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
Khelo India is a transformational effort designed to provide a competitive platform for Indian athletes to demonstrate their skill and abilities. However, this is one component of the sports development framework our policy makers need to institutionalize
The Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG) is an effort to promote sports development at the grass root level. It is also meant to be a showcase for the best young talent in the country. In 2018, the platform reached out to about a 100 million viewers across the country. In 2019, Star Sports doubled, both promotion and broadcast time with coverage in 5 languages including live telecast of 9 sports disciplines.
KHELO INDIA 2018
In addition to the Under 17 age group, this year, the scope was expanded to include the Under 21 age category as well. A total of 1,312 medals (403 Golds, 403 Silvers and 506 Bronze) were on offer across 18 disciplines including both individual and team sport. The 2019 edition held in Pune featured about 10,000 participants which included 5,925 male & female athletes from across 29 States and 7 Union Territories. In addition, 893 Technical Officials, 1,500 Officials, 1,096 Support Staff, 36 Chef-de-missions and 1,010 Volunteers supported the effort on the ground.
The Khelo India platform is unique also in the sense that it brings together (under one roof and unites a common purpose) different arms of Indian sports including Indian Olympic Association (IOC), Sports Authority of India (SAI), National Sports Federations, Association of Indian Universities and School Games Federation of India.
The Khelo India platform is unique also in the sense that it brings together (under one roof and unites a common purpose) different arms of Indian sports including Indian Olympic Association (IOC), Sports Authority of India (SAI), National Sports Federations, Association of Indian Universities and School Games Federation of India.
KHELO INDIA 2019
Host state, Maharashtra emerged on the top with a total medal haul of 227 including 85 Golds. The state of Haryana, who topped the medal ranking in 2018, was second with a total of 178 medals including 62 Golds. In third place was Delhi with 136 medals including 48 Golds.
INTERESTING STATISTICS - KHELO INDIA YOUTH GAMES 2019
Khelo India is a step in the right direction. If India has to emerge as a dominant power in world sport, we need to focus on a five point agenda that includes:
The Purposeful Corporate - Purpose before profit needs to be the guiding mantra of Corporate India. Sports is a wonderful way to fulfill your social purpose in a way that creates long term sustainable communities impact
The Purposeful Corporate - Purpose Beyond Profit
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) encourages companies to be more aware of their impact on society. Its focus can be wide-ranging, addressing issues such as education, health, gender inequalities and the environment.
As stipulated under Section 135 of the Companies Act, companies with a net worth of INR 500 Crore or more, a turnover of INR 1000 Crore or more, or a net profit of INR 5 Crore or more in a given financial year are mandated to 2 percent of their average net profit (of previous three years) on CSR programs.
Only socially driven and purpose led organizations will be of relevance in the near future. Companies with a narrow profiteering purpose will become irrelevant to society at large.
Consumers are increasingly becoming averse to buying products & services from companies that are profit-centric in their approach to business.
Investments in sports is a collective effort towards nation building. It empowers communities and develops skill and improves national health. In time, it leads to a healthy and vibrant ‘youth force’ that propels the country forward. Most importantly, sports unites communities, builds national pride, changes mentalities, creates community icons and breeds next generation leaders.
BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN SPORTS DEVELOPMENT THROUGH CSR
TOTAL CSR SPEND TOWARDS SPORTS DEVELOPMENT
Sports spending through CSR doesn’t seem to be high on the priority list of Corporate India. While sports has been included in the list of acceptable CSR spends, not many companies consider it while choosing their CSR projects.
Corporate India only spent INR 795 Crores out of INR 49,600 Crores towards Sports between FY 2014 and FY 2019. That amounts to a meagre 1.6% of the total CSR spend.
SPORTS IS A WINNING PROPOSITION
For sports to deliver a ‘winning proposition’ to all parties concerned, government policy, corporate intent and the sports ecosystem need to align.
In addition, ‘systemic enablers (independent advisors and not for profit entities) need to find a way to stitch together a value proposition that meets all stakeholder objectives.
Moreover, a nationwide communication effort to create awareness needs to be initiated to build focus and momentum towards corporate investing through CSR in sports development.
CSR FUNDS ALLOCATED TO SPORTS DEVELOPMENT COULD BE USED TO MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT
Indicated below is a range of options that could be used to propel sports forward.
THE NATIONAL SPORTS DEVELOPMENT FUND (NSDF)
A National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) was created with a promise of combining private & public sector spend to better fund talent, services and infrastructure in sports. The government was to equally match any contribution that was made by the private sector to the NSDF.
In order to reenergize the intent, the NSDF will need to be restructured and repositioned to reassure Corporate India around governance, accountability, transparency, focus, capability and execution. In addition, the NSDF provides the opportunity to synergize and integrate sports development efforts under one roof in order to drive cumulative impact on sports development.
NSDF - OPERATING MODEL
NSDF - CORE ROLES & FOCUS
"Sports has the power to build an immediate emotional connect with society and can help Corporate India establish credibility, loyalty and enhance reputation. The talent in this country is immense. We have to collectively find a way to provide this talent, an opportunity to develop and deliver to its full potential."
For further details, please reference "Sports & the Purposeful Corporate, a seminal research published by GoPlaySport in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI)
Medal Prospects for India at the Asian Games 2018. All signs point towards a spectacular performance by our athletes
India is well prepared to compete at the Asian Games 2018 and here are the reasons:
India is ready to perform and deliver on big sports stages such as the Asian Games 2018. Not only will the Indian contingent win big, India will also record its highest sports event viewership at Jakarta Palembang 2018. Ever since CWG 2018, there is a high level of interest and a mass movement in following live sports on television.
