The brush with medals at this year’s Olympics has pushed city schools and colleges to provide more opportunities to students to engage with these sports. While the easily available infrastructure for cricket, football and basketball make them the favourites among students and coaches, Olympic sports are witnessing a growing popularity.
Despite the difficulty in obtaining approvals for a shooting range, Ruia College in Matunga encourages students to take up Rifle and Pistol Shooting. Abhinav Bindra’s gold in the 2008 Olympics and Gagan Narang’s Bronze in the 2012 Olympics have attracted students to take up the sport. Coach Sanjay Chakravarty agrees.
“It is extremely difficult to get infrastructure for rifle and pistol shooting. Moreover, parents discourage their wards from taking up weapons. But thanks to the medals, the perception has changed and students are more interested,” says Chakravarty, adding that institutes hesitate to introduce shooting as a sport in the curriculum as they don’t want hassles and accidents.
Ruchira Shirke, a second-year Masters in Political Science student of University of Mumbai, recently qualified in a state-level shooting championship. “I started shooting during the final year of my graduation in Ruia College,” says Shirke, who took a liking to pistol shooting and continued her practice in another centre. “I wanted to be an IPS officer and the support from my family encouraged me to take up shooting,” she says.
In Bhandup, a teacher who used volleyball to drive slum children away from drugs has found that it has cultivated an interest in the sport among students.
Jamshed Farooqui, a teacher from Mohammed Urdu High School in Bhandup, says, “Some of our students, who come from nearby slums, are pushed into drug addiction and violence. I decided to use volleyball to channelise their energy.”
Rishikesh Joshi, the founder of SFA, said that Olympic sports such as archery, shooting and fencing were some of the competitions that saw increased participation. “While cricket and football are more common, students are developing an interest in other sports,” says Joshi.