This Teacher’s day, Let’s Give Wings To The National Sports Corps Who Are Training Grassroot Sports Champions
The relationship between a coach and a student is more than just that of an instructor and learner. Coaches have a vital place in any athlete’s career and this job can morph into one of a mentor, a guide, a confidant, a teacher, a friend, a role model, and many a time, all of the above. While coaches shape the lives of athletes at all levels, coaches that interact with children at the grassroots level play a crucial role in moulding the young athlete – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Bridges of Sports Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation aims to build and promote the National Sports Corps (NSC). The NSC consists of ex-athletes, physical education teachers, coaches and volunteers from the local community. They are trained and placed in underserved local schools and communities as coaches on a 2 year fellowship.
Post the fellowship, NSC members will be part of an alumni network, guided by Bridges of Sports to create inclusive community centers. They will be encouraged to be involved as community leaders, sports administrators, teachers, coaches, and policy makers to mobilise a people’s movement to support the nurturing and building of sustainable sports ecosystem, which is inclusive.
The National Sports Corps strives to achieve their full potential, which in turn nurtures the youth of today into the champions of tomorrow. Currently the NSC are training Volleyball, Athletics and Blind Football in two districts of Karnataka.
Importance of coaches at the grassroots
Sport and play are key aspects of a child’s overall development. Access to sports infrastructure should be made accessible to every child, whether it be for sports training, play, or just overall health and fitness. Availability of such facilities, especially in government schools and rural districts, has the potential to lead to larger positive social outcomes.
Grassroots coaches in such areas, also have the potential to utilise sports as a tool to bring about various social impact and change. In these situations, the role of coaches in building and strengthening the local ecosystem becomes more prominent.
We all have that one teacher from school, who defined how we learnt the subject and how we thought about the material. Sometimes this experience was positive and sometimes not so much.
Good teachers helped us dive deeper into the subject and cultivated our interests. Good teachers left a lasting impression on us. Similarly, coaches shape the learning and experiences of children and junior athletes, and impact how they embrace the sport and how they excel in it.
Anil, our NSC member in Mundgod region, Karnataka trains and mentors around 30 children from the local community. One of his students Ravikaran, was living in the forest area in Yellapur region of Karanataka in a community of few huts.
Anil along with other NSC members did a campaign and selected him to be part of the sports training and enrolled him into our partner school – Loyola school in Mundgod. After training for a couple of months – he started showing results by winning Gold in taluk and qualifying for district meet. This is a prime example of how a coach can be life changing for ambitions of their students.
Role of coaches in building the ecosystem
A positive coach-athlete relationship lends itself to mutual respect towards each other. This fosters a comfortable learning environment and can influence the level of enjoyment that the child experiences during the activity. As young athletes, enjoyment of the activity is the first, and probably most important step, in a journey of learning. This desire to play can help retain children in the sport, which leads to development of skills outside of the classroom. Such skills include teamwork, goal-setting, perseverance, confidence, and self-esteem.
It is necessary to understand that sports and education cannot be looked upon as two choices. Rather, they need to be accepted into school structure as a single entity. In rural India, while there has been a big push on enrolment of children into school, a lot more needs to be done to retain them in the school.
Common reasons for the high rate of dropouts are a lack of interest in academic curriculum and lack of specific skill development leading to unemployment post secondary school. Participation in sports activities can make school more attractive and fun. It can be used as an intervention tool to retain children in schools and increase their attendance rates, especially in rural areas. This can be done by creating safe play areas and providing the children with specialized training.
Why do we need to support coaches
For grassroots sports programs to be most effective, it is important to provide sufficient training and education to the coaches themselves. In fact, the training is essential, given the holistic vision of “sports for social good” endeavors, and the responsibilities placed on the community coaches as part of this framework.
Devoting the adequate resources to construct a good base becomes critical if we desire to achieve maximum sport participation and create a positive impact on the lives, and development, of young children. This teacher’s day let us come together and Give Wings to the National Sports Corps to enable them to empower millions of dreams at grassroots. Bridges of Sports Foundation is working on roadmap to create an active network of 10,000 NSC members pan India in the next 5 years.
The author, Shikha Tandon, is an Olympian swimmer from India. She is currently on the Advisory Board of Bridges of Sports Foundation. She has represented India for 14 years at various other international events like World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and Asian Games. She has won 37 international and 146 national medals, and created 75 national records in swimming.
For more information, please visit www.bridgesofsports.org