I predict that India will:
MEDAL PREDICTION BY SPORT
Events - 7 including Men's - 3, Women's - 3, Mixed - 1
Medal Prediction: 3
Key Athletes - PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, K Srikanth and Sourabh Verma
Events - 8 including Men's - 3, Women's - 3, Mixed - 2
Medal Prediction: 5
Key Athletes - Deepika Kumari, Laxmirani Majhi, Atanu Das and Abhishek Verma
Events - 10 including Men's - 7, Women's - 3
Medal Prediction: 6
Key Athletes - Gaurav Solanki, Vikas Krishan, Mohammad Hussamuddin, Amit Pangal, Shiva Thapa, Sonia Lather and Sarjubala Devi
Events - 4 including Men's - 2, Women's - 2
Medal Prediction: 3
Key Athletes - Saurav Ghoshal, Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal
Events - 18 including Men's - 8, Women's - 7, Mixed - 3
Medal Prediction: 10
Key Athletes - Apurvi Chandela, Manu Bhaker, Anish Bhanwala, Elavenil Valarivan, Shreyasi Singh, Heena Sidhu and Akhil Sheoran
Events - 15 including Men's - 8, Women's - 7
Medal Prediction: 4
Key Athletes - Mirabai Chanu, Vikas Thakur and Sathish Kumar Sivalingam (Note: India is only participating in 4 weight categories fielding 5 athletes)
(#7) TABLE TENNIS
Events - 7 including Men's - 3, Women's - 3, Mixed - 1
Medal Prediction: 4
Key Athletes - Manika Batra, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Harmeet Desai, Mouma Das, and Sharath Kamal
Events - 48 including Men's - 24, Women's - 23, Mixed - 1
Medal Prediction: 18
Key Athletes - Hima Das, Mohammed Anas, Arokiya Rajiv, Jinson Johnson, Dharun Ayyasamy, Arpinder Singh, Neeraj Chopra, Dutee Chand, Nayana James, Seema Punia and Sarita Singh
Events - 18 including Men's - 12, Women's - 6
Medal Prediction: 8
Key Athletes - Sushil Kumar, Sakshi Malik, Rahul Aware, Bajrang Punia, Yogeshwar Dutt, Mausam Khatri, Vinesh Phogat and Pooja Dhanda
(#10) FIELD HOCKEY
Events - 2 including Men's - 1, Women's - 1
Medal Prediction: 2
Events - 2 including Men's - 1, Women's - 1
Medal Prediction: 2
Cycling - 1, Combat Sports - 2, Gymnastics - 1, Rowing - 1, Swimming - 2, Lawn Tennis - 2
India's journey towards emerging as a dominant sporting nation has begun. Results at the Asian Games 2018 will make all of India proud.
All that the team needs is love, encouragement, support and motivation from the rest of us. So make a big effort to support team India. Here are a few things that each of us can do to support Team India at the Asian Games 2018.
National Pride, Singular Focus, Burning Ambition and Self Belief are key ingredients that help athletes deliver spectacular success in sports competitions
524 athletes (277 men and 247 women) have been selected across 36 sports disciplines to represent India at the Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta.
With 38 days to go, India's athletes now enter the final stage of preparation. Having honed their technical skill and sports craft through hours of practice and different levels of competition, India's athletes should be well prepared for the impending challenges ahead. After all, the Asian Games is the second largest multi-discipline sports platform in the world.
INDIA IS MOVING BEYOND CRICKET
It has taken India many decades to move beyond cricket. Hereon, other sports will continue to gain ground and the signs are there for all to see:
WINNING BIG EVENT MEDALS & CONSISTENCY IN PERFORMANCE IS KEY
India's journey towards emerging as a sporting nation has begun. New stars are emerging across sports, viewership is growing across platforms and corporates are ready to commit more funds to sports. At the same time, the sports ministry is strengthening policy & institutional support while the national sports federations are working harder to develop the grassroots connect.
Simultaneously, India's national athletes bear immense responsibility to deliver results and medals. No longer can winning bilateral series or limited international events be used to justify athlete potential, if this potential does not translate into results on the big stage.
Athletes have to be mindful that consistency in performance/results is extremely important. 'One Performance Wonders' don't justify the level of investment in the long term. One must remember that the Asian Games 2018 are meant to be a preparatory ground as India look towards the Olympic Games in 2020.
As they say, "Winning requires talent but to repeat it takes character".
THE MIND OF A WINNER
An athlete’s state of mind is perhaps the single greatest factor that affects performance. Author WT Gallway summed it up as follows:
Performance = Potential - Interference
Performance (Medals/ Results) = Potential (combination of innate talent, training hours, playing hours, coaching) Minus Interference (all the things that interfere with that potential, namely a poor state of mind)
As India embarks on the Asian Games campaign, winning big medals is key. And in order to win, Indian athletes must focus on Four Key Attributes to Success. These are attributes that help prepare the state of mind of an athlete.
#1. SELF BELIEF - is that positive mental attitude that gives an athlete the inherent self-confidence that motivates him/her to deliver exceptional results. When the self-belief is high, the mind lacks self-doubt, is reassured and relaxed. The athlete's timing is perfect, the breathing is tempered, the footwork/movement is smooth, the energy is high and the athlete always reaches the ball a split second early. When self-belief is high, impossible is nothing.
Over the next 38 days, believe in the training preparation and hard work already put in, don't compare yourself to others, focus on the controllables, log daily victories, think only positively, don't try and learn new tricks, learn to visualize your game plan and forgive your mistakes. Review past performances in order to build self-awareness about actions and reactions in specific situations to understand strengths and weaknesses and build alternative coping methods.
#2 SINGULAR FOCUS - Athletes typically crave high physical and mental stimulation but focus brilliantly on a set of mundane & repetitive tasks that help them achieve their objectives. They find a way to sustain their motivation and energy and don't get distracted. This is singular focus.
Over the next 38 days, mentally rehearse your 'in-game' actions and visualize your game outcomes. Imagine what it feels like to perform in front of a stadium full of people, think about what you feel when you're at the starting line waiting to hear the pop of the starter gun, remember the feel the javelin in your hand and imagine the point in the race where the baton has to be handed over. And always listen to your inner coach. What the athlete replays in his mind time and again, is a powerful reflection of future behavior.
#3. NATIONAL PRIDE - can be a very powerful motivator. While an athlete plays and performs for personal ambition and team goals, the results he/she delivers satisfy the expectations of an entire nation. Patriotism has a way of instilling a sense of national purpose beyond personal ambition. After all the athlete is an ambassador representing 1.3 billion Indians.
Over the next 38 days, the athlete needs to remember what it means to be selected to represent India at the Asian Games, remember what it means to have that national emblem on the chest, remember what it means to hear India's national anthem playing in front of millions of people. Most importantly, the athlete needs to remember the faces of people who have contributed to his/her success and the pride and happiness they would feel in the athlete's success.
#4. AMBITION - describes an athlete's purpose, the reason to strive towards being the best and deliver success. Ambition is a burning desire to achieve a goal. Without hard work, ambition means nothing. Ambition instills the drive, grit and mental fortitude to train and play hard. The goals an athlete chases belong to the athlete and it is his/ her responsibility to deliver these goals and ambitions. Other can only hold them accountable for their performance.
An athlete's performance is his voice that speaks loud and clear and resonates in every part of the globe. So make the voice count. It's your duty to the nation.
Please remember that this is also the quest of a nation, to be recognized, along with the athlete, as an emerging sporting nation on the global map. And most importantly, remember the joy of winning.
India will be rooting for you. And we promise to celebrate your success like never before.
India's track record at the Asian Games doesn't do justice to our true potential. In the next two decades, India will transition to a higher level of performance and results
The Asian Games is the second largest sports platform after the Olympics. It's an opportunity for Asian Athletes to showcase their skills & prowess in between the Olympic Cycle.
The 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta will feature about 9,000 athletes representing 45 nationalities across 36 Sports in about 439 events. There is no greater honor for any athlete to hear their national anthem play when they're on the podium. That anthem makes the blood, sweat and tears, worthwhile.
India's record at the Asian Games overall 17 Editions (1951 - 2014) doesn't mirror its potential. Over the last 2 Editions (Guangzhou & Incheon), we have ranked 7th in the medal standing and averaged about 60 Medals per Edition - 12 Gold, 13 Silver & 35 Bronze.
