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GoSports foundation athlete education programme

The programme aims to impart life skills for athletes, and create awareness about crucial supplementary disciplines such as injury management, rehabilitation, mental conditioning and nutrition.

Exclusive 07 Nov 2015, 19:11 IST
GoSports foundation 2015
The GoSports Foundation Athletes’ Education programme aims to impart life skills to athletes

Recently the GoSports Foundation launched a first-of-its-kind programme in the sports ecosystem called the GoSports Foundation Athletes’ Education programme.
The programme aims to impart life skills for athletes, and create awareness about crucial supplementary disciplines such as injury management, rehabilitation, mental conditioning and nutrition. This is achieved through sessions conducted by subject matter experts. Interestingly, the sessions cover not just athletes, but also their ‘first circle of support’ – coaches and parents. GoSports Foundation views the programme as a way to create
‘Smarter Athletes for Tomorrow’.
To learn more about the programme, we reached out to their Programme Director, Saisudha Sugavanam.
What was the trigger for conceptualising a programme of this nature?
We have been working with athletes, coaches and parents for the last 8 years, in various capacities – from funding, to high-performance training, to mental conditioning. We have impacted the sporting careers of over 100 athletes so far.

Through our interactions with young athletes, we understood that the demanding training and tournament schedules of young athletes leave them with very little time to gain certain skills which are essential to a sportsperson’s career, and for life in general. The problem is compounded when you
consider the fact that semi-professional and professional athletes often do not have the opportunity to complete formal education. This programme is a way of bridging this gap by providing them access to knowledge that is practical and useful for them.
How is the programme structured?
We’ve structured the programme modules on the basis of the athletes’ ages – customised curricula have been developed for athletes in the under-15 and 15+ age categories. The programme runs for 1 year – given the nature of the skills imparted, all sessions are classroom sessions.
The key topics we cover are – Social/Emotional Development; Nutrition; Injury prevention & Management; Sports Psychology; Career Planning. We also have real-life lessons from champion sportspersons’ careers – these are over-arching sessions that span a variety of topics.
The frequency of the sessions is customised based on the academy calendar. We work closely with the respective head coaches in putting up a schedule for the athletes who are part of the programme.
How did you build the content for these sessions?
That’s an interesting question. We started off with the specific issues we wanted to address with individual athletes and smaller groups. In 2013, we hosted the Athletes’ Conclave – a platform where athletes were exposed to knowledge and inspiration in the form of seminars and talks by sports industry professionals, as well as senior successful sportspersons.

The Conclave was a resounding success, and a lot of athletes shared with us that no one has spoken to them about these aspects of their careers. We decided to condense the content of an annual event like the Conclave, and conduct frequent sessions where the athletes could interact with experts and learn from seasoned industry professionals.  
While building lesson content to address these, we needed to get expert inputs on the topics, and add sports perspective to it. Over several
brainstorming sessions between Aparna Popat, nine time national champion in badminton, and our Expert Panel, we put together relevant content for our athletes.
Tell us more about your Expert Panel.
The sports DNA of the programme is provided by nine-time national champion in badminton, Aparna Popat. In addition, we have highly qualified experts with diverse backgrounds, from the fields of leadership training, professional story tellers, IOC certified nutritionists, sports psychologists, sports medicine experts, journalists, lawyers, former international athletes, among others, for the faculty for this programme.
Where have you conducted the programme so far, and what has the feedback been?
We’ve successfully conducted this programme at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy and Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy. Currently the programme is underway for talented swimmers at Nihar Ameen’s Dolphin Aquatics. This quarter, the swimmers had sessions on creating self-awareness, taking ownership, goal setting, and dealing with feedback.

We will also be conducting a session for the athletes’ parents on November 15th  - after all, raising a sports child is not easy. While the parents are one of the biggest stake holders in the lives of athletes, they are also the most neglected! So we would like to cover with them aspects like managing expectations, motivating their kids, dealing with success and failure, managing academics and sport in the session.

Following quarters we will have sessions on nutrition, injury prevention and management, and getting in the zone before a competition.

What are your future plans for the programme?
We are convinced about the relevance of the programme to the sports community in the country, this has been validated by the feedback we have been receiving. We plan to continuously improve the programme and take it to other sports academies in various cities across the country. This requires upskilling the local experts to become facilitators, standardising the curriculum, and conducting the sessions seamlessly.
What's the vision for the programme?
It’s gratifying for us to be pioneers in this space.  The vision of the programme is to create smarter athletes for tomorrow; athletes who are capable of looking at their own achievements and problems a little more objectively. What is important is that they learn to enjoy the ride – the ups and downs – that they will inevitably face during their careers, while also learning about and, perhaps, becoming interested in allied areas of sport.

This, one day, could even lead to them planning a career for themselves in one of these related fields. The process of upskilling local experts to become facilitators will bring in more quality experts in the sporting ecosystem. Overall, we strongly believe in continuous learning amongst athletes, coaches and the experts in the sports ecosystem.

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