Article

The Power of Play

The Power of Play

Tokyo Olympics 2020 has signalled the emergence of India as a sporting nation and could prove to be a gamechanger across strata.

Sports would be animportant pillar for the holistic growth of the nation. It lays the foundation of sound physical & mental health and fosters successful youth development. It promotes inclusiveness, harmony, sense of pride and patriotism. Globally, sports have a unifying appeal. Over the years, government has launched initiatives like Khelo India programme, Fit India Movement, Target Olympic Podium (TOP) Scheme, National Sports Awards Scheme etc. to encourage participation at the grassroots. To find lasting success, a slew of measures from all stakeholders, is vital to tap the talent pool of 1.3 billion strong nation, starting at the very bottom.

Sports aid education

There is a significant thrust to increase school enrolment, however a lot needs to be done to curb steep rate of drop-outs among marginalised rural and urban communities. According to experts from NUEPA (National University of Educational Planning and Administration), which releases the annual DISE (District Information System for Education) Reports on Education, the foremost reason for dropping out is that schools are not ‘attractive’. Contrary to popular belief, greater physical activity does not lower academic performance. Global evidence shows a positive corelation between sports and increased attendance, enhanced memory development leading to better concentration, better physical growth, healthier eating habits, higher levels of cardiovascular fitness, increased parental support and decreased anxiety and depression.

To summarize, children who actively engage in sporting activities are more likely to complete schooling, focus in class, perform better in examination and plan to attend college than their peers who do not do so. This is especially important in regions where youth indulge in drug and substance abuse and significantly deteriorate themselves and their families.

Other benefits of sports in education include, developing of a strong ecosystem, along with other stakeholders such as authorities, federations, sports clubs, etc. It also aids generation of employment opportunities for people such as coaches, physical trainers, and sports facility operators. Sports increases access to education for underprivileged talent through scholarships.

Sports catalyses economic development

Sports has tremendous potential for boosting the economy of the nation, as it forms a complete sector including sporting events and infrastructure associated with sports, along with training facilities and sports retail. Manufacturing of sports goods also forms a major part of the sector. It is also closely linked with other sectors like tourism, real estate and health education.

This leads to creation of employment opportunities at every level while also developing world-class athletes and giving impetus to the youth of the nation to actively pursue sports and build a sporting culture.

Sports promote gender equity

There is significant evidence reflecting the relationship between sports participation and social integration and social inclusion of women and girls. Sport activities allow women and girls access to safe social spaces in which they may exercise control and ownership. Sports also act as a tool to challenge or alter gender norms. Women in sports defy gender stereotypes and social norms, make inspiring role models, and show men and women as equals.

Building a sporting culture

Sports being a crucial element in country’s development, the foundations of this integral sector cannot be subpar. The education sector should play a crucial role in promoting sports in India, starting right from the mindset of parents that need a paradigm shift to encourage active participation by children from early age itself. Building a sports culture and a subsequent legacy of champion requires more dedication and a change in approach from all stakeholders, focussing significant effort at the bottom of the pyramid. Building proper sports infrastructure and proper system for training and development by the government or local bodies or aiding educational institutes to develop the same will go a long way in boosting sports at the grassroots. Investing in training of coaches in sports science and psychology could provide a great impetus as coaches are the one who hand-hold young kids and teach them the nuances of the sport. A systematic talent identification process at the school level in urban, rural and tribal level will help in identifying talented youngsters and training them early on to help them rise to global prominence.

Strong sporting culture and grassroot mobilisation is key to sustainable, long-term improvement and cementing India’s place in the world of sports.

About the Author

Niyati Verma is a public policy & communication strategist with over decade plus years of experience. As her personal passion to give back to the society, she works pro bono for underprivileged girl-child education & rural women empowerment at remote areas with MSM Foundation.