INDIA VERSUS THE REST AT THE ASIAN GAMES
To put relative Asian Games performance in perspective, here are a few statistics from the Incheon Asian Games 2014:
A LOT HAS CHANGED IN THE PAST FOUR YEARS
However, past performance is not an indicator of future success. In the 4 years since Incheon, a lot has changed in Indian Sport and some of these changes are highlighted below:
My prediction is that India will come back from the Asian Games in Jakarta with a total medal haul between 75 - 81 medals, (16-18 Gold, 20-24 Silver and 40-45 Bronze). But in order to win these medals the next 50 days are critical.
50 DAYS TO ASIAN GAMES 2018
With exactly 50 days to the Asian Games in Jakarta, India needs to get a few things in order:
Over the next 50 days, athletes and their coaches need to focus on the following dimensions:
(1) COMPETITIVE PLAY, FOCUS ON TECHNICAL SKILL & GAME ANALYSIS
(2) MENTAL CONDITIONING & PREPARATION
(3) BE WATCHFUL & WARY
(4) REST & REJUVENATION
As India moves forward in its journey to find its rightful place as a regional superpower in Asia, India also needs to demonstrate its growing capabilities in other fields such as sports. Sports signifies the power of the social movement led by the youth of India and is indicative of India's social potential in the immediate future. Sports energizes India, creates positivity all around and ensures an outpouring of national pride.
While wearing the national colors, athletes carry immense responsibility to correctly represent the emerging spirit of India. Remember that 620 Indian athletes carry the hope and aspirations of a billion plus Indians.
India promises to support it's athletes in victory and in defeat. But India does expect these athlete to put on a show, like the world has never seen before. India's performance at the Asian Games 2018 will be a pivotal moment in India's journey as a Sporting Nation and define the next stage of sports development in India.
India urgently needs structural sports reform. A one time campaign for political leverage assures limited visibility and insufficient reach and becomes self-limiting in its intent towards building a sporting nation
#HumFitTohIndiaFit is an outstanding campaign initiated by the Indian Sports Minister to bring fitness and health into the spotlight. As a youth-centric country, India definitely needs to focus on ways of channelizing youthful energy towards creative pursuits, one of them being sports.
I don't agree with the cynicism surrounding this campaign. There is no doubt that India is a country of extremes where the majority does not have access to gymnasiums and public sports facilities. And I am aware that the realities of everyday life in India do not provide the masses the time or the inclination to chase such dreams. Having said that, the point here is to motivate and encourage Indians towards health & fitness. As we lead our daily lives, it is very much possible to find time to take a 15-minute walk, use the stairs instead of the lift and do a few push-ups and stretches while at work.
Leveraging celebrities from all walks of life to promote the idea of a #FitIndia is an effective lever to ensure wider reach, across all levels of society. The intent here is to create social momentum around personal fitness & health and to encourage Indians to come out to play. In the long term, as this campaign gathers momentum and trickles down to the masses, its impact on awareness-building around fitness will be huge. Remember, a fit nation means lower healthcare costs, high productivity, and a larger sustainable economic gain.
A one time campaign for political leverage assures limited visibility and insufficient reach and becomes self-limiting in its intent towards building a sporting nation. The need of the hour is a long-term vision and a well-orchestrated plan towards "Building India Into a Sporting Nation".
KEY #01: NATIONAL PROPAGANDA
At the very least, a five-year program needs to be developed that focusses on building sports awareness and educating the masses on the benefits of sports, individual & collective health & fitness. This program has to target India's youth, the educational system, the family structure and the local community. Sports stars across disciplines and at all levels of sport need to be propped up as national heroes. The message of the program has to be both inspirational and aspirational while the frequency needs to be rapid, on point and overbearing. This will lend itself towards building an overarching theme for an 'India of the Future' and build 'national momentum towards sports & fitness'.
KEY #02: SPORTING CULTURE
Culture is 'what happens when no one is looking'. It is the psychological & muscle memory that dictates voluntary and involuntary response expressed through thoughts, actions, interactions and even inactions. Changing culture is a generational effort.
Developing a sporting culture in India requires a planned and systemic effort at the grassroots level, deep inside the heart and mind of India. The efforts have to focus on five core building blocks - i.e. (1) the family structure, (2) the interested athlete, (3) the local community, (4) the available infrastructure and (5) the opportunity to play, express and compete and (5) The guidance and mentorship from passionate and committed coaches.
When India's youth feels encouraged to spend time outdoors, sees the plausibility of balance between education, acknowledges a financially viable sports career and feels rewarded in the local community, a new India will emerge that will make sports a 'way of life'.
KEY #03: NATIONAL SPORTS POLICY
India urgently needs a national sports doctrine reflected through a long-term vision for sports, encapsulated as a set of policy guidelines and regulations and administered through our multi-level sports governance and execution structure. While many people believe that the lack of a national sports policy is the reason for our unplanned & misdirected journey in sports, I understand that this is currently a top priority and work in progress.
The Sports Policy has to fundamentally deliver on - i.e. (1) A Long-Term Vision for Sports, (2) Structural Reforms, (3) Systemic & Individual Integrity, (4) Federation Powers & The Representation of Professionals & Athletes in the Sports Federations, (5) Governance, Management & Execution of the Sports Game Plan and (6) Sports Infrastructure - Upgrade & Access
KEY #04: FUNDING SPORTS
In order to find government funding, sports has to find a way to deliver a larger economic & social impact. A structured plan, a set of outcome measures, accountability and self-sustainability are crucial to the funding vision.
Most importantly, a plan to leverage corporate India for funds has to galvanize and incentivize their continued association - for e.g. - (1) Broaden the CSR definition, (2) Thematic alignment of CSR with sports such that women's empowerment and sports development becomes a possibility or skills development and sports coaching become aligned, (3) Enhance the scope of Section VII of the Companies Act 2013 so that salaries of athletes and coaches could be offset against the 2% CSR requirement and amateur sponsorship and local community support expenses could be included, (4) Rationalize taxes and provide tax waivers on sporting equipment, coaching services, sponsorship amounts and ticket prices for all non cricket sporting events and (5) Create a Leaderboard of Corporate India to track who spends the maximum on Sports through the CSR route in order to provide them visibility and to incentivize inter corporate competition.
KEY #05: GAME PLAN FOR FLAWLESS EXECUTION
As a starting point, India has to, at the very least, upgrade and uplift the profile of our national level competitions in order to improve the experience delivered to the participant and to the audience. This, in turn, will incentivize broadcasters to associate with sports and help bring sponsors and advertisers to the party.
Building and leveraging technology in sports is another critical element that needs to happen in order to drive the back-end of data consolidation, analytics and sporting events. Technical skills and management capability within Sports Federations need to be the fundamental glue that binds the sports ecosystem together. A separate effort needs to be undertaken to incubate iconic sports platforms in India like the Tour De Himalayas, IronMan India, SpartanIndia, BTRIndia so that India starts to simultaneously emerge as a worldwide sporting destination.
