Crafting Our Future In Sports

With the Olympics 2016 coming to an end and our largest-ever contingent of 118 players coming back with 2 medals (Silver & Bronze), this is the best time to reflect on our contribution to sports.

We have had our glorious times in sports. In 1952, Khashaba Jadhav became the first Indian to win an Olympic medal (Bronze) in an individual event (Wrestling). We are familiar with our ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh breaking the 400m Olympic record in 1960, although he missed the bronze medal by 0.1second. In Hockey, India won 8 Olympics Gold medals and World Cup in 1975. The contribution of ‘The Wizard’ Dhyan Chand is immeasurable. In 1980, Prakash Padukone became the first Indian to win the All England Badminton Championships. P.T.Usha winning four gold medals and one silver medal at Asian Games 1986, became a household name.

We have Karanam Malleswari, India’s first female Bronze Olympic medalist (2000). Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi glorified the sport of tennis. Anju Bobby George became the first Indian medalist at World Athletics Championships for long jump. Indian team won all the Kabaddi World Cups played till now. Pankaj Advani and Narain Karthikeyan opened up doors for less-known sports in India – Billiards and Formula One racing respectively. Mary Kom, an Indian ‘Super Mom’ is a five time World Champion and an Olympic Bronze medalist.

Present Conditions in Sports

With the largest contingent going for Olympics, our medal tally is disappointing. Although it is awesome to see the rising stars like Dipa Karmakar, Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu, we as Indians, still have a long way to go. Marathon runner OP Jaisha fainting during the race and not getting any aid by Indian officials is so shameful on our part.

Although it is great to see rewards pouring in for the olympic medalists, the government must make sure to provide proper facilities to struggling players. No doubt, Cricket is our favourite sport. But thanks to the emerging leagues, we are now seeing Kabaddi, Football, Badminton and Tennis coming to the forefront.

The reasons behind this condition include:

  • Lack of basic infrastructure
  • Less importance given to sports in schools and colleges
  • Financial constraints – Sports like shooting, hockey, archery and squash require special equipment which are usually costly
  • Lack of sponsorships for players
  • Less number of grassroot level organisations to encourage sports
  • No proper encouragement by the government

What can Government do?

  • Set up separate association for each sport and assign it to work from the grassroot level.
  • Training and certification of Coaches
  • Set up coaching centres with good infrastructure
  • Provide coaching and equipment at nominal fees
  • Make ‘Sports’ a compulsory subject in schools atleast upto 12th and monitor the facilities there
  • Emphasis on Sports Medicine & related fields
  • Provide scholarships and sponsorships
  • Provide employment and pension facilities

What should parents do?

  • Do not impose your ambitions on children
  • Make sure the schools have sports in their curriculum
  • Explain the importance of physical activity
  • Participate in outdoor activities along with them to spark their interest and make it fun
  • Don’t focus on a single sport. Let them explore all the opportunities
  • While coaching for any sport, make sure proper orthopaedic guidelines are followed
  • Make sure their role models include sportspersons not just IIT toppers!

Now that Sindhu, Sakshi and Dipa have won accolades, I am sure it would inspire many youngsters to take up their passions and succeed despite of all odds.

Impact of Technology in Sporting future

Technology has greatly helped sports – be it increasing the time accuracy or better design of sports apparel and equipment. Video camera technology has helped umpires and officials to make better decisions. Digital media and live streaming helped extensive coverage. Advance camera analytics are helping to track each and every movement of athletes.

The future will witness the intersecting of technology with the game and the athlete. Research and development in Materials Technology and Sports Medicine will boost the levels of achievement. Outdoor screen technology will advance with higher definition displays. Smart ticketing systems will increase the pull to the live events. Sports medicine, Engineering, Software & App design, Textile design, Sports broadcasting and marketing, Aerodynamics, etc. will have endless possibilities.

If the Government realises the potential of people and technology in sports and work towards encouraging it, the future of sports in our country will have exciting times ahead.

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