Bridges of Sports (BOS), a non-profit focusing on providing access to children to learn, play and excel in athletics, have worked with communities in Karnataka, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. It has trained over 1800 children in athletics.
Started with the support of few Indian Olympians, the organization is supported by Infosys Foundation, Micheal and Susan Dell Foundation, IIMB, Deshpande Foundation, and N/Core. It has recently signed an agreement with the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE).
As a part of an agreement between BOS Foundation and MAHE, 17 athletes (10 – 17 years age group) from BOS Foundation, will receive scientific, athletic training from sports scientists during the performance training camp to be held in Manipal from May 20th – 6th June.
The majority of the athletes come from an Indo-African tribal community called the Siddis and have struggled for basic amenities due to lack of resources and social exclusion. All of these athletes are being trained to compete for the 2024 Olympics.
The Siddis are settled primarily in Yellapura, Haliyal, Mundgod and Sirsi taluks of Karnataka. They have been in India for over 500 years. Studies have pointed that Siddis in Karnataka, much like in other parts of India, have remained isolated, and economically and socially neglected, predominantly settled in forest dwellings.
This limits access to resources and opportunities in more ways than mere logistics. In 1987, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) started a scheme to train members of the Indo—African Siddi community. Around 65 members of the community were initially chosen to be trained in athletic events as part of the ‘Special Area Games Scheme’. The scheme was discontinued six years later, and although further efforts were made to revive the scheme in the 2000s, it was criticized for its short-sightedness, lack of inclusiveness and proper coaches.
In an attempt to revive these efforts, BOS are building a sustainable sports ecosystem in North Karnataka which is home to one of the most naturally athletic Siddi Community. The organisation’s annual grassroots community league—PATANG (planning athletic training and nurturing grassroots) helps in talent identification, after which the athletes are enrolled in and supported at each level of their development.
Children within 20% of the national records are given specific training by youth coaches. Along with daily monitoring and development, they are also provided with basic nutrition support, training shoes, and equipment. Only the best talent—who are within 15% of national records are then trained by senior coaches and are given complete nutrition support, sport science, and sports psychology support. Besides athletic training, BOS also conduct sessions for parents, team building activities, and personality development workshops for the athletes.