The key to success is the centrally driven, integrated and coordinated efforts that are needed to make this happen as part of a Unified Sports Development Program.
Sporadic efforts such as #HumFitTohIndiaFit and #FitIndia deliver incremental spikes and fleeting attention. India needs monumental orchestrated change. This should be the way forward, Mr. Sports Minister.
Technology has to deliver integrated results that will enhance the sports experience and deliver higher audience engagement and better commercial outcomes. For a country such as India, technology needs to be leveraged to widely communicate the message of sports in order to build mass awareness and drive the cultural transformation needed
Technology is an ever-evolving process and we're still three decades away from reaching singularity (defined as machine superintelligence overtaking human intelligence).
Up to 2018, technology has been largely unidimensional in nature. As the next step, wearable devices, artificial intelligence and smart analytics are needed for seamlessly integrating technology with application to guide the next stage of evolution and to ensure higher relevance to human society.
But for now, technology is a great enabler. It is deeply embedded in our everyday lives. Our daily routines, health, travel & work schedules, weekend appointments, social interactions and our work commitments are all enabled through some technology, program, device or application.
Over the last two decades, the application of science had led to a rapid evolution of sports equipment, footwear, clothing and accessories. However, the rate of technology evolution has been slow paced.
In many ways, humans have hesitated and resisted in adopting technology in competitive sports. Their major argument states that the sports' too much reliance on technology will inhibit natural competition and reduce the thrill of competition.
STAGE01: SPORTS & TECHNOLOGY TODAY - LIMITED APPLICATIONS
Here are four ways in which technology has started to impact & transform sports, although on a restricted basis:
STAGE 02: SPORTS & TECHNOLOGY TOMORROW - SEAMLESS & ENHANCED
As technology adoption, reach and acceptance improves in India, the next stage of Sport-Tech will aim towards a seamless integration of different platforms to deliver integrated data and analytics to enhance the total sports experience in the following manner.
SMART ANALYTICS & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE SUPPORT:
In the future, technology has to deliver seamless and integrated results that will enhance the sports experience and deliver higher audience engagement and better commercial outcomes.
For this to happen smart analytics and artificial intelligence support will be critical. Individual data points from stand alone and independent systems (1-4) will draw intelligent co-relations to create smart insights. For e.g.
India needs a wide range of sports reform. This article attempts to capture the scope of reform needed to help India and its athletes achieve their sporting potential & ambition in the long term
In order to leverage India’s demographic dividend to our advantage, India has to find a way to integrate sports into our every day. Sports has the power to heal, build character, resolve differences, unite people and create cohesiveness within a nation. Change through sport creates a deeper granular impact that prepares future generations and helps integrate people, cultures and religions.
Sports develops life skills defined as “abilities that enable individuals to succeed in different environments be it school, home and local communities”. A few examples of life skills include coping with success and failure, self-discipline, performing under pressure, managing thoughts and emotions and time management.
"The Secret of Change is To Focus All Your Energy, Not On Fighting The Old, But On Building The New"
Investments in sports is a collective effort towards nation building. It empowers communities and develops skill & improves national health. In time, it leads to a healthy and vibrant ‘youth force’ that propels the country forward. Most importantly, sports unites communities, builds national pride, changes mentalities, creates community icons and breeds next generation leaders.
Sport has the potential to be used as a vehicle for sustainable social change. This is critical as India marches forward, in its journey to fulfill its economic potential and social promise,
Grassroots sports development is the single most important sports development priority for India. All stakeholders have to find a way to collaborate towards this intent for India as a country to realize its sporting ambitions
India ranks a lowly 103rd on the Global Human Capital Index and 29th on the Global Sports Impact Index. The correlation between sports and quality of human capital of a country is a direct one. This itself should be enough incentive for India's policymakers to take this seriously, if we are to emerge as a dominant world force, in the times to come. And therefore we have to do more.
Statistics indicate that while 42% of our population participates in cricket, the average participation for all other sports (Badminton, Cycling, Running, Football, Volleyball, Tennis, Swimming, etc) is below 13%. Clearly, Indians, at large, have never been the 'sporty type'. Sports is not engrained in our psyche. Neither is it an integral part of our everyday life. The passion for sports has only resided in a small percentage of the population.
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. But we must remember that the goal (health & fitness) is sequential and definitely more important than the outcome (Olympic medal).
Research also suggests that the sports industry is poised to grow at about 20% over the next decade and contribute between 1 - 5% of India's GDP. In addition, national sports programs such as Khelo India, the efforts of the various sports leagues and most importantly, the focus on health & fitness are all contributing to growing awareness and improving participation. Girls and women are participating in sports and winning laurels for India which is a wonderful sign from a national development context. The ladies constituted about 45% of the CWG 2018 team and won 42% of the medals.
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:
CLARIFICATION: My intent here is not to complicate and muddle the matter. As a starting point, one needs to have a 'vision and a big picture plan'. And then, of course, true success lies in the implementation and execution of the plan. However, visually depicting something like this is tough (and articulating it simply is even tougher) and therefore please bear with me as you read through the explanation.
The Journey of an Athlete begins with school & community participation, progresses through the zonal & district levels onwards to representing India at the national & international level. However, this journey, from interest in sports to participation to potential and then to excellence is a long and tough road and success rates are as low as 2 - 3%. This journey has two distinct phases - (1) Participation and (2) Performance Excellence, and is important because it equips the youth with life skills that help shape core elements of the personality. All the athlete expects from the ecosystem around him is support, best wishes, encouragement and inspiration. We should be large-hearted enough to give it.
The Journey of a Nation towards emerging as a sporting superpower needs investment in a structured program focussed on grassroots sports development. This will deliver numerous benefits, one of which is the National Sports Talent Repository, which, when nurtured, delivers international sporting success, youth icons, Olympic glory & national pride. We have to demonstrate the passion & the will to participate in this journey. And hold others accountable who are not aligned to this nation's purpose.
KEY COMPONENTS OF THE GLASSROOTS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
(#1) BUILD AWARENESS & LAUNCH PROPAGANDA:
A national campaign on creating awareness around sports participation & benefits has to be launched. This needs to be as prominent, far-reaching, expansive and impactful as the Swachh Bharat Campaign. It specifically needs to target the 08 - 15 year age group in order to build the social momentum towards sports & the outdoors. There is enough evidence to suggest that active kids do well in life and there are compounding benefits.
The campaign has to sell a dream. It needs to address the aspirational, excellence, life skills and iconic status possible through sports. It needs to encourage the youth to pursue sports as a career with the opportunity to wear the tricolor and represent India as the ultimate dream. This effort needs to be sustained over the next 3 - 5 years.
