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Promoting academic learning is essential for every child’s growth in our nation. However, alongside studies, another vital element in a child’s development is participation in school sports and recreational activities. It is widely acknowledged in India that children should engage in play, with a growing consensus that more children should play as frequently as possible. Yet, the prevailing challenge lies not in questioning the importance of children playing but rather in addressing the crucial issue of finding suitable spaces for them to play.
With growing urbanization, open-ground spaces are disappearing in metro cities, as well as tier I and II towns. Also, with an ever-increasing number of vehicles and traffic congestion, the commute time for parents and children is a hassle. Today, even if your child has joined a sports academy, he/she spends an hour traveling to-and-from the sports venue. In addition, this duty falls on the parents and they must arrange transport or drive the child and wait around, while the child plays/trains. Most Indian parents do not have such a luxury of time or resources.
Due to a combination of disappearing open spaces/playgrounds near our homes and the hassles involved in commute, children are not playing as much as they used to a generation ago. This has contributed to a significant increase in obesity levels, mental disorders, and lack of social skills among children. However, a reasonable solution to this problem is encouraging school sports. Schools present a scalable and sustainable resolution for getting children to play. It is here that we can solve these problems by making sports an integral part of education.
Also Read | Physical Education Program in Schools
Promoting School Sports Through Physical Education
In India, each classroom typically consists of an average of 30-50 children within the same age, height, and weight category, a pattern that repeats every year. By integrating school sports into our educational institutions, the need for separate transportation logistics managed by parents can be eliminated. The year-round Physical Education timetable can be transformed into a comprehensive school sports calendar, offering a more efficient and coordinated approach.
Some of the critical hurdles in empowering school sports
Lack of Space & Infrastructure
Today, due to urbanization even schools in major cities are cramped up and lack open spaces for school sports. Most schools do have some space for children to play, but it is very limited. To tackle this issue, schools can structure and design games that use limited time and space.
Lack of space in schools is often touted as a reason for not conducting the in-school PE/sports program. And most sports programs for children can be played in a basketball court-sized space.
Adults make the common mistake of confusing sports with match play and visualize large grounds when they think of sports. However, if you analyze a professional sports team’s practice calendar, you will find that they spend time on three aspects: fitness, skills and match play. They spend 80% of their time developing the fitness and skills required to play the game better. For this, they use a small corner of the ground, never the whole field. If professional teams can work with small spaces, why can’t we get our children to play in schools?
Sports Fees in Schools
School sports and PE is and should be an integral part of education. Parents pay fees and the fees cover PE and sports for all children, along with other studies. But not every school uses the fees to encourage sports. Parents expect their child to be taught physical education and sports with the same structure, rigor, individual assessment, and daily lesson plans, and by a trained teacher – just as they would for Math or Science. It would be wonderful if the educational facilities utilize the fees in developing school sports.
Not only budgets but also space and time have to be aligned, based on the number of students in school. With all the resources at hand, it is only sensible for schools to make sports compulsory and run them efficiently.
Sports need to be made compulsory in schools, just like Mathematics or Science. Remember that sport is a kind of education that builds character.
Minimal Coaching and Training
The limited availability of skilled coaches and mentors proficient in various sports disciplines hampers the progress of students in honing their skills and nurturing their talents.
Inadequate Monitoring and Evaluation
The absence of efficient monitoring and evaluation systems to monitor the advancement and influence of school sports programs can impede their enhancement and overall efficacy.
The significance of sports activities in schools is often overshadowed by academic pressures and an excessive focus on exams, resulting in a diminished emphasis on promoting and encouraging sports.
Steps to Build a School Sports Culture in India
Encourage your child to participate in school sports
It is not compulsory that every child who participates in school sports has to become a great sportsperson. Yet this will go a long way in creating a positive impression about sports in the minds of young children, and they also get an opportunity to figure out if they are genuinely interested in pursuing sports.
This will enable the children to identify their passion for a particular sport and hone their talent. An additional benefit, needless to add, is children adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Increase local sporting events & make them accessible
Many times, sporting events are happening in a locality near us, but we miss them as there is no awareness created about them. Keep an eye out for them through your local newspapers, or the governing bodies or sports clubs in your neighborhood. In case there’s a lack of these events, people can get together and organize more such events to give a chance to more children to participate. Education facilities can tie up with sports promoters like us to market and create awareness about the school sports events happening.
Make sports stars role models & icons
Every child idolizes a pop star, a movie star, or an Instagram celebrity. However, not every child grows up idolizing sports stars as their role models. It is the duty of the school as well as parents to expose children to inspirational stories of sports athletes and inspire them with their talent, dedication, and their success.
Let students use sports as a rewarding career option
A child or a teenager will be automatically motivated to better one’s game if they are nurtured with positive thoughts about sports. The status of sports in India will not change overnight. However, small steps taken by each of us will take us to a point where we finally start to see improvement. The onus is on each citizen to start moving in this direction.
Within the household itself, we can begin to introduce sports. Playing together as a family will be a child’s initiation into the sport, which can further be carried into his/her growing up years and finally, adulthood.
While these are a few steps to start a change at a personal level, to build a culture of sports we need to also affect a change at a national level. We as the citizen of India must ensure that we have a system that supports school sports, and sports in general. And what better way to do that than by making sports a compulsory subject in schools?
Keep in mind that only when sports become a part of our school curriculum, will the status of sports be elevated in our society. If children were to take part in sports daily in their formative years, we are raising a generation of youth who are conscious, aware, and naturally inclined to sports.
It’s a refreshing thing that the current Government of India is encouraging school sports in the form Khelo India School Games. If any such events are organized on the local level as well, sports shall get a tremendous boost in the coming years.
School Sports: KreedOn, an Indian Sports Media’s Opinion
Most common reasons parents give when asked about sports:
- Sport is such a waste of time
- Sport has no future. Concentrate on your studies if you want a successful career!
- Sport isn’t meant for girls. You’ll get tanned and look masculine.
- What if you get a scar while playing sports? Who will marry you then?
- Thoda khel kya liya, khud ko khiladi samajhne lage!
- Sport is just a hobby – a distraction from studies.
- You need to focus on your exams – sports won’t help you score marks.
- What will you do after you get married? Sports won’t feed your family.
- Our hard-earned money is to ensure that you have a good education – not to play sports.
In conclusion, we assert that the aforementioned factors contribute to the missed opportunity for children to explore and pursue their passion for specific sports. At some level, many parents perceive sports as a career option that is less rewarding and prestigious compared to professions like medicine, engineering, or obtaining an MBA degree. This flawed perception, whether consciously or unconsciously, has potentially resulted in the loss of numerous potential champions.