Country State of Sports in India
As a mom of a preteen daughter and a nine year old son, I am constantly figuring out strategies and ways to keep my worries and anxieties at the back burner and greet my loved ones with an unruffled cool disposition. No matter, how hard I try to give them a pep talk about feeling worthy and proud of themselves, I end up looking like a clown, who’s struggling to engage the disengaged audience. Most of the time, my thoughts and opinions are considered valuable outside my emotional sphere. Sometimes, it gets me worried about my negotiation and convincing skills at a very close and personal level .
I want to hold myself from becoming an over possessive parent who is ready to pack her own bags for their outstation trips and sports meets. It appears embarrassing to my girl most of the time, but I feel concerned about the absence of important safety valves around the youth these days.
When my daughter was selected for track and field school team, I decided to take control of my apprehensions at my personal level. I was nervous and skeptical about the state of Sports in India. On the other hand, I did not want to discourage her to realise her dream to join athletics, as she had always looked up to the world champions like Bolt and Flying Sikh like her role models.
Sports competitions are a reality check in India. These are still in a primitive stage and lack professionalism to a great extent. Forget about National level competitions, Can you imagine the level of District meets conducted in a millennium city Gurugram? I’ll cite some of my first hand experiences about District and State level championships in the next sections.
District Level: It was an entropic delight with unmarked tracks and chaos in lengths and breadths where many rural participants were found running barefeet, a few on spikes and others on running shoes. No one challenged and no official objected but children kept running unflinchingly in a single track with a focussed winning streak.
How can we miss talking about our Government officials here? They have an uncanny ability to not to start any scheduled event on time. No matter what time of the day the event begins, their lunch and tea breaks are never compromised. Despite of all odds , the school team won several medals and my daughter too won her first ever Gold in 400m race, Under 14 category. Yippee, she qualified for state level competitions. We were proud of her as she had made it to this level in a short span of six months of training as a part of her school’s track and field team.
State Meet: Not to dampen the spirit of a worried mom, I decided to become a female parent volunteer for State level outstation sports meet for a group of girl athletes on the behalf of school. Two female parents were needed to accompany 15 girl athletes along with two male coaches. We all reached the venue, a night before the event and checked the scheduled races for the next two days. Later, our team checked in a decent 3 star Hotel facility for which parents had shelled out the travel, food and lodging expenses for their children. Volunteer services were acknowledged and we stayed on official expenses. Fair enough…
Next morning, our team reported sharp on time at 7:30 am with no trace of officials and hosting school authorities. We could see other participating schools from rural and remote areas staying in the same complex with a bare minimum infrastructure. Washrooms were substandard and unhygienic with shabby walls and wet floors. We were selfish enough to thank our stars that we were not staying in that facility. After endless hours of wait and persuasion from our side, the program was kicked off around 12:00 pm (delayed by 4 hours) by a local political Chief guest. One podium was created for dignitaries and the other participating teams were left on their own to find their covers to add to their extra discomfort and inconvenience. No arrangements were made for the canopies and tents for the children to sit under the bright sun. They were almost drained out by the noon.
Anyhow, the sports meet lasted for two days. Everyone gave her best shot and could sense the difference in the stamina and conditioning level of the participants from remote-rural parts of Haryana and athletes from the Urban zones. Out of our 15 girls , many won silver and one of them made it to 100m National finals. It was a big achievement for our children to compete in the extreme conditions. My girl bagged second rank in the heats and ranked fifth in finals. She was disappointed and heartbroken about her performance in finals. But I was proud and happy to see her going that far and making it as a memorable learning for her next leap. Her learning was to build and maintain the stamina in extreme conditions.
Sports authorities need to be transparent, and strictly adhere the guidelines. Only then, the system will show signs of recovery when the focus shifts from fulfilling the politically driven agendas to nurturing the young talent.
Where does the money go when such events are organised?
If left unchecked now, the Country state of Sports in India would remain unchanged and unfortunate.
Hope to see the Winds of change turn Country into an Unchained melody.