Beginning of the Sports Era in India

Incidentally, I began blogging around the same time that the London Olympics 2012 fever was at its heights. I wrote a brief blog on the learnings from sports but could never finish it to my liking and hence it remains unpublished so far. Will probably go back to it and finish it someday in near future and publish it, so I can share some subtle but very condensed learnings we as academicians / consultants and management gurus can learn from Sports. Learning management from Sports is an age-old practice – ever since I was in school – every management video I watched about motivation and leadership had a sports clip in it. But that doesn’t in any ways reflect the true surrogate status that Sports had so far and is struggling to get away from.

With all that said above – Let me give you a glimpse of sports in India and how it is transforming itself despite the lack of even basic support structure in the country.

History of it :

Historically, we had always been engaged in many of the sports that led to gaining warfare techniques. Sports like – Archery, Chess, Chariot Race, Wrestling, Weight – lifting, Boat Race have significant mention in our history and also Vedas and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Sports in India clearly date back to Vedic era. Our epic heroes like Arjun have won their wives because of their skills in Archery. And Kings like Krishnadevaraya liked to play chess with his favourite courtiers.

The current century :

Olympics is the largest international sports event. 1896 Summer Olympics is treated as officially the 1st modern Olympics games. So forgetting the participation worldwide in any Olympics event prior to that and keeping it as the starting point – India did fairly well to start with – We sent a lone athlete to Paris in 1900 to participate in International Olympics Games and we won 2 Silver Medals. 1900 – 1912 – we were absent. 1920 – 24 – we participated but won no medals. Between 1928 to 1980 won 11 medals in 12 Olympics – all by the men’s field hockey team. India won 3 medals in Beijing Olympics 2008 which was the highest so far. And I could see some hope coming in for our sports status but not much was done either for the sports or the sportsmen even then.

Lot of hope began building this year – post a good show at the CommonWealth Games 2010 hosted by India. And it did turn out to be India’s best performance so far in the history of Olympics with 6 medals (though none Gold). Goldman Sachs predicted 7 medals considering we had Asian champions in Archery and an Olympic medal holder in Tennis. We didn’t do well in either of these though.

Going back a little :

As a school student, we used to have a time-table of 45 periods a week of which 1 period was P.T. / Sports – Alternately every week – half of our class went for P.T. and another half went for sports – which would mean playing Chess / TT / Basketball / Football / Carrom / Ring / flying Disc / Skipping. I have throughout my schooling which happened across states like – Karnataka / Maharashtra / Madhya Pradesh / West Bengal / Gujarat – studied in really good schools – which were very sought after , had one of the best infrastructure (compared to other schools in the district). To me Sports period was nothing more than – play time. Honestly, I never really took keen interest in any sport during my school time. I grew to become an engineer and was happy about it.

When I look back at the status of sports and amount of focus , encouragement and resources that were given to the sportsmen (barring cricket) all throughout – I strongly feel we shamelessly deprived our nation of some much deserved pride and achievements. China – the most populated country –> ranks 2nd on the medal tally , US is the 3rd most populous country and is ranked 1st on the medal tally and India a country of Billion people – 2nd most populous country ranks 55th on the medal tally. Something is amiss – big time.

Since 1947, we have made lot of progress in our economy and infrastructure then where is it that we are lacking?

Coming to the present :

Very Large percentage of Indian schools are still carrying on with that one period of sports per week and probably that’s is also due to some compliances that need to be adhered wrt some Educational or HR norms of the nation laid out by the Ministry of Education.

But everything isn’t this gloomy. There are changes being seen. Few schools now have introduced better infrastructure for sports and give more respect and encouragement to their students – motivating them for performing in sport events and taking it forward as a career if they excel in it.

State Governments announced a Rs. 1 Crore award to almost every olympian who won a medal for India. When we look at the large Sports population base that we have that need support – this looks small. This may look even more insignificant when we bring up the plan to increase the sportsmen population in India multifold. But its a good start. We are making a good exemplary start with awarding those that deserve and have proven their worth but we need to quickly bring in support to those who aspire to be sportsmen.

As a nation, we need to encourage our sports stars and provide them with competent infrastructure and scholarships just like we do to our rising stars from academics. Awarding those who win is an excellent start but supporting those who are trying is equally important. Guess its time to apply some management in sports and grow it as an organization that performs and shows results and invests back a certain percentage of its earnings into developing the organization for the sports community at large.

It’s very heartening to see advertisements of Airtel football (http://airtel-football.com/) and multiple specialized sports academy that are run under Tata Sports Academy. It was also indeed appreciable when NDTV ran a Marks for Sports Campaign asking every state to include Sports in the main curriculum. (http://www.ndtv.com/micro/marksforsports/default.aspx)

I think our sportsmen deserve this support for the amount of national pride they bring in by representing us. And with all the realization of Sports as an underprivileged section and with the increased media and corporate focus on its importance in daily lifestyle as well as global representation and recognition there is a ray of hope beginning to be seen.

And if we can sustain our commitment and enthusiasm for the same – we may be sitting at the “Beginning of the Sports Era in India“.

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3 thoughts on “Beginning of the Sports Era in India

  1. Great article Smita!
    Very informative and very well researched.
    My two cents – Giving an award of 1 crore AFTER one wins a medal would never get us winners. It is like announcing a prize of 10 crores to any Indian who could go to the moon 🙂
    Like any other field, in sports, we would have to invest in failures more than we do in success. When a competitive athelete has a backing of the government and/or the corporate media, even if he fails, he will invest his time and put in his sincere efforts to get us the gold.
    One can’t concentrate and perform when the undercurrent is the fear and the aftermath of the loss.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blogs 🙂
    Cheers!

  2. Great article Smita!
    Very informative and very well researched.
    My two cents – Giving an award of 1 crore AFTER one wins a medal would never get us winners. It is like announcing a prize of 10 crores to any Indian who could go to the moon.
    Like any other field, in sports, we would have to invest in failures more than we do in success. When a competitive athelete has a backing of the government and/or the corporate media, even if he fails, he will invest his time and put in his sincere efforts to get us the gold.
    One can’t concentrate and perform when the undercurrent is the fear and the aftermath of the loss.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blogs.
    Cheers!

  3. Thanks Abhinandan….keep sharing your feedback….very glad that you liked it.

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