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Grassroots sports in India should be tailored for everyone, not a select few

Focussing on grassroots and letting it grow as an interested community vested in sporting activities is how growth can come about in the landscape of Indian sports.

Children playing rugby during a training session at the Calcutta Maidan

Children playing rugby during a training session at the Calcutta Maidan (Source: Getty)


Manisha Malhotra

Updated: 2021-11-15T11:40:33+05:30

The present graphic of Indian sport may not be picture-perfect yet, but it is clear that we have the talent. With 1.2 billion people, there is absolutely no doubt that we can find people of all confirmations and skillsets. The point is we just need to go out and get it.

Usually, when the post-mega-event euphoria dies down, we tend to indulge in its hoity-toity post-mortem (if I may call it that) and one term that is constantly brought up and dissected is...Grassroots sport!

There is no shortage of insight into this topic and while I agree with most of what I have read there is one obvious fact that no one seems to highlight. Grassroots sports systems are in place not for any other reason other than to have a community platform that can be used for healthy activities.

Grassroots programs should never have aspirations of being the talent pool for elite athletes but instead, aspire to have programs that can get the maximum number of people playing certain sports without any bias attached. Grassroots sports should be tailored for EVERYONE and not for some certain few!

The creation of grassroots sporting communities

Tribal children playing hockey (Source: Tata Trusts)

If we do manage to create programs that can achieve mass participation, they will automatically become breeding grounds for some of the country's next stars. We have to focus on sports that would have the biggest participation and not be bound by infrastructure shortcomings. There will always be hindrances and it will be up to the creativity of the myriad programs to utilize whatever infrastructure is available to them that will always deliver the best results.

We have to also start thinking outside the box to be able to grow the sport and promote sports that may not be "mainstream". Sport is extremely divided in terms of demographics, certain states have affinities and success in certain sports.

Most sports have talent coming out of a very finite region demographically. So it is time to think outside this. Can we not have wrestlers coming out of Kerala? Or athletes coming out of Jammu and Kashmir? This is easily achieved if sports that are not mainstream are introduced to the community as a means of activities.

Participation is key to sporting success

Children participating in a football match

The success of urban pay and play schemes should also be taken to the rural areas and while the payment may either be nominal it may not even have to be with money. It can be done in some form of volunteering or other forms of non-cash payments. While there will always be an element of popularity of certain sports within certain communities why not give each sport the outreach that it deserves?

Only once these sorts of programs are thriving will it be possible to use different scientific models to scout talent (even for completely different sports). There must be a thought process of trying to match the skillsets of the people of a certain region with a certain sport and after that, the only impetus should be on participation.

None of this will be possible without the concerted efforts of the local authorities and communities which need the state associations and bodies who would not only need a clear mandate but a vision. It is also something that corporates should want to delve into because sport is not about the one person standing atop a medal podium but sport is about building communities and enriching the lives of many.

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