quick glance you can know about the players, share videos of them in action, make them larger than life, and mainly, spread their stories and make them easier to relate to to the common fan.
The NBA has tied up with Mahindra, IMG Reliance and Basketball Federation of India to develop basketball in India. They provide technical expertise and other support to conduct various activities at the grassroot level and above to improve the standard of the game here and to spread the love of the game. They also enabled a trial at the WNBA for Geethu Anna Jose. And Satnam Singh is now being groomed at the IMG Academy at Florida. There are a lot of other foreign bodies whose product sells on the back of the popularity of the sport they invest in. We ought to explore as many associations and tie ups as we can with them.
A lot of jobs in sports federations are honorary. A lot of people think that they are given based on political and personal connections more than qualifications. If these jobs were more than honorary posts, then the scene would be a lot more cleaner.
No under 18 competitions should have a family man with two kids participating in it. The scourge of overage players joshing their way in competitions where they don’t belong is one which has been plaguing Indian sports for a very long time. Age limits should be strictly adhered to if the next generation is to be given a chance to get its due.
People need to compete in well organized competitions which have a sustainable structure. A simple one shot tournament is not completely ineffective, but having well organized competitions over a long period of time will allow for better development and talent spotting. It will also give sportspersons an opportunity to compete and improve.
Sometimes, the scope of a goal seems so large that we don’t know where to begin. These ideas can be undertaken one small step at a time. That’s how things get done anyway, one step at a time.
Here’s a look at the case against overage players-
How to improve sports in India – End the scourge of overage players