(#2) PARTICIPANT/ATHLETE EXPECTATIONS:
Participants/athletes who associate with sports do have some baseline expectations. To begin with, they expect to be treated with respect. And they expect that their blood, sweat and tears are acknowledged with some reward & recognition by the concerned authorities when they deliver exceptional performance and results. They expect the system to create opportunities & platforms for them to perform their craft and to sustain a career doing so. And as they progress from demonstrating potential towards becoming an emerging star, they expect to be supported on multiple fronts, including specialized coaching, gear & equipment and financial assistance. We have to remember that a 'hungry stomach can murder passion'.
(#3) GRASSROOTS PARTICIPATION & LOCAL COMMUNITY CONNECT:
Unless schools and communities are seamlessly integrated into focus, this plan will not bear fruit. For this to happen, local community influencers, key personalities, participant families, the local sports community and the local governance machinery has to come together as one. Today, there are grass root development agencies that have built a deep understanding, and strong connects that have to be leveraged to make this happen.
The second step is to understand the local community in terms of its historical association with sports. For example, if a region in Punjab (say Amritsar, Gurdaspur & Kapurthala) is historically known to produce hockey players, focus on hockey in that region. Don't create an archery program in this community as it will defeat the purpose. At the same time, if another region in Punjab (say Moga, Muktsar & Faridkot) has strengths in weightlifting & athletics, then focus on that. The third step is then to test the youth of this community using a standard measure to understand basic physicality, level of fitness, natural orientation and interest levels in a particular sports discipline and then encourage individuals to adopt a sport and to add relevant sports programs into that community.
(#4) BACK END EXECUTION SUPPORT:
Grassroots sports development needs an exceptional program manager & event orchestrator to coordinate across multiple parties such as state associations, local media, sports facility owners, participants and the community to bring this to life. Quality has a price. As they say, 'if you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys'.
Obviously, one has to deliver high levels of engagement and stickiness with the local communities such that this becomes a family 'must attend' event over time and sponsors and advertisers look forward to associating with this platform. With a new market opening up, corporates, sports equipment manufacturers, media owners, technology enablers and performance service providers will be more than willing to invest time and money towards growing this market.
Critical to both program and execution success is the vertical and horizontal linkages that need to be created and enabled through technology. For example, player participation, results by competition at different levels, athlete development program, profile & progress report, coaches & support staff, athlete injury record, etc have to be integrated into one common database across sports, across age groups and across states.
(#5) MEASURE & MONITOR IMPACT:
If grassroots sports development is integral to the development of India as a sporting nation, then we must "measure what matters". Therefore we have to set sports development goals. And if we don't, structural and systemic inefficiencies, human greed and personalities defeat the intent over time. While the goals can be set internally, measuring outcomes & impact is best done by an independent outside agency to remove bias.
'What we sow today is what we will reap day after'.
Systemic and cultural change is a slow process and bears fruit over time. We need to have the patience and the resolve to ride out this journey. But we have to build a thought momentum from today.
As more of us join this journey and participate in this debate, our voices will reach the right ears. Till then we hope, and we pray and we keep knocking on the door.
A critical analysis of Indian sports leagues and the purpose as the well as the impact they have delivered across the sports ecosystem in India. Is there a way for leagues to deliver greater effectiveness and impact on sports development in India?
Purpose Versus Impact
Around 2005, Cricket was already a religion engrained into the soul of every Indian. The game had created a trail of iconic stars over many decades. India had already won a World Cup in 1983, hosted the1996 World Cup tournament in India & finished runners-up in the 2003 World Cup. The BCCI was already a dominant force in international cricket. The Indian team under Sourav Ganguly had emerged as a dominant force in world cricket and we had started winning abroad. Brands were aggressively leveraging the sports and its ambassadors to reach consumer pockets. Cricket coaching stables such as the ones run by Ramakant Achrekar, Lalchand Rajput & Bishen Singh Bedi were hotbeds for grooming talent. The MRF Pace Academy in 1987 and the National Cricket Academy in 2000 strengthening the institutional backbone. And although the domestic structure of Indian cricket was not fully developed, India was still producing the likes of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and a pipeline of high potential talent. And to top it all, we had Sachin Tendulkar.
With this backdrop in mind, IPL was the right step forward to take cricket to the next level. The success of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on its incubation in 2008 fueled the imagination of investors in India and provided them a template that could be used to grow, promote and commercialize other sports in India. Of course, India decided to blindly copy & paste the template on to other sports without understanding or appreciating the nuances and on ground realities.
Leagues promised a renaissance in Indian Sports. Between 2007-10, when the league template started being implemented across other sports in India, the on-ground realities of sports such as Kabaddi, Wrestling, Tennis, Hockey & Football was in stark contrast to that of cricket. The Federations were toothless, we lacked iconic stars, India was not a dominant team in international tournaments, there was no talent pipeline and the awareness or the grass root network was non-existent. But of course, there was passion in pockets but no sustainable future for youngsters entering the sport.
Rather than developing the framework for sports development from the grass root up and simultaneously strengthen the institutional structure around the sport, India decided to immediately adopt the league format as a way to grow sports. I guess the thinking was that if an iconic platform such as a league is created at the top, youngsters would foresee a future in the sport as a viable career option. And this commercialization of the sport would in turn fuel the development of the sports ecosystem, over time, through a trickle-down effect. Essentially, growing demand would automatically take care of the supply side. Unfortunately, this was wishful thinking. And therefore these leagues have only been partially successful in meeting their objectives.
No one can deny that the leagues have created some careers, developed the sports ecosystem, created employment, brought corporate funding into sports, popularized sports and build an audience base, the larger 'BIG BANG Impact' has been missed. Or maybe we were expecting too much from the league format. And therefore, the truth & the reality is somewhere in between.
HOW DOES INDIAN SPORT MOVE FORWARD?
Having now adopted the league format as a model for sports development (14 leagues incubated - some successful, some active, some defunct & new ones germinating), the only option before the gamekeepers of the sport is to ensure that vertical and horizontal interlinkages are created to strengthen the ability to deliver holistic and measurable results.
REVISIT THE LEAGUE INTENT
If the 'Big Objective' is broad-basing, structured efforts have to be initiated to grow the game at the grass root level. Sports have to be integrated at the school and the local community level by spreading awareness, creating competitive interaction platforms & building engagement and stickiness with on ground audiences. For this to happen, the federation, league owners & credible grass root operators have to come together with corporate support to make this happen. In addition, Khelo India has to extend its focus to the 13 - 17 age group. Programs, schemes, and efforts need to be coordinated and streamlined to deliver specific results.
REEVALUATE THE LEAGUE SUCCESS FACTORS
f the 'Big Reason' is to strengthen the vision for sports development, the Federation & the league owners have to work together to plot a long-term game plan. Isolated measures and silo-ed action has not delivered any credible impact on the sport. And if the 'Big Reason' is the league commercial structure, league owners have to find a way to allocate some long-term money (from one pocket to another) towards grass root development programs to build a talent pipeline. Too much money is spent on buying international athletes and rationalizing this, maybe one option. Most importantly, investors in leagues need to appreciate that the primary purpose of investing in sports in the short term was sports development. And of course, returns on investment will drive long-term motives. But for this to happen, patience is key.
