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From The Grassroots

PathwayZ- A manifesto for producing system-generated champions

PathwayZ is a visionary initiative conceived by Sportz Village, that focuses on schools as a medium to broaden India’s sporting talent, reimagining the journey of student-athletes and guiding them from school sports to elite representation.

PathwayZ- A manifesto for producing system-generated champions

Aswathy Santhosh

Updated: 25 Aug 2023 1:22 PM GMT

In today's world, the lines between academic achievement and athletic success are blending together. Sportz Village, India's pioneering youth sports and sports education organization, is driving a revolutionary initiative “PathwayZ” whose core objective is to get more and more children to play in schools and aid talented student-athletes journey, leaning on 20 years of experience working with schools and kids.

Evolution of Sports: Shifting Perspectives

Over the past decade, the notion of sports as a mere diversion from academics has undergone a significant transformation. The days when academic success overshadowed athletic excellence are long gone.

PathwayZ sports excellence program in a Government school in Kota, Rajasthan

This shift from traditional views to the contemporary understanding that sports are vital for comprehensive growth is profound. India, in particular, is experiencing a significant change, with increased support from both the government and the private sector, propelling exceptional athletes onto the global stage. Nonetheless, challenges persist within the system, obstructing the smooth transition of young talent from grassroots initiation to the pinnacle of achievement.

Parminder Gill, Co-Founder, of Sportz Village has an insightful observation that holds true: "It is widely known that most kids stop participating in sports after playing at the school or grassroots levels, even if they still have an interest in pursuing the sport. This situation is even more acute for girls." The concern lies not only in retention but also in maintaining the fun and enjoyment that sports bring as children advance into more competitive levels.

Empowering Schools as Catalysts for Change

Schools, as the foundation of early development, emerge as key players in the transformation envisioned by "PathwayZ”. They provide a nurturing environment and tackle logistical barriers that often hinder children's involvement in extracurricular activities. Schools ensure safety, structured schedules, and scalable programs that foster a culture of sports.

Saumil Majmudar, Co-Founder & CEO of Sportz Village, emphasizes, "Sports will be an integral part of education when it is approached as core education is. PathwayZ signifies not only playing for the country or winning an Olympic medal but, more importantly, playing to unlock one's potential. While not every child can play for the country, they should have the chance to participate at an inter-class or inter-school level after receiving initial training and assessment."

Nupur Gupta who heads LTV Products & Partnerships at Sportz Village aptly underscores, "Our innovative approach to identifying talent centers around cultivating champions through systematic means, rather than relying on chance successes. Sportz Village's ingenious solution lies in the EduSports Partner League (EPL). This intra and inter-school initiative provides competitive opportunities to all students, ensuring no one is left behind. In the digital age, EPL uses technology to spot talent even at the grassroots level."

In the position paper titled ‘PathwayZ - Talent For The Future’, Sportz Village presents how its PathwayZ program empowers young student-athletes through a structured and holistic approach to sports and talent development that starts with making sports integral to the schools/education system.

Four pillars of progress: A comprehensive framework for talent for the future

PathwayZ outlines a comprehensive four-step approach to address the systemic gaps that hinder the development of future champions:

Edu Sport: Integrating sports into education, training teachers, and creating age-appropriate content for skill acquisition and enjoyment.

EduSports Partner League: Fostering inclusive and enjoyable match play experiences, setting achievable goals, and recognizing talent through intra and inter-school leagues.

Talent Identification: Implementing a data-driven approach to assess fitness and skills, in order to identify high potential student-athletes.

Personalized Support: Tailoring assistance for gifted student athletes based on potential, interests, and needs, creating a nurturing environment for growth.

This transformation is rooted in Sportz Village's belief in schools as agents of change. Through these strategic interventions, they aim to cultivate a vibrant community of local champions, propelling India towards sporting greatness on the global stage.

Case study: Inspiring transformations

Sportz Village's impactful collaborations come to life through compelling case studies, highlighting the remarkable journeys of young athletes.

One such case study features Jyoti Yadav, a 16-year-old football player who has thrived under Sportz Village Foundation's Grassroots program in Uttar Pradesh, supported by CSR initiatives. Jyoti's achievements showcase the program's influence, including selection for India Khelo Football (IKF) Pre Finals & Final All India Trials, participation in state-level tournaments, and trials at various levels.

Notably, Jyoti's injury-free journey is a testament to the program's efficacy, and she consistently excels at the national level. While she displays commendable fitness levels, efforts are focused on enhancing her performance to meet the demands of high-performance competition.

Jyoti's story exemplifies the tangible impact of Sportz Village Foundation, driving young talents towards national recognition and inspiring them to relentlessly pursue sporting excellence.

Fostering sporting excellence: In private and public schools

The impact of Sportz Village is tangible through the inspiring stories of individuals like Rukhsar and Deepanshu Nimesh. Deepanshu, a student at Gautam Buddha Balak Inter College in Noida, hails from a farming family. He actively engages in farming alongside his studies, showcasing his strong work ethic and commitment.

