Updated: November 29, 2021 7:00:13 pm
Neeraj Chopra’s Olympic gold medal has sparked a fresh wave of interest in track and field events but coaches in Pune point to the gaps in infrastructure and knowledge that need to be plugged in order to build a lasting sports culture in the country.
Ganesh Pandiyan, a national-level player who coaches children from rural and tier two cities, underlines that lack of sports infrastructure is a major issue for athletes from middle income and rural backgrounds.
“In many of the government-run facilities we lack many things and non-athletes encroach upon the facilities. At such facilities, we should only allow certified coaches to train,” he says.
Take Pimpri Chinchwad’s Sant Dyaneshwar Sports Facility for instance. The facility lacks even some of the most basic amenities like a woman’s washroom. Repeated requests by trainers and athletes have not yielded any response from the authorities.
Adinath Naik, a professional athlete and researcher, rues that sports are still looked at as a recreational activity by many. Very few schools, he says, have a dedicated curriculum to develop sports as a career while most pay just lip service. “Given the current situation, it is indeed a big challenge for people to take sports as a career. Of course, the present haul of medals in the Olympics has reignited interest in sports but that can soon wean off,” he says.
Naik, who is also an experienced coach, agrees that he has seen more people seriously considering sports for their children. “That is a welcome sign,” he adds.
Pandiyan says that people want performance before sponsorship but athletes require help during their growing days.
Naik adds: “Athletics is a serious and rigorous discipline. One needs years of training and proper guidance and nutrition to be an athlete.”
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