BUILD & STRENGTHEN THE MISSING LINKS
f the 'Big Factor' is developing a talent pipeline and building a robust feeder system, institutional reform within sports has to be planned. While we need coaching factories to a broad base, we also need personalized & specialized coaching efforts to create performance excellence. Access to sports facilities for the passionate has to be cost-effective. Our policies need to encourage participation. Emerging athletes across sports have to be encouraged by the federations, provided financial security and actively adopted by corporates and brands.
VERTICAL & HORIZONTAL INTEGRATION
Vertical alignment between the various levels of play (league, international, national, regional, community & grass root) and horizontal integration of services (playing access, equipment, coaching & performance centers) have to be created. All round visibility creation for the sport and its ecosystem has to be activated in order for sports to become mainstream. Unless this happens, athletes will continue to slip through the cracks. And our efforts and outcomes will be sub-optimal.
While the leagues were never meant to broad base the sport, drive social and community impact and create vertical & horizontal linkages, such is the reality. At this point in time, rather than fight it, and blame one another, the prudent way forward is to now make it work in India's benefit.
The funds made available by the Indian government for sports development are clearly not enough. Corporate India has to step forward and support sports development in order to sustain India's journey towards emerging as a sporting nation
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has clearly articulated that Corporate India has to contribute aggressively towards building a nation of the future. Obviously, he worries that close to 40% of India’s population is under the age of 20 years and therefore there is a need to channelize youthful energy to creative pursuits.
While the Sports Ministry in India has initiated a few policy changes and launched the ambitious Khelo India Program, much more needs to be done. If India has to build itself into a sporting nation and institutionalize the outdoor habit, India needs an innovative approach towards funding this movement.
GOVERNMENT'S ROLE IN SPORTS DEVELOPMENT IS LIMITED
In 2017, India spent roughly INR 3,200 Crores (USD 500 million) on sports infrastructure & training through its annual Union & State Budgets. Compare this to the United Kingdom’s (UK) spend of INR 9,000 Crores (USD 1.5 billion) and one will appreciate why UK won 67 medals at the Rio Olympics & India won only 2 medals.
With the Finance Minister, stretched between the many priorities of a developing economy, the Indian Government can only spare so much money towards sports development. And this is where Corporate India needs to step in.
CORPORATE ROLE IN SPORTS DEVELOPMENT NEEDS TO EVOLVE FURTHER
Over the last decade, Corporate India has seen merit in leveraging sports through association. And this association has today moved beyond cricket to other sports such as Badminton, Wrestling, Hockey, Football & Kabaddi. In 2017, Sports advertising spend was 12% of the total advertising expenditure of INR 61, 233 Crores. Sports sponsorship rose to INR 7,300 Crores in 2017, a growth of 14% over the previous year.
The spend was categorized across 5 broad categories including - Ground Sponsorship, Team Sponsorship, Franchise Fee, Athlete Development, Media Spend. While this meets the commercial interests of sports development, it only benefits a few. Corporate India has to deliver a bigger and more significant impact.
GRASSROOTS SPORTS DEVELOPMENT FOCUS IS SEVERELY LIMITED
However, the point to be noted here is that not even a minuscule component of this spend is going towards grassroots sports development, be it building awareness, promotion, participation, infrastructure, competitive platforms, services, programs, athlete & sports ecosystem development.
If we have to emerge as a dominant sporting nation, we have to start supporting Sports through Corporate CSR funds.
SPORTS DELIVERS STRATEGIC BENEFITS TO ALL STAKEHOLDERS
Corporate India will soon realize that “#PurposeBeforeProfit” delivers a lasting corporate legacy, tangible social benefits, patronage & reputation and deeper community engagement.
Increasing consumers are becoming averse to buying products and services from companies that display a narrow profit-centric orientation.
Research available in the public domain indicates that Corporate India spent about INR 9,500 crores on fulfilling their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Objectives, of which only about 1% was allocated to Sports Development across 4 categories - Olympics/ Paralympics, Rural Sports, Youth Development & Sports Infrastructure.
BARRIERS THAT PREVENT DEPLOYMENT OF CSR FUNDS IN SPORTS
Corporates I speak to are keen to support this direction but stop short of calculating the financial return on investment. Committed organizations, on the other hand, view this as a way of transforming lives and sustainable community development and measure the social returns on investment.
In addition, limited understanding of the impact through sport, access to professionals to guide and advise on sports, lack of a unified agenda on sports and the fact that no one internally championing the case for sports are other factors that prevent corporates from exploring this direction.
BUILDING A SPORTING NATION
This may sound radical to some ears, but it's one way to fund sports development in India and meet many social objectives in order to drive in one unified direction towards building a sporting nation.
BROADEN THE POLICY DEFINITION FOR GREATEST SOCIAL IMPACT
SIGNIFICANT & SUSTAINABLE IMPACT ON SPORTS DEVELOPMENT
Ensure alignment between sports development priorities, a structured and planned approach towards both design and implementation, unify action and efforts across different groups, national accountability and deliver a ‘bang for the buck’ in both the short & the long term.
India needs to envision a long term agenda for sports development that balances performance excellence and grassroots sports development priorities. Our sports policy, programs, platforms and actions have to be seamlessly coordinated for greatest benefit and impact
Indian Sports Lacks a Long-Term Agenda & Unified Action Game Development Program
Sports has the power to heal, build character, resolve differences, unite people and create cohesiveness within a nation. With close to 45% of India's population under the age of 20, sports can be effectively leveraged to build life skills.
Change through sport creates a deeper granular impact that prepares future generations and helps integrate people, culture and religions.
With this understanding in mind, the Indian Government has initiated a number of policy & program changes to promote sports towards two objectives: -
INDIA SPORTS DEVELOPMENT MODEL IS LOPSIDED
The sports industry in India is estimated to grow at a 20% clip over the next decade. Seeing this opportunity, big corporates and entrepreneurs are actively evaluating & investing across the full spectrum - incubating leagues, broadcasting, athlete performance, technology and the support ecosystem. However, the sports development model seems lopsided and suffers from:
BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN SPORT
All stakeholders benefit by investing in sports but the greatest benefit accrues to India.
KEY INVESTOR CONCERNS
Over the last decade, sporting leagues have popped up across Badminton, Hockey, Football, Wrestling & Kabaddi and many more are planned across other sports such as Athletics, Golf, Boxing, Volleyball & Basketball. However, almost every league is struggling with key fundamental questions that include:
These questions can be addressed in the long term only if India has an
INDIA'S FIVE POINT AGENDA TOWARDS SPORTS DEVELOPMENT
Statistics indicate that India’s level of participation in sports is less than 2% of our total population versus the USA & the EU at 32% while Asia-Pacific Region is at about 15% of total population.
