Did you know that your favourite sport could lead you to a successful career path? Gauri Rane finds out why despite being popular in India sports has found few takers.
Abhijit Kawale loved to play football and dreamt of acing in it someday. Each day, as a student he walked the tight rope of managing his passion for sport along with the necessity of earning an academic degree. “I would train early morning and rush for 7am political science lectures,” he reminices. However, today Kawale, who according to his coaches had great potential on the field, has given up football and instead taken up a job that pays his monthly bills and keeps his routine going.
Like Kawale there are many young sports enthusiasts who fall short of achieving their dreams either because the training is expensive or the sport is not popular enough. According to Nilesh Kulkarni, director, Indian Institute of Sports Management (IISM), “Unfortunately, in our country, the term `sports` is used to convey recreational activities. It is never considered as a serious, methodical study or career option.” While there may be many who agree with Kulkarni, there is little that is being done to change the scenario of sports industry aspirants. As a country we may be passionate about various sports but we have not been able to transform that passion positively. Every now and then, one comes across amazing talent, sometimes on the field playing cricket, hockey, football or on the badminton court, or maybe in the boxing ring, but these sport crazy individuals have not been able to make the most of the limitless opportunities that can be made available to them.
Careers opportunities related to sport are growing. “Professional sport is increasingly becoming a big business offering opportunity for those different skillsets, whether it is sports marketing, sports engineering or sports management,” says Kate Grafton, deputy head, Allied Health Department, Sheffield Hallam University. Technology and sports engineering is rapidly influencing contribution to the industry’s growth. Every player has only a certain period of time during which he/ she is considered fit for the sport. To make sure that they intelligently make the most of this time, it is important that they are trained well. “If a player is certified as “not fit” doesn`t mean the end of the road, we have to open the opportunities for them,” says Kulkarni. While there is little being done to promote sports as a lucrative option here in India, universities abroad welcome students who have represented the sport at state, national and international level. “We work hard to create opportunities for all of our students who have a passion for sport,” says Grafton. Over 1,600 students from around the world pursue a wide range of sports science, sports technology, sport business management and sports journalism courses at Sheffield.
So what is it that needs to be done to present these talented individuals with valid opportunities. Kulkarni provides insight. Sixteen year old Prithvi Shaw of Rizvi Springfield High School went to England on a full paid sports programme to play the under-14, under-16 and under 19 cricket tournaments. “On the academic side, he studied six subjects and played for the cricket team of Cheadle Hulme School at Manchester,” informs Kulkarni. During his two month stay in England, Shaw scored 1,446 runs and also took 68 wickets. “This is the kind of experience one needs,” says Kulkarni, adding, “such experiences teach you more than what classroom teachings can.”
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) too conducts various programmes. Apart from conducting sports meets and championships for senior athletes, the AFI works on tapping and grooming younger talent as well. It runs the National Inter-District Juniors Athletics Meet scholarship which has till now nurtured over 3,500 budding athletes. Through a collaboration with International Association of Athletics Federations the AFI has taken it upon themselves to encourage schools in India to take up physical activities and athletics.
Governement, corporates, institutions together need to understand that without their backing sport enthusiasts have nowhere to go. For instance when Kawale captained his college football team, there was no monetary support in any form. “Buying basic sports gear, first aid etc., was our responsibility. We didn`t have the privilege of a sponsor,” shares Kawale. This attitude needs to change.
“A masters qualification abroad requires an investment of Rs 16-20 lakh which is not a small amount and hence, students will need assistance in form of scholarships,” says Kulkarni. Grafton agrees, adding that just as with any competitive career path, anyone trying to succeed in a sports-related career needs to be able to demonstrate both practical experience and academic study. There is no doubt that without the backing of the industry and the academia sports lovers will continue to find comfort in other lucrative career options. “If this happens we will definitely be losing out some very good talent just because we as a society prevented them from breaking the mould,” signs off Kulkarni.
Postgraduate specialisations in universities abroad