Sports for Social Change
Haryana is a small state in North India carved out of combined Punjab in 1966. It has less than 2% of India’s land and population. It is a rich state that boasts of maximum millionaires in the country. Economy is primarily based on agriculture and small industrial hubs have started emerging recently. The challenges of the state include the need to channelize the youth energy meaningfully and manage the skewed sex ratio with only about 860 females per 1000 males. There is an urgent need to prevent death of unborn female child and make them acceptable to the families.
Haryana government decided to use sports as a route to meet their two challenges. Activities started way back in early 80s when they recruited lots of coaches for various sports and deputed them across the state. It was towards the turn of millennium that they looked at a focused approach towards sports and started identifying talented children at grass root level who can be groomed to be model sportspersons. The first task was to identify the sports to begin with and they chose the traditional sports of the state i.e. the contact sports like wrestling and boxing. Being the land of Jats, the traditions warriors, the body strength was a natural part of their gene pool. So they started training young men and women in Boxing and Wrestling. These players performed well at international level giving confidence to the sports department to launch a full-fledged initiative to make Haryana the sports hub of India.
Sports Policy: In 2006, a formal 23-page sports policy was launched by the state, which detailed the following areas:
- Objectives of the sports policy
- Approach and Action plan with defined expected outputs
- Sports Infrastructure to be created and maintained
- 42 sports to focus on
- Incentives schemes for Sportspersons, coaches and eco-system
- Talent Search initiatives
- Sports events, Sports for Differently abled and Women’s sports festival
- Roles, responsibilities and Guidelines for:
- State and District Olympic association, sports associations, authorities and clubs
- Schools, Colleges and Universities
- Sports officers and Coaches
- Referees, umpires and judges
All this information is available in public domain and is updated from time to time.
Methodology:Every student in schools is encouraged to take up at least one sport and is encouraged to represent India at international stage through an initiative called “Play 4 India”. Sports and Physical Aptitude test (SPAT) is conducted in all the schools across the state to identify the high potential athletes in 8-14 age groups. 5000 children with equal no of boys and girls are identified out of a million that participate. Based on 7 physical parameters like strength, flexibility and reaction time of various body parts, athletes are allocated to relevant sports. These students are then supported through training, proper diet, health checkups and financial help. A yearly appraisal is done to assess the progress and further assistance is based on this assessment. Mental strength is built through the help of psychologists.
A yearly sports calendar is published that has all the competing events right from block level to the state level. This encourages the competitive spirit of the players and gives them opportunity to test and hone their skills.
Infrastructure:Promoting sports requires robust infrastructure. 46 nurseries have been setup across the state that provide free hostel, games kit, food and training to athletes. 171 stadiums have been setup at block level with full time coaches. District authorities, school management and parents of players collectively in a true public partnership manner manage these stadiums. There is a sports complex in every district. There is a sports library and a center to do research in sports medicine.
Center of excellence for individual sports are set up in various cities. The most famous being the boxing academy in Bhiwani and Wrestling in Rohtak and Sonepat, which have produced many award-winning boxers and wrestlers for the state.
Incentives:Players who win medals at international events are given cash incentives along with benefits like free travel. There is a horizontal reservation in Police jobs for performing players. About 239 sportspersons including 41 women have been recruited under sports quota till date.
Not only the players, but the coaches and the villages they come from are also incentivized. For example Panchayat of a village of a Gold medal winner in international event gets 2 lakh Rs, which obviously goes towards the overall development of the village. This also means that villagers have an intrinsic interest in promoting players from their village.
Achievements:40% of the medals at the recent commonwealth games won by India were attributed to Haryana. Women won about a third of these medals. There is an increased participation in team games as well like Indian Hockey team has 40-50% players hailing from Haryana. 16% of the Indian Olympic contingent at Beijing was from Haryana.
Most importantly the sports officers and coaches just see this as a beginning and feel and there is nothing stopping the Haryana youth from dominating the sports events. They also feel that this is improving the overall fitness level of the state, which would contribute to the overall health and prosperity of the state. They are working towards creating a professional environment for sports by garnering sponsorships from the corporate world, political support from the government and financial support from the state and central government.
Success of women athletes is encouraging parents to let their daughters choose sports as a career and they are willingly sending them to these coaching centers. For the first times mothers of new born daughters are doing Kuan Pujan for well being of their daughters, which was till now done only for sons. Sports may just be the vehicle for daughters of Haryana to get the rights they were denied till now. Parents may not be averse to having daughters and may cherish them as much as they cherish the sons.
Key innovations of Haryana and its sports policy lie in finding the right channel for their youth and then providing a perfect nurturing environment for them.
- How could our competitors put us out of business?
- If you had a “do over,” what would you build differently? Why?
- What do we want to do differently?