Friday, December 5, 2008

A Reason to Play

I was in Jamshedpur on vacation last week and driving around town with the family in tow, we saw an archery event taking place in the JRD Tata Sports Complex. Intrigued and excited, Arti (my wife) and I returned to the scene of action a few hours later and it was a thrilling sight.

More than a hundred kids with bows ranging from the wooden to the coolest taking aim at targets placed 30-120 meters (or was it yards ??) away. This was the national junior archery championship and teams from all across the country were there to do battle. We had encountered the archers before the actual competition had started and what we saw were some practice rounds.

What a sight!

And then I wondered how many of them would still be shooting arrows in five-ten years time! Arti herself had played basketball for her state and then it never occurred to her to continue to do so after school was done. How many of these kids I saw would be in the pool of players still aiming for the Olympics when they reach the age?
The answer sadly is not many. Like Arti, for many travelling for camps and national level meets as a school kid will become memories in adulthood with not enough real relevance. One cannot blame them as a living will have to be made and the bread earned and the mortgage paid. The answer has to be in the direct linkage of livelihood with sports.

Take the example of Biwani and the boxers that are made. If you box well you can get a job with the army. This has created a large pool of boxers and the facilities to train them. And form this large pool have emerged one Olympic medalist and two who got close.

If similar solutions can be traced for more and more disciplines and similar pool of sportspersons can get created for each of them, I’m sure in a country as large as ours we will still be producing champions in spite of a lack of infrastructure and the best coaching. The trick is to make sure that they do not stop playing.
And the answer for football will also lie there. Yes, footballers probably have more of a future economically than archers even today, but then it is a sport that the whole world plays and hence the critical mass requirements for football are that much larger.

So here’s in search of a solution that gives youngsters an economic reason to play football. If anyone reads this and has an idea, let’s discuss and implement it. If it’s not for football but for any other sport (say shooting or swimming or wrestling or anything else) let’s hear about it and do something about it. There are many things that Indian sports is need of, but the biggest of them all is – a reason to play.

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