Approximately 340 million Indians, or 26.62% of the country’s total population, were aged 0 to 14 in 2019. It can be both thrilling and concerning for planners especially in India to have such a huge number of young people, given the potential for national progress. There is a need to provide chances for meaningful employment, healthcare, and education for young people. Sports and fitness are one area that offers the chance to develop young people’s potential. India has historically failed in the world of international sports, except for field hockey and, to a lesser extent, cricket. While there hasn’t been much focus on youth sports and physical fitness until recently, initiatives and organizations that have worked to develop young people’s sporting talents, such as the academies founded by former athletes, the Army Sports Institute, and a few regional centers of the Sports Authority of India.
In 2017, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Union Sports Minister, proposed a plan in a series of tweets that would have the Sports Authority of India (SAI) eliminate the word “authority” because it is no longer relevant in the context of contemporary sports.
The minister also voiced concern about the miserable circumstances in which legendary athletes are unable to meet their fundamental requirements. A discussion about how to enhance the nation’s sports ecosystem resulted from the minister’s observation of the state of sports today. In light of this, it is necessary to comprehend the causes harming Indian sports as well as the measures the government is taking to make things right.
Challenges & Problems of Sports in India
- Administrative Issues
- Lack of Infrastructure
- Gender bias
- Lack of remuneration & Job Security
- Breaking the Stereotypes & Culture
There is no standard code, rule, legislation, or law that regulates how various sports associations are run (including elections, funding, scheduling, events, requirements, and time limits). The bylaws and regulations of these associations are unique. They consequently neither treat athletes fairly nor transparently. Indian hockey has suffered greatly as a result of the dispute between the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India (HI) over which organization should be the sport’s official regulatory body. Another example is the Archery Association of India (AAI), which has had the same president for 40 years (1973 to 2012). To address the aforementioned issue, legislation should be passed that specifies the fundamental organizational framework for all sports. Despite being in the works, such umbrella legislation has not yet been introduced into parliament due to objections from several sports organizations.
Lack of Infrastructure
Another big issue with Indian sports is the lack of a hierarchy of sports from the local level to the national level. There is no suitable system in place to develop talent at the school, block, and district levels before elevating the best athletes to the state and federal levels. As a result, many talented athletes lose their way and are unable to compete at the highest levels of their respective sports. Additionally, the lack of grassroots sports infrastructure makes matters worse. Sports associations should be set up at the block and district levels as a remedy, and they will be responsible for supervising the local sports academies. These associations should have qualified staff to administrate sporting facilities at academies as well as other demands of athletes such as correct nutritional plans, anti-doping awareness campaigns, fair and timely selection trials, conditioning camps, foreign exposure, and so on. These academies should serve as a breeding ground for future champions.
Sport is also plagued by gender inequality, with women finding it difficult to reach the pinnacle of Indian sports. Sports are deemed “too tough” for Indian women to participate in, hence they are overwhelmingly male-dominated. However, the situation has shifted dramatically in recent years, with the rise of a new generation of female athletes in sports such as badminton, tennis, shooting, archery, boxing, athletics, weightlifting, and wrestling. But there is still a long way to go and in India, we still have a lot of untapped potentials. The media and cinema can help revolutionize Indian sports by raising awareness, popularizing, and changing women’s participation. Recent interest in highlighting the performance of female athletes in Indian media and cinema (such as Chak De India, and Shabaash Mithu) is a step in the right direction.
Lack of remuneration and Job Security
Sports are a result of human nature, which strives for excellence and perfection, but due to the absence of financial compensation and job stability for athletes, the sports sector is not viewed as a viable career option in India. As a result, parents are hesitant to choose it as their child’s profession and instead place more emphasis on academic excellence. Furthermore, contrary to norms around the world, there are no seats reserved for athletes in the nation’s premier educational institutions. The elite Ivy League Schools, for instance, is a center of athletic prowess in addition to academic excellence and consistently produce a large number of Olympians and world champions in sports, in contrast to the IITs and IIMs in India, which place a sole emphasis on academics.
Breaking the Stereotypes and Culture
Sports and adventure were never valued by the elite in India. The caste system gave more credit to intellectual than to physical accomplishments. Even in, we have an absurdly low achievement rate, we don’t have an abundance of Nobel laureates and brilliant inventors. Physical work and activities have always been reserved for the so-called lower castes. Adventure or athletics were never valued by the Indian aristocracy. Despite having a lengthy coastline, neither deep-sea diving nor surfing is a popular pastime in our country. More fully clothed individuals are observed enjoying fried savory foods on Indian beaches than swimming. We have mountains covered in snow, yet not many people practice skiing. Despite a large number of lakes and rivers, leisurely kayaking or sailing has never been a popular activity. The governments are not in a rush to build facilities for the same since the elite have never been interested in anything that needs a tiny bit of adventure. This cultural conditioning is seen in how parents and schools view sports. When they reach the 10th or 12th grade, many kids see their participation in athletics as the first thing to be prohibited.-- Advertisement --
Indian sports have a lot of untapped potentials that hasn’t been realized yet. But now is the right time to reaffirm our dedication and change how we look at sports and make the future of sports in India world-class. Until we establish ourselves as a sports superpower, India’s aspiration to become a world power would remain unfulfilled. If India is to become a rich, sparkling valley for the rest of the globe, sports must act as a lighthouse.