While the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports works to develop the National Sports Policy, including the Sports Code, the National Sports Federations need to get their game plan in place. Over the last decade, the private sector have participated in sports development but their impact and focus have largely been felt in Cricket. Sports promotion through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one way. Corporate India's CSR outlay in 2017-18 was roughly INR 9, 275 Crores of which only 0.67% (or INR 122 Crores) was towards sports
UNIFIED ACTION GAME DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Provide Sports promoters the opportunity to positively impact the development of the sport by integrating efforts across the vertical.
Creating sports leagues is not the only way. Its impact is limited since the benefits are shared by only a few at the top end of the sport. Sports needs to be encouraged and promoted at the grassroots level; youngsters and their parents have to see sports as a financially viable career option, the packaging of the sport needs to be slick, digital mediums have to be used to engage with audience and the fanbase and local communities have to find a way to participate. Only then will the impact be long-term and sustainable.
Unless the game keepers of Indian sport begin to form a comprehensive view of sports development, sporadic reform and minuscule changes will continue to happen but will be unable to deliver long-term sustainable impact.
It is critical to understand and appreciate the realities of Indian sports before a change agenda can be framed towards long term transformation
As the sports ecosystem continues to develop, mature and professionalize, there are some key emerging themes that provide character to this journey. Although 18 elements below seem too many, my efforts through this article are to capture all core elements that define the character & the nature of sports in India.
While all long-term indicators point in the right direction, it is critical to take cognizance of the reality and then build from there.
(#1) NATIONAL SPORTS POLICY DOCUMENT
India still doesn't have a National Sports Policy Document, although a draft policy document is rumored to be under finalization and is scheduled to be tabled in the Lok Sabha in the second half of 2018.
(#2) INDIA'S MIDDLE CLASS HOUSEHOLDS - SPORT SPEND BY 2025
India's 267 million middle class households will grow to about 547 million households by 2025. At a conservative estimate of INR 15, 000 (USD 225) per household, one participant per household & 30% participation rates, India's annual spend on sports & recreation activities will balloon to about USD 3.7 billion.
(#3) FITNESS & SPORTS IS NOT A TOP PRIORITY FOR THE MASSES
Research by Statista indicates that about 10% of India exercises less than one hour per week. Another study by Puma last week indicated that 57% of India hasn't played a sport even once in the last 12 months. Overall, less than 2% of the Indian population participates in Sports.
(#4) ATHLETES ARE STILL NOT THE CENTRE OF SPORTS DEVELOPMENT
Athletes are at the mercy of the Sports Federation and suffer their apathy as well as their lack of understanding of the nuances of the sport or the realities of being an athlete. Instead of being treated as national treasures and national icons, they struggle for basic institutional support and a few words of encouragement. Rather, the federation uses its powers to control selection to national camps, bilateral tournaments, access to specialized coaching & selection to iconic international events.
(#5) THE GOVERNANCE OF NATIONAL SPORTS FEDERATIONS
Key characteristics include - politicians continuing to be involved, infighting, lack of athletes and very low women representation in governance appointments, limited transparency & disclosure, no formal vision document on sports development and extended tenure of appointees. In addition, sports federations exist to further the agenda of key personalities rather than develop the sport keeping the athlete at the center of all decisions. And this is exactly where the plot is lost.
(#6) STRUCTURED PROPAGANDA TO BUILD AWARENESS & PROMOTE SPORTS
A multi-year campaign to direct youthful energy to creative pursuits is critical in a country like India, where 42% of Indians are under the age of 20. Otherwise, we will suffer the social repercussions and consequences of the same. A 'Swachh Bharat Campaign' like effort to promote sport at the country level, directly spearheaded by the Prime Minister is what is needed.
(#7) CORPORATE FUNDS NEEDED TO AUGMENT PUBLIC MONIES TO DEVELOP SPORTS
As the Sports Minister recently indicated, there is enough money to support Indian sport but it needs to be spent wisely and as part of a structured and monitored plan. In addition, Corporates need to find a way to support the development journey of a sport over an extended period of time and thereby create patronage, brand loyalty and enhance reputation.
In addition, under the CSR umbrella, make it compulsory for Corporate India to allocate a small percentage towards sports development. On top of that, put a 'sports tax' on all vice based industries including cigarettes, alcohol and gambling. This will automatically create a fund pool to accelerate sports development in India.
(#8A) INDIA"S SPORTS EQUIPMENT MARKET SIZE
In 2016-17, India's total output was USD 228 million of which 60% was exported. UK, US, UAE, Australia, South Africa and Germany were the major export markets for Indian sports goods. Jalandhar (Punjab) & Meerut (UP) account for about 70% of our total production. Major export items include inflatable balls, cricket bats & leg pads, rugby balls, sports nets and gymnasium & athletics equipment.
(#8B) PROFILING THE INDIAN SPORTS EQUIPMENT INDUSTRY
The sports manufacturing industry in India, especially the MSME sector is largely fragmented, unable to scale & under severe cost pressure. It is dominated by 10-12 large manufacturers with the balance engaged in contract manufacturing. These smaller players lack access to funds, skilled manpower availability and direct connects with the marketplace are available to only a few.
The industry is characterized by lack of thought leadership, inability to innovate and lead market demand. In addition, the industry is unable to externally leverage and then internally apply industry learnings due to poor ecosystem connects & lack of interaction platforms. Most importantly, there is an urgent need to enforce testing & product quality standards & a product certification process.
(#9) SPORTS RETAILING IN INDIA
The Indian sports retailing market is growing at a healthy rate of 9-12% and is projected to grow to USD 6 billion in 2025 (ICRIER). About 2% of goods are sold through specialized online sports retail channels, about 3% are sold through multi-product mass online retailers while about 12-15% are sold through on ground stores. Market research reports (source: npd.com) indicate India is the 11th biggest market for sports apparel and footwear in the world, with an estimated INR 400 billion being spent every year, growing at a rapid pace of ~30% YoY. Recreational sports also fall in the unique intersection of health/fitness/wellness space and leisure/recreation space, both of which have projected market size in excess of INR one trillion.
(#10) LIVE EVENTS STRUGGLE TO GENERATE REVENUES THROUGH TICKET SALES
Having attended a few events across badminton, kabaddi, cricket and football across multiple venues in different cities, the reality is that the contribution of ticket sales to the revenue pie is not even 10%. Tickets have to be gifted to the municipality, police, government officials, sponsors amongst many others. And even after doing this, 70% of the arena remains empty.
(#11) YOUNG ATHLETE DROP OUT RATES ARE ALARMING
Close to 82% of individuals drop out of competitive sport between the age groups of 15 - 18 years. The drop out rates are even higher for girls. Contributing factors include academic pressure, declining interest levels, lack of career opportunities, lack of financial support and high-performance pressure. And the dropout rates increase with higher age groups in India.
