The Emperor has no Clothes – Indian Speak on Sports

Posted on August 26, 2016


Now that the euphoria of the two Olympic medals has died down people are coming to the realization that the Emperor has no clothes and we really suck as a sporting nation.

As such a lot of money and doles are being thrown around to the athletes who got those 2 medals or came “4th”. This is no less a miserable state of affairs as it exacerbates the problem of “feudalism” even in sports. High rewards for OK performances early in the game result in zero performance down the line and it is not the fault of the athletes. An analogy would be coming first in class vs. coming 10th – if our parents celebrated mediocrity then where does the killer instinct come in. Add to this red tapism and these onetime performers get a permanent spot that they never have to vacate for promising new comers. If this is not feudalism what is it? In addition to all the “let us beat up the government” blame game, this early reward system destroys incentive and basically throttles the funnel that generates new athletes. Past performance cannot be criteria for sports reservation.

A lot of suggestions have been around – let us throw more money in terms of investments and rewards. These are lazy and dumb ideas of the “blame the other” cadre that exists in India. We don’t have money to throw.  Frankly, between money to be spent on sports infrastructure and basic medicine I will choose the latter. We are country with massive poverty. Get the basics right first and address your pride second.

And all that brouhaha about sports pride etc did not help Soviet Union much after they splintered into pieces despite gymnastics schools and massive investment. So please Indian government, do not listen to the pridophiles. Instead be judicious about how we spend our monies. We need guns and butter first – defense and basics.

That said India has a huge asset and it is literally huge – our population, genetics and traditional sports culture. Just as we take advantage of the population in the selection for IIT’s (after all IIT’s are not representative of India’s glorious primary education system), we should follow a similar template for sports. It will be lower investment than disparate investments in infrastructure all over the country.  Just like the II’s this is a long term plan which will ensure that real talent does not fall through the cracks while limiting excess expenditure. And PLEASE stop giving silver medalists, 4th position’s crores and crores. It’s not your money to give (yes Kejriwal quit with the noblesse oblige). If private individuals like Tendulkar want to give BMW’s that’s his problem, but he’d better not ask for tax breaks. A soldier who gives his life to protect us does not get all this stuff. So please get a perspective.

The IIT model will give the right people the opportunity and allow us to focus on real talent. Below are some thoughts around how this could be executed -:

Indian Institutes of Sports Education – A Template

  • Plan for 5-6 such institutes to be set up in the most depressed areas of the country – preferably tribal areas and such where talent is abundant and opportunities slim.
  • Have a 6 year program starting at 12 which combines conventional board education with sports discipline.
  • The selection criteria should be solely sports talent in the disciplines catered to by the particular institution e.g., if we were to set up one in Tripura it should focus on 2-3 disciplines at most including gymnastics, archery etc; something in Bhubaneswar should have soccer as one of the sports disciplines. And let us be judicious in selecting the sports – shooting, golf and tennis cannot be it.
  • Admissions are countrywide – Indians from all over can apply so that talent is not restricted. This can be an annual selection process very similar to army recruitment camps (infact it can be associated with army recruitment camps).
  • The program has to be a full time – on campus program due to the intensity of conventional study and sports. It is crucial that by 18 the children are capable of getting other jobs if required and it is likely that many children might be illiterate when they join at 12.
  • Between 5-6 institutions cover 15-20 sports disciplines and the institutes can compete with each other
  • Have a limited class size of 30-40 students across the 3-4 disciplines the institute caters to
  • The program should be free for the economically distressed since sports is the sole criteria

I think the advantage of this framework is that it will give an opportunity for real talent while enabling children from depressed areas to channelize their energies into sports.  It also contains investments which in our country should not be spread around or wasted.

In summary – do not reward mediocrity, remove sports feudalism and take advantage of the Indian funnel to identify and train talent early.


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