Today, on India’s Teachers Day, a new initiative – a National Sports Corps – is being launched as a key element of the Bridges of Sports programme to create a sustainable sports infrastructure across India that will transform public participation in sport and India’s performance and ranking at international sports tournaments and events. It will provide a cadre of trained coaches to reach communities that have hitherto not participated in sports activities for various reasons including lack of resources and living in a remote location or a slum.
The National Sports Corps will consist of teachers and others who will build the sports ecosystem in and across India. The intention is to inspire and empower interested and intending teachers and coaches through the provision of the understanding and skills they will need to be catalysts in the grassroots development of athletes and players in team sports. Wherever possible, trained coaches will be provided with the equipment they will need to start coaching activities in particular sports.
Coaches will receive appropriate training and the equipment and support they need to introduce a wider range of sports to hitherto marginalised communities. Wherever possible, use will be made of suitable available premises such as local schools.
According to Nitish Chiniwar, the founder of Bridges of Sports, “It is unrealistic to expect young people who have not participated in sport to travel long distances for something they have not experienced, so we plan to take coaching support to them. Our aim is to establish a national network across India.”
Pilot projects, involving children from excluded groups in Karnataka, have received an enthusiastic response. Activities from football for children who are blind and partially sighted or children from poor areas and the Afro-Indian community have shown the extent of a resovoir of untapped potential across India.
Supported individuals have won medals, including at national level, and a supported team of poor children won a match when playing against a leading football team.
Involvement in sport has many benefits. It can engage not just participating individuals and teams, but all those from families and local communities who support their local teams. It can bring people together as spectators and supporters. It can build local pride. It can create new opportunities for local social entrepreneurship and lead to job opportunities. It can be enjoyable and fulfilling.
Direct involvement in sport improves personal fitness, enhances confidence and self-belief and can improve general health. It can spur ambition. Team sports can build social and team working skills. Among those reached, there will be many with the potential to turn their dreams into practical realities. Participation in sport can open up ladders of social and economic advancement.
The new initiative also creates opportunities for those with an interest in coaching. Existing teachers will be able to develop new skills, widen their portfolio of offerings and become pioneers in a new and potentially transformational initiative.
They will have an opportunity to receive training and support in a sport of interest to them. Its delivery will be designed to suit their availability. For many, joining the new corps to support the development of children and young people whenever they are free will become an opportunity for professional development and advancement and/or an interesting, enjoyable and rewarding hobby and interest.
For some, joining the new corps might represent the first step towards acquiring the skills and evidence of competence that could support a new vocation and/or career as a coach. In many areas across India there is already some basic sports infrastructure and there are plans to introduce more extensive facilities.
However, as with some schools and toilet facilities that have been provided in rural areas, they are not always fully used. It is hoped the presence of trained coaches in local schools and sports facilities will encourage their greater use.
Where sports coaching is offered in local schools, it is hoped this will introduce additional children to the school premises that are being used and encourage them to participate in other educational activity. This would be another example of the positive benefits and externalities that involvement in the non-profit making Bridges of Sports Programme, or sponsorship support of it, can provide.
If you would like more information on the new National Sports Corps and/or would like to give wings to the dreams of children across India, please use the link: https://bridgesofsports.ketto.org/fundraiser/bridgesofsports
Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas regularly provides theme papers for international conferences concerned with sustainability and the environment. He leads the International Governance Initiative of the Order of St Lazarus, is Director-General, UK and Europe, IOD India, Honorary Professor at the Aston-India Centre for Applied Research, a Distinguished Professor at the Sri Sharada Institute of Indian Management-Research and a member of the advisory board of Bridges of Sports.
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