Officials in the education and sports industries have welcomed plans by the new government at the Centre to promote sports education in schools.
On Monday, President Pranab Mukherjee had said the children and youth of India needed avenues of recreation that would develop them constructively and keep them fit. "My government will launch a 'National Sports Talent Search System'. It will facilitate the development and promotion of Indian sports, particularly rural sports. Sports will be popularised by making it an integral part of the school curriculum and providing educational incentives," he had said.
Industry officials said if the government's stated plans fructified in the future, not just would sports become a serious activity in school but sports education companies would also play a bigger role in having structured programmes in sports.
Sports education brings educational principles into the field of sports. This does not include conventional sports training, but covers all aspects of sports education and development of students through structured programmes.
Arun K Khetan, Chief Executive Officer, Sports Education Development India Ltd (SEDIL) said the proposal by the government would improve the sports infrastructure and facilities currently offered.
"Boards like the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) already have sports as a integral part of their schools. But in the overall space, the rigour, focus and subsidies that are required are missing. The National Sports Talent Search System will give the much-needed fillip to sports, through the budgetary allocation for it," said Khetan.
Industry players believe that organisations like SEDIL, which is involved in all-round sports and fitness solutions in the country, will see a growth in their business.
The head of an international school based in south Mumbai said though large private schools offer sports and allied activities as a part of co-curricular activities, it is primarily the smaller schools and government institutions that would be benefitted from this provision.
"In schools, especially in Tier II/III towns, there are hardly any proper facilities or professionals for sports education. If sports becomes a part of the curriculum, not only will schools take it seriously, they will also have to appoint professional bodies to manage these activities. However, it is not clear if the government will pay for these additional costs," said a senior education consultant.
At present, companies like SEDIL engage with individuals, students, schools and parents to promote sports and fitness. SEDIL for instance, has its cricket division, to present comprehensive and structured cricket development programmes.
SEDIL also has 'Ready Steady Go', its physical education division, which is responsible for conducting comprehensive, progressive, age-appropriate health & fitness activities in schools through a quality and research-based curriculum. Under its special games division, it also has the future endeavour of Archery India Academy to create awareness of the sport.
Several other institutions in this space are also expected to see business generation if sports is taken seriously in India. KOOH Sports, for instance, is a sports company in the country, that its CEO Prabhu Srinivasan says is the only one to deliver end-to-end services in the sports domain by initiating interest in kids through in-school sports education programmes, nurturing talent via specialised sports academies and a platform to promote the sporting talent of the country.
The platform is one of India's biggest athletic initiatives called 'Speedstar'. KOOH Sports launched Speedstar (a national hunt to find the country's fastest sprinter) two years ago with the same intent. The platform focuses on the talent that comes from rural parts of the country.
Srinivasan said that the company is currently working with more than 3,00,000 children from over 80 schools, 15 specialised academies and the talent platform.
"Health and fitness and their importance has been neglected for the longest time in the Indian education system. Research suggests the productivity of a child increases by 30 per cent if he/she engages in physical activity. We are really glad the government took note and came forward with such an initiative. This will help garner interest in rural sports and more importantly, about health and fitness. While talent search creates the excitement, there is a need for a well-rounded programme that create a meaningful movement or change," he said.
Rural sports too, is a space that has been paid little attention to, say school principals. The principal of a Kolkata-based school explained that Indians games like kabaddi, kite flying and martial arts are neglected, since there are neither many professionals teaching these sports, nor are they taught at big sports academies. "Making rural sports prominent will ensure that more companies will enter this space," she said.