India, a country of more than one billion population, has achieved limited success at the International Sporting Arena. The performance of the Indian athletes in the last few Olympics was not convincing. In 2008 Beijing Olympics, India secured only one Gold medal and two Bronze medals. In 2004 Athens Olympics, India won a Silver while in 2000 Sydney Olympics India secured a solitary Bronze medal.
Hockey is the only team game in which India won Olympic medals, but the recent performance of the national hockey team was not satisfactory. The success of Leander Paes, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom, Vijender Singh clearly proves that there is no dearth of talent in the country. Therefore, it can be suggested that a change in the sporting environment of India is required to produce the desired result.
Sport in India is yet to emerge as a career option. Limited span of career in sports, no comprehensive direction for career development, lack of recognition of sportspersons except cricketers, no correlation between sports and education are the factors that discourage the youth of India to accept sports as a career option.
Thus, a holistic approach should be incorporated for the overall development of the athletes for securing their future, even after the retirement from competitive sports. The National Athlete Career and Education Program of the Australian Sports Commission is one such approach that focuses on the personal, educational and career developmental aspects of an athlete. The features of the programme are:
i) Career counseling with an objective to explore future possibilities in the job market.
ii) Personal development through training in media, public speaking, leadership, financial planning, time management etc.
iii) Educational guidance through University study option
This model can be adopted by the sports bodies in India for providing a career path to the athletes.
Another important aspect of broad- basing sports is to ensure mass participation in sporting activities. To achieve this objective, China introduced the ‘Physical Health Law of the People’s Republic of China’ in 1995.
The Law encourages the people of China to participate at least in one sporting activity each day. Initiatives had been made to provide adequate infrastructure to facilitate this process. There are almost 620000 stadiums and gymnasiums in China, most of which are open for the use by public. Outdoor fitness centers have been set up in the urban communities. The State Physical Cultural Education has introduced the concept of sports lottery to fund the programme. This initiative has played a pivotal role in inculcating sports culture in China with an objective to improve the community health and fitness.
These two strategies can be implemented in India to broad-base sports. A comprehensive programme with a career direction will inspire the youth of the country to take up sports as a career option and the mass participation in sports will imbibe a sports culture. The role of the Government in funding and executing these programmes is crucial and it can be expected that the Government will play a proactive role in broad-basing sports in India to improve community health and fitness and also to achieve excellence at the international sporting arena.
The author is a sports enthusiast, currently working as a Lecturer of the Department of Sports Management of Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Kolkata. He joined the sports industry as a Research Executive of Comperio Research, market research arm of IMG. All India Football Federation (AIFF), the apex body of football in India, was his next organization where he joined as the Event Coordinator of the I- League. After AIFF, he joined New World Consulting as the Assistant Manager of the Department of Research and Consultancy. His passion for sports motivated him to do a Post Graduate Course in Sports Management. Prior to that, he completed M.A. in Economics.