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Sporthood: Achieving fitness through sports in the quest of leading an active lifestyle

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“The times they are a-changing and Sporthood has transformed into a torch-bearer organization tirelessly working towards promoting an active and healthy lifestyle.”

Sometimes to identify our own flaws, we need to look at ourselves from a different perspective. Living a life dictated by the hands of a clock where barely any minute can be spared for individual respite makes us akin to automatons. Caught up in this mundane routine, we often compromise on our own body fitness till we reach a point of no return. This was exactly what was running through the mind of Rahul Antony Thomas, co-founder and CEO of Sporthood, when after earning an MBA degree from IIM Ahmedabad, he was working in Germany unaware of the epiphany about to hit him.

Rahul and his B-school compatriot, Arun Nair, found themselves in countries which acted as a key eye-opener upon their return to India. Speaking to The Bridge in an exclusive interview, Rahul reveals,

The one major difference that we saw was in the lifestyles of people here and the West. The concept of having an active lifestyle where you pursue an activity which you enjoy and keep doing that for life was very prevalent there.

During his stay in Germany, Rahul was incredibly inspired by his landlord who was all of 70 years but regularly played volleyball. Coming from India, this was not at all something he was used to. Gradually, he was reunited with sports during his stay overseas and started playing football in the German community he lived in.

“Playing there added a whole new dimension to my life, I became much fitter, I could handle stress better and overall quality of life took a huge leap. It was only when I came back to India, did I realize the impact of my previous lifestyle.

Lack of sports awareness

The redundancy of India lies in the mindset and thus a roadmap needs to be devised to stay fit. Settling down in the Garden City of Bengaluru, both Rahul, and Arun, the co-founder and COO of Sporthood, realized the need people have to play sports. Upon noticing the lack of sports clubs in the city and the falling fitness of the masses, Sporthood was formed nearly five years ago to mend this flaw. Those years have elapsed now and Sporthood now boasts of having 14 sports clubs in Bangalore and 5 in Kochi with at least two new clubs scheduled to open in September. Stating the hard facts, Rahul confesses,

Gyms don’t work in India. This is not like the West where people are concerned about their self-image and are motivated and as teenagers, you get into the habit of gymming. The gym dropout rate is drastic in India compared to the West.

https://twitter.com/Sporthood_in/status/1121037344461574148

All these clubs are facilitated with badminton courts and football fields and are equipped with trainers. The Garden City has grown athletically and the awareness for the necessity of fitness has also hiked over the last semi-decade. From having 5 odd sports centers, there are at least 500 sports clubs scattered across the city currently. However, throwing further light on the issue, Rahul says,

But the real insight was that only the infrastructure alone wasn’t good enough. If you are a kid, you’ll need to be taught how to play. Otherwise, why would the parents bring the child to a sports club? This is when we started kids coaching facilities and today we are the largest football and badminton coaching organization in Bengaluru.

Sports for all ages

Sporthood provides sports for all ages

Sporthood, is an organization catering to both kids and adults alike. As of now, they have more than 1000 kids coming to their centers and receiving training. The key idea behind their company lies in achieving fitness by doing something interactive and fun. “We realized, sports can be very engaging and addictive. So, if we have a fitness solution that allows you to have fun while playing something you love, you automatically get attracted to it. It does not seem like an obligation anymore,” Rahul explained categorically. Further elaborating on the fear of picking up injuries, he explains,

The popular perception is that the chances of injury is much higher in sports , especially contact sports than running on a treadmill. But the lesser-known fact is that if you warm-up properly before the match, have a little bit of conditioning where you strengthen your muscles and joints and then you finish off with a cool-down, this minimizes the risk of injury by 80-85%.

Often, most people tend to ignore these crucial steps and end up unknowingly abusing their body, especially if they are above the age of 28 and don’t adhere to a disciplined and scientific pattern of play.

“The popular perception is that the chances of injury are much higher in sports, especially contact sports than running on a treadmill or going to a gym,” he points out. “But the lesser-known fact is that if you warm-up properly before the match, have a little bit of conditioning where you strengthen your muscles and joints and then you finish off with a cool-down, this minimizes the risk of injury by 80-85%,” Rahul enlightens us. Often, most people tend to ignore these crucial steps and end up unknowingly abusing their body, especially if they are above the age of 28 and don’t adhere to a disciplined and scientific pattern of play.

Staying fit made easier

Sporthood offers two different kinds of memberships- the Training Membership and the Playing Membership. Elaborating on it, Rahul says, “In training, you get personalized attention and you are put under the guidance of an expert trainer and they dedicatedly work on the members’ skill and fitness.” Highlighting the utility of the Sporthood app, he adds,

With a customer base stretching to 10,000, the Sporthood app has been a major success in fishing out individuals who are plurally motivated towards attaining fitness through sports. “Either you can become a member and take a monthly, semi-annual or annual pack or you can also just fire up the app when your schedule and free and check out a nearby centre where a session is being conducted. You can just go there and join and play. We have 10,000 such casual players with us too,” the seasoned sports entrepreneur points out.

However, Sporthood has only begun their journey and they plan to branch out into other sports like cricket, swimming, table tennis and occupy other cities like Hyderabad and Mumbai soon. Their dream lies in having a sports club in every neighbourhood of the country where people can come in and adopt a healthy and active lifestyle.

Sports in a new avatar

Rahul is particularly aware of the charged-up attitude the people have started having towards sports and he intends to make the most of this growing interest. “The sporting climate in India is at an all-time high. The major catalyst we have had is the rise of the leagues like the ISL (Indian Super League), PKL (Pro Kabaddi League), PBL (Pro Badminton League). The viewership has radically increased and non-cricketing sports are finally getting their due recognition,” he points out.

Sports is no longer seen in a unilateral vision and the opportunities in this field have also escalated. “Financially, sports has started becoming a lucrative career option. The elite players earn in crores in a year. People have come to realize that the option is there to make money in sports. It’s not a dead end. We have a long way to go and increase more opportunities. There is light at the end of the tunnel so long people value it and work towards their goal.

What is most important however is that, “People have come to realize the importance of having an active lifestyle. At the grassroots level, there is a movement which supports individuals in playing a game of their own choice. This has opened up a lot of opportunities,” Rahul informs, with a glowing hint of positivity in his voice. Though the journey ahead is long, Rahul along with his team at Sporthood is steadfast about taking their dreams and breathing them into reality, one sports centre at a time.

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