Internationally India has been given the tag of ‘non-athletic nation’ because of its consistent poor performance before the world audience in the sports events. India has 17% of the world population but it could only win 0.31% of the total gold medals in reputed competitions. Thus, there is an urgent need for a strategy that can help India win more golds in sports. It is important to understand ‘why’ India has not been able to get more golds before answering ‘how’ to get them. Well, the sportsmen and women in India often complain about lack of adequate sources, funds, infrastructure, equipment, sponsorship and encouragement for sports and games other than cricket in the country. Corruption, political intervention and unwillingness of sports authorities are also cited as the root causes. Inadequate training programmes and practice sessions which do not meet international standards are said to be another reason for dismal performance in sports. Besides the above, another most important reason is the discouragement and disinterest showed by parents and teachers to their children’s interest in sports and games.

The solutions to these problems lie in addressing or targeting the above problems. In the first place, parents and teachers should make an extra effort to identify a child’s inclination towards sports. Children of all ages should be encouraged to actively participate in sports as it will help in their overall physical and mental development. Schools should include sports as an integral part of their curriculum. Sports competitions should be held at local and regional levels, and students interested in a particular game should be provided with further training. This can help children cultivate sportsmanship qualities and also gain experience in the game.

Secondly, the State and Central governments should provide adequate funds and resources for upgraded training programmes, necessary infrastructure, equipment and other facilities to sportspersons. For instance, the government and sports authorities in China have planned towards winning gold[s] in the sports of swimming, track, rowing, kayaking and sailing. Under this project, intensive training on a par with international standards is provided to athletes and participants of various games. India needs to design and implement such goal-oriented projects to clinch more golds in sports.

Thirdly, all the encouragement, resources and participation would go waste without a proper coach. The nuances and tricks of the game can only be learnt from a good trainer. Even in the ‘Mahabharata’, the great Indian epic, a master-archer like Arjuna was trained by his versatile teacher, Dronacharya. Hence, trainers with good performance record, experience and exposure to national and international sports should be appointed as sports coach to train the athletes.

In addition to this, steps should be taken to control ‘corruption’ which has made its way into every part of human life including sports and games. Sanctioning and providing adequate funds are such steps but utilising them efficiently for the purpose meant, is an altogether different step. Accounts should be audited to ensure proper utilisation of funds. Authorities holding positions in sports organisations, associations and selection committees should be held accountable and punished in the event of any misuse of the allocated funds.

Moreover, favouritism and bias in selection of team members, appointment of trainers, etc. should be strictly discouraged. It should be ensured that the only criterion for selecting a player or a coach on the team should be his/her performance record and definitely not his/her personal background or relation with the members of Selection Committee. Care should be taken to not repeat cases like Monica Devi, a wrestler from Manipur, who was dropped from the Indian contingent to 2008 Beijing Olympics in the last minute. The issue is yet to be solved. Such incidents can lead to resentment among players.

Sports in India should expand and reach beyond cricket. Cricket has managed to attract huge fanfare, reputed brand names for sponsorship and popular celebrities like industrialists and Bollywood actors. Cash-rich Indian Premier League bears testimony to this. Similar treatment is due to be accorded to other sports. Private sponsors including domestic and multinational companies should be invited to offer sponsorship to sportspersons of other games. Wide publicity should be given to other sports by broadcasting them on television. Medal-winning performance should be duly rewarded by the Central and State governments. However, in spite of all the hurdles and hiccups, some of our players have created history. This clearly shows that without obstacles, India would be able to attain a good position.

It can be seen that India won 2 medals (silver) in Olympics in 1900 with only 1 athlete representing India. Then after winning 1 medal in every Olympics from 1928 to 1948 (all were Gold) we managed to win 2 medals again in 1952. The next jump in this number only came in the year of 2008 where we won 3 medals (1 Gold). India then rejoiced with 6 medals in 2012, but could win just 2 in 2016. The performance of Indian athletes at Olympics has become a popular topic of discussion and debate. Many believe that India has not performed well at Olympics and there are some fundamental changes that are required to improve the situation. However, equally, many also believe that winning two medals at Olympics in 2016 is a great achievement and we should celebrate it along with working to win more medals in the future.

Whatever the take may be one thing that everyone believes is that the performance in the future has to be improved. With this (once in four years) concern of improving sports performance of India, people are jumping to solutions without understanding the problem. Some of the solutions proposed recently are: India will have to wait till 2050 and let the GDP reach the level similar to that of the medal-winning nations, improvement of the sports infrastructure is the only solution, right attitude of the policy makers and implementers will do wonders and the upliftment of women in the society is the solution. All these solutions are valid and will definitely make an impact on the sports performance. However these solutions will not work in isolation. There is a need to first identify the problems in the present system and understand how they are interconnected to each other to be finally able to propose non-isolated solutions and an implementation plan.

We should identify the process that is involved in creating medal-winners. Based on that process, we should identify the key groups or stakeholders. We should create a framework of these groups and highlight the interlinkages. We should understand the status quo in the groups and set goals, which will lead us to enlist solutions to fill the gap in the two. Of course the solutions will have to be looked in totality and not just in isolation. We should implement the identified solution, learn from implementation and make necessary changes. People and specially parents should develop interest in sports. They should follow sports and should even encourage their kids to follow them. Parents should understand that the idea of playing sports is an essential part of life. The benefits of sports—from good health to complementary skill development—should be recognised and appreciated. As a result, they should start supporting their kids to play sports irrespective of the age. When more and more parents start playing themselves and spend money on sports it will make sports economically viable. Parents should get convinced that sports may be one of the possible options for their kids to make great careers and earn enough money to lead a comfortable life even if they do not reach the highest level of performance. The right system of coaches, academies, tournaments and clubs should identify the talent in the kids. This system should then work on grooming the identified talents with the objective of making a mark in the world and they get necessary support from government and private institutions. Kids should start competing locally and gradually climb the ladders of competitions. In case some kids do not reach the higher level they still get opportunities to make a living out of their dedication to sports. General population along with influencers like corporates, celebrities etc. should support and appreciate the participation of the sportspersons in the competitions irrespective of the result.

More golds can be won with the help and support of corporates, celebrities that influence the thoughts and decisions of people to take sports as a career as well as keeping the energy in sports alive among general population. Coaches, academies and clubs should identify and groom talents. The champions who win medals in competitions can also give back to sports society by helping it grow and reach newer heights and motivate other sportspersons. Parents, kids including recreational sports players can provide talent leads. Government policies and private investments can  indeed help to make the system viable and bring the necessary resources to the table.    

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