Although Deepanshu initially embarked on his sports journey through football, his path took an exciting turn during athletics trials organized by Sportz Village Foundation in partnership with HCL Foundation. Guided by his newfound passion, he embraced athletics and dedicated himself to rigorous training at the Sportz Village’s High-Performance Learning Centre.

Deepanshu's dedication bore fruit when he secured a silver medal in the 400-meter race at Guru Govind Singh Sports College's Winter Sports Camp in Lucknow. His journey is fueled by a profound ambition – to serve in the Indian Army. This aspiration drives him, underscoring his unwavering commitment to sports as a path to excellence.

Rukhsar, an 11th-grade student from GGIC Vikash Nagar in Lucknow, is another shining example. Despite financial constraints and initial challenges, Rukhsar's trajectory transformed dramatically with the launch of the Sports for Change initiative, supported by Sportz Village Foundation and HCL Foundation. This collaboration provided Rukhsar with a platform to showcase her innate talent while connecting her with expert coaches and sports nutritionists. Through their guidance, she not only evolved into a strong kabaddi player but also acquired crucial life skills like leadership and teamwork.

In a short period, Rukhsar achieved positions in senior women's and junior state-level Kabaddi categories and excelled in the district-level triple jump competition.

In another example, The Chennai Kaalpandhu League, co-created with LatentView Analytics, empowers talented youth from government schools through competitive football platforms, comprehensive training, and extensive match exposure.

A still from Chennai Kalpandhu League

“LatentView was keen on doing a unique project on sports development with government school kids which provides a platform for these students from grassroots to elevate to the elite pathways. We have completed 2 seasons of Chennai Kaalpandhu League in partnership with Sportz Village Foundation through which 7 kids are taking up football training at renowned sports academies.”, states Poornima Shankar, Associate Director, LatentView Analytics.

Collaborations to scale grassroots participation

Sportz Village's impact is magnified through strategic and brand-led collaborations. The partnership with the brand Boost led to a scalable school contact program Boostcamp to scout and train young cricketers in 2000+ schools in Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. With Red Bull, Sportz Village Xp delivered three seasons of India’s first exclusive women’s double badminton open championship program Red Bull Shuttle Up that serves as a platform for budding female badminton players (age category 16+ years) to showcase their skills.

Partnership with the Sports Authority of Gujarat introduces structured sports and physical education programs in government schools, fostering comprehensive growth in young minds. Decathlon's collaboration brings in-school Physical Education programs to Bengaluru and Delhi NCR schools.

In collaboration with HCL Foundation, Sportz Village identifies and nurtures talent from HCL-funded schools, resulting in the formation of cluster teams in Noida and Lucknow. The partnership with Ashok Leyland and Chambal Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd extends sports education to government schools in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan respectively. These alliances underscore Sportz Village's dedication to holistic development, as sports, education, and purpose converge to shape a brighter and empowered future.

Parent Testimonial

A parent encapsulates the impact of EduSports Partner League (EPL) – a cornerstone of Sportz Village's transformative efforts - in a Chennai-based private school. "My daughter Vasundhara is a basketball player. Sportz Village's EduSports Partner League (EPL) is a well-organized tournament that motivates kids like mine to excel in both studies and sports. EPL's positive atmosphere fosters teamwork, discipline, and healthy competition, fueling Vasundhara's growth. It's more than a tournament; it's a stepping stone to a brighter future."

EPL intra-school event in Chennai

Another parent emphasizes the importance of exposure these students are receiving. “ There are very few students who play sports regularly, hence this kind of exposure is very important. Here we saw around 50 to 60 students participate in different sports. We had sort of a festival mood here, I used to have an interest in sports but I could not make it, but these kids will make it.

Cultivating excellence, One child at a time

With a remarkable legacy spanning 20 years, Sportz Village is at the forefront of a mission that aims to get 100 million children to play. Established in 2003, the organization is dedicated to enhancing children's well-being and fitness while allowing them to experience the magic of sports. Under its broad umbrella, Sportz Village encompasses four specialized verticals, orchestrating sports education programs in schools, high-performance program (PathwayZ) for student-athletes, experiential sports marketing (brand activations), leagues and sports IPs, and CSR partnerships. Their initiatives have reached out to more than 16,000 schools and over 250 locations, engaging with over a million children and young people each year.

Student-athletes at U19 Subroto Mukherjee Cup

With the PathwayZ program, Sportz Village draws a paradigm shift in our approach to sports and talent development. As Parminder Gill and Nupur Gupta eloquently express, the journey from grassroots to excellence must not be a daunting one, filled with challenges and uncertainties. PathwayZ is gradually paving the way for India's sporting landscape to witness all children in schools playing, thus leading to a surge of thriving, capable, and empowered young athletes preparing to become future champions.

Read more about Sportz Village PathwayZ here.

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