India is a youth centric nation that needs to systemically redefine its sporting policy, program and priorities. National Sports Federations (NSF) Reform is a critical component of this transformation journey
Over the last few years, Indian has clearly demonstrated that there is no dearth of sporting talent in the country. If one has the hunger and the passion to excel coupled with focus, hard work and perseverance, no goal is unattainable. India's athletes, despite systemic limitations and structural flaws, have managed to deliver handsome results. Hats off to them.
Hopefully, this success will finally convince this nation of our potential in sports and our ability to deliver big results in international events. Indians have cheered & rooted for India's heroes across sports and the outpouring of love across media platforms is just phenomenal.
Most importantly, I hope that these results encourage the gamekeepers of sports in India to drastically improve the management, infrastructure, services and sports ecosystem to enable our sportsmen to dream big and deliver even bigger results.
For that to happen, India's gamekeepers at all levels (central & state ministries & national sports federations) need to change the ways that sports are governed, managed and executed at all levels. The system and attitude towards sports and athletes have to be encouraging and enabling rather than disillusioning, to say the least.
FOCUS & PRIORITIES
As India begins its preparation for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 & beyond, it is critical that every effort is made to enable high-performance athletes. For now, some sporadic efforts have begun and other opportunistic remedies have been initiated. I think we are all thankful that an ex-Olympian, Col Rajyavardhan Rathore is today heading the Sports Ministry and spearheading this change. However, much more needs to be done and time is running out.
In order to improve, it is critical that India looks at all three equally important components of change
For India to systematically identify, select, nurture and develop talent and institutionalize the process, there is an urgent need for a holistic & seamlessly integrated sports management mandate & structural overhaul, as highlighted below.
At The Central Government (Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports) Level,
At the National Sports Federation Level,
The 5 point agenda for Sports Federations should include -
Grass root implementation of programs, increasing participation, awareness building promotional efforts & strengthening the sports ecosystem have to be initiated by the Federations in partnership with private players to support the commercialization of sports in the long term. The Federations can no longer afford to believe that launching a league will automatically result in developing the sport. Much more needs to be done, for which a holistic game development program needs to be institutionalized.
In a country where close to 40% of our population is under the age of 20 years, sports can effectively be used to inculcate life skills and creatively channelize youthful energies to creative pursuits. If we have to build a fit, healthy and vibrant India of the future, this cannot be ignored.
India's sports policy makers have to ensure purposeful & sustainable impact on Indian sports. India needs focus on grassroots development, participation, cultural change and an orchestrated communication program to promote sports as a way of life
Purposeful & Sustainable Impact on Indian Sport
THE GAMEKEEPERS & THE FLAG BEARERS: The National Sports Federations (NSF) are the national governing body for sports in India. For decades, these autonomous bodies have functioned within their limitations and struggled to create any purposeful impact on Indian Sport.
Many factors may have contributed to creating a limiting impact, including focus, policy, mandate, capability, operating model, funding, etc. However, in my opinion, the Federation’s purpose, passion, ownership and the drive to make a difference to a specific sport is where the crux of the problem lies.
Simply put, no one cares. My intent here is not to point fingers at any one specific Sports Federation. In spite of many problems, some of these Federations (Wrestling, Badminton, Kabaddi, Table Tennis & Weightlifting) have found a way forward and taken steps in the right direction. Others have not yet started their journey.
The general feeling amongst sports stakeholders is that NSFs are "the problem". And therefore, NSFs have to emerge as the thought & action leaders, driving Indian Sports into the future. And in order to do so, they have to deliver to Indian Sports -
The journey for purposeful impact has to be part of a well thought out plan. And, therefore, the Game Keepers have to answer FIVE Key Questions:
FOCUS ON GRASSROOTS SPORTS DEVELOPMENT
Unless India makes a structured effort to broad-based sports & increase participation at the grassroots level, we will continue to lag behind, not just on social development & youth inclusion parameters but also deliver limited success at world sports events.
While the sports ministry has to lead the charge, other stakeholders i.e. corporates, entrepreneurs, national federation, state-level associations, equipment manufacturers, media & service providers have to come together to develop & promote the cause of sport. My visual thoughts on the same are captured below:
ENABLE ATHLETE EXCELLENCE
The athlete needs to the at the ‘fundamental core’ of all sport development efforts. The sports eco system needs to enable & facilitate his journey. In order for India to systematically produce world class athletes, the athlete’s journey has to be integrated from the grassroots to the performance excellence stage. Transition management between the two stages in key to reducing drop outs while simultaneously improving success rates.
Building a sporting culture requires the athlete to be supported by family, encouraged by the local community including educational institutions, enabled by grass-root level coaching support with easy and affordable access to infrastructure, services and competitive platforms.
The sports system needs to enable the athlete’s confidence, self belief and passion while fueling the desire to perform and deliver results at the big stage. Fitness and mental mechanics are as important for success, as is acquiring and honing sports technique.
VISIBLE & SUSTAINABLE IMPACT
Creating a visible & sustainable impact on the sport has two key components
A. Unified Action Game Development Program
B. Federation Role & Key Dimensions
A. UNIFIED ACTION GAME DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Needs a holistic vision that integrates the various elements involved, into one common direction, as below:
B. FEDERATION ROLE & KEY DIMENSIONS
In order to deliver success, a structured plan needs to be put in place such that there is clarity around four dimensions
Some of these dimensions are highlighted below:
WHAT OVERARCHING PURPOSE SHOULD THE FEDERATION DELIVER?
WHAT IS THE FEDERATION MANDATE? WHY DOES IT EXIST?
WHAT SHOULD THE FEDERATION BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR?
WHY IS COMMERCIALIZATION/SELF SUSTENANCE SO CRITICAL TO THE FUTURE OF THE FEDERATION & ITS SPORT?
WHAT ASPECTS ARE CORE TO THE FEDERATION? AND WHERE CAN IT INVOLVE THE PRIVATE SECTOR?
This will vary from one federation to another and depend on the maturity cycle/level of the sport. But clear lines of demarcation have to be drawn and clear accountabilities set. And all of this needs to be part of a larger game plan with equal benefit to all stakeholders concerned.
An illustrative example of how this robust collaboration with the private sector to meet expectations of all parties concerned is shown below:
These are critical thought starters. All of us have to drive and elevate this conversation, till it reaches a peak. If we don't, India's future as a sporting nation is a dream that will take much longer to take shape.
In summation, an agenda for National Sports Federation Reform needs to be framed towards building a change charter for Indian Sport, sport by sport that helps reenergize focus in the following manner.
AGENDA FOR NATIONAL SPORTS FEDERATION REFORM IN INDIA