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Championing Future Stars: Promoting Sports in Indian Schools

Indians have been winning a lot of accolades in the domain of sport in the recent past. As I write this article, the Indian men’s cricket team has just won the T20 World Cup after a gap of 13 years. In the upcoming Paris Olympics 2024, India will be represented by its largest contingent ever of 124 athletes and sportspersons. Rohan Bopanna is creating ripples in the world of tennis by becoming the oldest player to achieve the number 1 ranking in men’s doubles. Neeraj Chopra, the Indian javelin sensation, is consistently winning on the world stage. Nikhat Zareen, the Indian women's boxing superstar, is also shining consistently on the world stage. The story of Indians winning accolades across various disciplines in sports is growing by the day, and the consistency is heartening.

Over the years, we have always wondered why a country of over a billion people does not produce world-class athletes consistently. This aspect of Indian sports has changed for the better; we are now a strong sporting nation in several sports and have a growing reputation in many others. The big change has come at the school level, where government bodies, school management, and parents seem to encourage sports like never before. If we look closer at any sport, the seeds of superstars are sown when they are very young, primarily in schools and by schools. This fact has been well understood by several educators and school management. This is the reason behind a lot of investment in sporting facilities in schools across India. I have to acknowledge that this is an amazing trend and it must continue.

Including sports as an integral part of a student's learning process does not mean that all of them will go on to become professional sports persons. The idea behind it is definitely to nurture future superstars, but that is only one in a million. What sport in schools does is infuse a habit of being healthy and the spirit of sportsmanship in children at a very early age. Children who play sports regularly at an early age tend to remain healthy throughout their lives, keeping the sport alive as a hobby and leading to a healthier lifestyle. This is a bigger reason why schools should encourage sport.

Several government schemes, corporate CSR initiatives, and sporting organizations are very actively supporting sports at the school level. Schools should reach out to them to build partnerships to actively encourage sports. It is not too expensive to encourage sports; depending on the budget of the school, they could choose from a world-class table tennis facility, which does not cost a fortune, or if the school is well endowed, it can nurture expensive sports like equestrian or golf. Schools do have a choice; it is all about the intent.

While school management and educators are now waking up to realize their role in shaping the future of Indian sports, this change towards supporting sports is not universal. Only a small share of schools have walked that path, while the majority remain happy being ‘marks-making machines’. The NEP and NCF have forever advocated the importance of giving sports Its due as part of the schooling process. The world is slowly realizing the growing power of India as a sporting nation. The onus is on school management and educators to look beyond grades and upgrade their sporting facilities. This will augur well for the future of Indian sports and the well-being of our future generations.

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