By Siddhartha Upadhyay
Im a sportsperson first. Anyone who pursues a hobby with some seriousness or plays a sport with certain dedication would understand, as I did at the age of 15-years, that sports is a potent instrument of ‘social engineering. It affects change and regulates the future development and behaviour of a society at large.
Sports is a level playing field where people employ their talent, skill, grit and determination to achieve a common goal outplaying their opponents, irrespective of their caste, creed or religion.
When Khelo India School Games became Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG), it was not merely a change of terminology but also in magnitude and scope. In the field of sports, that’s how the Law of Natural Progression works. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, the Law of Progression applies to every righteous venture. A great sporting nation is where people play in large numbers in villages and cities that are like tributaries and add up to form a great reservoir of talent that never exhausts. An individual plays to realise his inherent talent and potential. Some are prodigious and go on to bring laurels to themselves and to those they represent – their club, district, state or nation.
The objective of government and non-government agencies alike is to provide encouragement, create enabling infrastructure at the doorstep, scout and hone talent, and let the sporting culture grow organically. Focus on sports at the school level leads to good players at the college level. The focus on Under-17s will create a cadre of prodigious players when they turn 21.
Thus, KYIG will push the Law of Natural Progression in sports by ensuring that every small effort counts and adds up to big results. There cannot be any piecemeal solution to realising India’s potential in the global sporting arenas.
Having made this broad point, let’s look at the larger picture. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as I see it, we have adopted a reverse engineering approach. The government is creating necessary linkages at the grassroots, a template for sports developments that’s easy to implement.
KIYG has standardised the sporting curriculum all over the country as more and more schools join in this righteous struggle. This initiative will lead to broadbasing of sports at the grassroots with both schools and pupils getting an incentive and opportunity to be part of this movement. A cultural shift in the way sports is played in villages and towns will determine how we fare at global events like the Olympics.
It’s a brave step by a visionary leader. The Prime Minister understands the importance of sports in asserting India’s rightful place in the comity of nations. He knows the ‘branding value of Sports’ in a world that’s fast shrinking due to the technological revolution, as more and more people are doing similar things across borders and cultures.
Sports, indirectly and directly, ensures better health, acts as a safety vault and a binding force in a diverse nation like India and inculcates the sporting spirit in people. A better performance at national and international levels ensures greater visibility for every stakeholder in a particular sport. Sports will soon be a lucrative career option. Therefore, winning medals in the Olympics has a much deeper significance.
Things don’t change in a day, especially when one is talking about changing cultural landscape of a country of a billion people. Therefore, the genius lies in the understanding of the ground realities and understanding the burden of the past to usher in a new tomorrow. There’s no denying that the identification and nurturing of talent is at the core of developing an overall sports ecosystem.
To sum up, KIYG will give the much required momentum and has already started showing results on the ground. Not only has it brightened India’s prospects at the Olympics, it also has been able to bring together all the stakeholders on one platform.
(Siddhartha Upadhyay is member of the Governing Body of the Sports Authority of India and Founder of STAIRS, an organisation dedicated to the uplift of sports. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])