India is a young country with a population of over 1.2 billion. Then, how is it that we produce only a handful number of Olympic medalists or never top the medal tally for Asian, Commonwealth Games or any other international event?

There are two main reasons for this. First, the attitude toward sports in our country and secondly, the lack of timely talent identification. While changing the attitude of our country is a gradual process, timely talent identification is the need of the hour.

Importance of talent identification in India

Though we love Cricket, statistics show that the average participation for all other sports (Swimming, Badminton, Cycling, Running, Football, Volleyball, Tennis, etc) is below 13%, while 42% of our population participates in cricket. We don’t have to justify that how many talents we have found in Cricket compared to other sports. Clearly, there is a problem there. The increased level of participation is required to get the right amount of talent for any sport.

The Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said in an interview, “Transformational changes have been introduced into Indian sports. Catch them young is no longer a slogan but is visible in our action. We are developing a sports system that connects local potential to global podiums that encourages every Indian to have sports as a part of their lives for entertainment, education or excellence.”

Image Source: activeforlife.com

Another crucial point is the lack of opportunities or support for those who actually want to play professional sports. There are kids who display excellent talent and skill at a young age. However, a small percentage of these actually go on to compete at a professional level. Because they are never identified and nurtured to grow further. This is exactly why talent identification is important. It is the first thing which needs to be done to change the scenario of Indian sports.

Let’s understand Talent Identification

Talent identification is the process of identifying the skills and potential in a young person and providing the right opportunities to showcase and better those skills. And this process starts right in schools at a young age where the person displays the talent and competitiveness among peers.

Image Source: connectedcoaches.org

To ease the process of talent identification, competitive events for schools are a great medium as it provides the young guns with a platform to showcase the skills. Also, without zeroing in on a particular sport, a child should be tested in various sports.

The performances in each sport should be duly analysed and accordingly, a path for the child should be laid so that this early direction in life would guide the child to excel in future. In India, there are numerous athletes who made it big by the time they were teenagers. Reason? Early identification and nurturing.

Sportsmen and women who started young

Abhinav Bindra was just 17 when he made his Olympic debut. His parents built a shooting range so that he could practice whenever required. Of course, not everyone can afford that, but identifying and supporting the child is more important than anything else is.

Image Source: The Hindu

Prithvi Shaw, an 18-year-old is creating ripples in the cricketing world with his performance. He is touted as the mix of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Virender Sehwag by our current Indian coach, Ravi Shashtri.

10 years back, Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar had quoted, “One day he will play for India”. So much so for talent identification. It was enough to boost his morale and ones supporting him.

Image Source: AsiaNet

Consider the example of para-athlete Devendra Jhajharia. The first Indian Paralympian to win two gold medals at the Paralympics was spotted at a school event by Dronacharya Awardee coach R. D. Singh. Devendra was simply participating in his school meet, but R.D.Singh identified and nurtured his talent.

Talent Identification: A genuine effort by KinderSports

Our country has the potential to produce many more versions of Abhinav Bindra and Devendra Jhajhariya. And, efforts of KinderSports are fueling this big mission.

Image Source: kindersports.in

KinderSports handpicks raw talent when they are in schools and groom the aspirants to turn them into champions. The aim is to foster a lively sports culture in schools that not only produces winners but also instils a sense of discipline, team spirit, and awareness of fitness and good health.

In association with the Sports Authority of Gujarat, KinderSports has started an exhaustive talent identification program for both girls and boys in Gujarat. It is working in 9 districts which are – Botad, Bharuch, Patan, Dahod, Mahisagar, Aravalli, Sabarkantha, Mehsana, Gandhinagar.

The sports events are conducted in different schools in two categories:

Category 1 | Under – 9: Events – 30m Race and Broad Jump
Category 2 | Under – 11: Events – 50m Race and Broad Jump

The coaches organize these 4 events in each school. Out of these events, 16 boys and 16 girls are selected from each school under each category. Once selected, these students are pushed further to participate at the district and eventually state level. Coaches ensure that there are maximum selections from their schools at the Taluka level. Coaches also take care of their further training until they complete the state level.

Image Credits: KinderSports

Coaches help them to master techniques for broad jumps and other field events. Simple tactics like a precise style of takeoff or the right bend of the knee; makes a lot of difference during competitions. In racing, kids learn things like how to hold their torso in the right angle, how to bend elbows at 90 degrees and other tips which help these students to make a mark.

The training is efficiently supported by analysis and recommendations. Measurement of a broad jump is done from the start of the take off to the touch of last body part on the ground. Race timings are captured using a stopwatch.

Quick Fact – The best average race timings among children are:

30m Race: Under 9 – around 8 secs | Under 11 – 5-7 secs
50m Race: Under 9 – around 14 secs | Under 11 – around 11 secs

How talent identification will help India?

Talent identification in the age group of 8-12 years will lead to a timely nurturing of talent. It will also broaden the pool of athletes in India. Starting at an early age will keep the option of experimenting in varied sports open for the athletes. Most importantly, the talent search for sports will ensure that children from every nook and corner of the country get a fair opportunity to pursue their dreams.

The future of the children in our country is in our hands. The generation is grappling with issues like obesity, growing technology addiction, and other issues. A more proactive involvement in sports is absolutely the need of the hour.

Currently, KinderSports is affiliated with the Sports Authority of Gujarat and serving 70+ schools in Gujarat and 15+ schools in Maharashtra. Through such talent search initiatives, it hopes to bridge the gap between talent and opportunities!

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