State of Sports Infrastructure in India

If the age old “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, is to be believed, then there are many dull boys in India. We may pride ourselves in some super successes of our overnight heroes and glorify their rags to riches stories but the fact remains that the condition of sports in India is deplorable. In most cases it takes immense motivation and unyielding courage to pursue your dream if it happens to be become a sportsperson (cricket, of course, is comparatively treated with some leniency). While there is a huge celebration for an Abhinav Bindra, Vijendra Kumar and Sushil Kumar, every now and then, the euphoria is short-lived. Criticism soon follows but everything is gradually forgotten till yet another infrequent victory seizes our attention and we start again. But deeper introspection, we’ll find that numerous factors contribute to the sorry state of sports in our country.

Our sports infrastructure is begging for changes. There is no doubt that there is abundance of talent and potential yet there are various reasons why Indians are unable to succeed in any sport other than cricket.

We may be emerging as the new economic super power in the world market but back home you will find every second person complaining about the lack of faculties even in metropolises. From stadiums to sports equipment, the supply is less than the demand with very few centres having the modern and the latest paraphernalia. Indian sportspersons, especially people associated with sports like shooting and archery, have complained that they often take time to accustom themselves to the modern equipment when they go to compete in the international competitions .

Lack of funds and support from the government is a chief cause. There are many who make it to the competitions but fail to go to a further level because of lack of government aid and cooperation. There are more ‘officials’ and politicians in the selection committees than veteran sportspersons and there are some prejudices which are always at work. Corruption like in every other field has permeated to root levels which makes it extremely difficult for a novice to look at sports as a career.

Even if there are a few who are interested, they fail to make to the international standard due to inadequate faculties in India. According to the VII All India Education Survey only half of the primary schools in India have playing fields. Almost every city is deficient in proper courts and stadiums. It’s ironic that authorities can grant spaces erect a new mall in metros every once in a while but a new stadiums takes years to take shape. The lethargic attitude of the government is evident if one sees the pitiful condition of our national sport hockey. Even smaller and underdeveloped countries like Nigeria and Holland provide better sport facilities. Kapil Dev said,” a small country like Holland has over 200 astro turfs, “but in India we have just 15.” Though Rs 1,111.81 crore that was granted to the Union Ministry of Sports in last year’s budget, one is yet to see its optimum use.

Proper coaching is a major problem with most coaches failing to provide finer technical nuances which make all the difference. There is an absence of professional expertise and knowledge. Says Abhinav Bindra, ” Winning on the world stage is not about one massive thrust of support every once in a while, instead it is more about putting together all the little things which define the fine line between a champion and being almost there.”

Ours is a country where encouragement comes after achievement. Sports are always ranked below academics and are seen more as a hobby than a profession and thus, are not integrated with formal education. Unlike America where most of the parents make it a point to attend a basketball game or a soccer match of their children, most parents in India try to discourage children from taking sports too seriously.

Gone are those days where evenings marked the start of family badminton tournaments or when monsoons announced the pleasure of playing football in the rain with friends. With busy lives, computers and television, the excitement that a sport used to generate has died down. A study indicates that outdoor activity had gone down in the last five years. Especially in metros where an average worker spends three hours commuting from work to home daily, leaving neither time nor energy for playing any game.

One sees a lack of dignity that is associated with physically demanding professions. And no matter how passionate a person is about a sport, he or she is often forced to give it up for a more ‘lucrative’ career option. A study indicates that participation decreases as level (interschool, district, state) increases. The lack of interest is perspicuous with embarrassing examples of lone spectator turning up for international matches including those of cricket.

Poor food habits and an improper knowledge of nutrition also serves as a hurdle. For sportswomen the task becomes all the more difficult as they to fight societal pressures and at the same time meet the demands of their profession. As a result sport is struggling for a consistent existence in India.

However hopeless the situation may seem, there are still remedies that can be employed to change the scenario for the better. Better facilities, better equipment, better funds will come about with a better attitude. We need to have a holistic approach towards sports development taking into account the health, recreational, social and economic benefits. Not only it offers a chance of fostering national pride but also helps in developing a team spirit that brings together people from different communities and strata’s of society, thus succours in building high level of tolerance and understanding. Concrete steps to improve the image of Indian sports from its abysmal status need to be undertaken.

NGO development structure or private corporate undertaking may help in getting more funds. Sports other than cricket need to be given equal assistance and limelight. Work from the grass root level is required. Widespread talent hunts and special authorities to oversee rural problems will be a major help in this process. We need a support system where a player who is injured is not ignored or written off but is guided through precise rehab. Also, introducing Physical Education as a part of the necessary curriculum will help generate both interest and participation in sports.

Once we adopt a scientific approach towards things by methodically approaching the problems, things will most definitely ameliorate. A strategic implementation of new ideas will improve the condition of all sports in India. Like gymnast Raj Bhavnagar, Olympic gold medallist has come up with the unique idea of organising gymnastic shows during cricket matches to popularise the sport in India. Bhavnagar, who believes that there is tremendous talent in India’s youth pointed out that it needs proper guidance and encouragement to make it big.

Also, at individual level we, who are or would be parents can bring about a change in the outlook by encouraging children in the field in which their interest lies and by respecting people who decide to take up sports as career. For it not only needs physical fitness but mental agility and focus to be a professional sportsperson. In the family and among friends, one voice may not guarantee a radical change but even if transforms or remotely affects even a single perspective, then that would be the beginning.

The fact that some sportspersons in India touch great heights in spite of all the obstacles speaks volumes about their passion and commitment. But it is saddening to know that many talents do not see the light of the day as their tears and sweat mingle because of problems which can be solved and obstacles could be overcome. While we plan to make to take over the world, lets first deal with some basic loopholes at home. For if we are losing out on sports, not only are we losing out on chances to churn out champions but are we missing out on one of the most exuberant aspects of life.

Apoorva Gupta

[Image courtesy:]