(#12) DOPING RUNS DEEP IN INDIAN SPORT
In 2018, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) watch list features India on the 6th position with regard to doping violation. Between 2013 - 16, India featured at the 3rd position on this list. This improvement in ranking is not because of strict enforcement of regulation or on account of greater athlete awareness but because the quantum & frequency of testing has been reduced by (National Anti Doping Agency) NADA. In addition, at the Khelo India School Games in 2018, 12 athletes were found guilty of doping violations.
(#13) KEY CONSUMPTION TRENDS
(#14) LIMITED IMPACT OF SPORTS LEAGUES ON HOLISTIC SPORTS DEVELOPMENT
Cricket has benefitted from IPL in the sense that backward integration across regional and state cricket has improved participation & viewership, strengthened the talent pipeline across formats, brought in fundings & sponsors, created multiple properties, built the institutional support system at the grassroots level and created financial sustainability for athletes. This fundamental impact & benefit has not percolated downwards in other sports where sports leagues have been incubated. This should have been a 'by-product' but the league design never permitted this to happen.
(#15) GRASSROOTS SPORTS DEVELOPMENT STILL IN ITS INFANCY
The reality is that agencies driven by passion for sports development are the only ones involved at the grassroots level. Companies motivated by profit and quick returns are unable to penetrate this space or make an 'on the ground' difference. The federations and the state level machinery at the grassroots level is only as effective as their intent & their vision.
(#16) POOR SPORTS INFRASTRUCTURE, ACCES & UTILIZATION
If India could just improve access to available sports infrastructure for the masses, one-third of the agenda would be addressed. If more people have access to sporting facilities at an affordable cost, utilization rates would automatically increase. And this would sort out another one-third of the agenda. And rather than create new infrastructure, if we could upgrade our current facilities, the balance one-third of the agenda would get addressed.
(#17) BROADCASTERS UNDER STRESS TO COMMERCIALIZE & MONETIZE ASSETS
Each sport has a unique nature to its commercial potential based on multiple factors such as viewership, participation rates, brand potential, fan following of the sport and its stars, the history of the sport over time and India's international success in the sport.
In addition, the commercial model of the sport takes time to mature and stabilize before delivering returns to its investors. Yet, league promoters have the tendency to blindly copy the IPL template and completely ignore the realities of their sport. On top of all of this, the broadcaster, who is a critical driver to monetizing this asset, gets caught up in his efforts to expand his sports content & portfolio and therefore pays a hefty premium while acquiring the broadcast rights. All of the above puts the commercial model under severe pressure and impacts all stakeholders in different ways.
(#18) INDIA NOT BUILDING ICONIC INTERNATIONAL SPORTS PLATFORMS IN INDIA
While looking to develop sports, India needs to build out its sports properties beyond the leagues. The city-based events such as the Mumbai & Delhi Marathons are one way and have surely delivered spectacular success over the last decade. Sports promoters need to evaluate the viability of other iconic international sports platforms such as The Tour De France, The Iron Man & Spartan to add to our country kitty. Even better would be if we build our own events on the same lines to promote localization - culture, food, heritage and tourism.
We have to look back and critically evaluate our journey to date, in order to plot our way forward. As they say, "Who You Are Tomorrow, Begins With What You Do Today."
An athlete's journey from the grassroots to performance excellence is a long and hard one. India's efforts have to focus on both the ingredients and the dimensions that create a high performance athlete who consistently delivers results on the big stage
The most widely acknowledged rule is Sports is that it takes 10, 000 hours of practice to excel and master any discipline and emerge ahead of the field. At least, this is what a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. While a repetitive practice may fine-tune skill & technique and hone it to exceptional levels, there are many other elements one needs to refine and master to emerge ahead of the game and compete and sustain oneself at world standards.
Across world sport, there are athletes that stand apart from their peers on account of certain exceptional abilities they possess. These special abilities are way beyond the ordinary. For example, Roger Federer's ability to ruthlessly dominate world tennis for over a decade and then reinvent his game to win 3 Grand Slam titles in his mid 30's. Or Virat Kohli's application, effort and commitment to continuously raise the performance bar and deliver 2,818 runs in 2017 across formats (11 Hundreds including 3 Doubles & 10 Fifties at an average of over 70). Or Jahangir Khan's, discipline, hard work, fitness and ambition that enabled him to remain unbeaten in World Squash for over 5 years and win a record 555 matches consecutively. Or Usain Bolt's domination of world athletics through his unrelenting focus and immense self-belief that won him a record 9 Olympic Golds. Or Lionel Messi's ability to read the game, his patience & his ability to repeatedly score under pressure making him one of the greatest footballers in history.
Having spoken to athletes from different disciplines, age groups, geographies, gender and across generations, three critical elements emerge that create the difference between extraordinary and spectacular performance:
ELEMENTS 01: INGREDIENTS
Eight ingredients (in no order of priority or importance) go into a world-class athlete recipe. These are enabling baseline factors that deliver success and includes:
#1: Work Ethic - the willingness and discipline to put in thousands of hours of structured practice & repetitive game drills simulating match situations helps an athlete develop the right mental orientation to deal with situations in match play. This then defines the ability of the athlete to focus and create winning moments.
#2: Financial Support - Sports training is a costly affair. Unless the athlete has the financial means to support his interest in a sport, moving forward becomes very difficult. Financial support from family and community in the early years propels the interest into a passion.
#3: Support Systems - The family enables the athlete to explore his interest in the sport by managing the mundane such as logistics of travel, food, scheduling, academic priorities & competitions. The occasional family encouragement, a kind word, the nudge to push forward and the cheering goes a long way to propel the athlete forward. But most importantly, the family has to manage and monitor the athlete from a distance. Otherwise, boundaries get blurred which leads to friction and trouble.
#4: Physicality & Body Type - A lean physique, hand and eye coordination, nimbleness, flexibility and quick reflexes are the first signs in an individual with a natural orientation to a sport. In addition, the desire to be out doors, enjoy breaking a sweat, the willingness to compete and to extend beyond our limits are other first signs.
#5: Withstand Stress & Pressure - In the early years of an budding athlete's life, the pressure to excel at academics, participate in school activities while exploring an interest in sport becomes challenging for most individuals. In addition, the overbearing or subtle pressure exerted by friends, family and the community to deliver results in sports becomes too much for most individuals to handle. The ones who deal with it, move forward in competitive sport and discover this to be a life skill & a key differentiator.
#6: Manage Workload & Burnout - The balance between fitness, training and rest is critical to establish early in an athlete's life. Too much time in training does not allow the athlete time to physically and emotionally recover and recuperate. In addition, over-enthusiastic family members constantly talking sports in the off time leads to more damage. Rest, other recreational pursuits and downtime are critical for long-term success
#7: Blessings & Luck - Simply put, one needs to be blessed. Luck plays a big role in sports. Having trained for extended periods of time with a singular purpose, sometimes the luck of the draw, a bad referee decision, a broken string on a crucial point, playing against a crowd favorite or just a bad day can make the difference between winning and losing. Of course, the athlete learns to cope with the unexpected over time. But sometimes winning requires the athlete's stars to be perfectly aligned plus the mother's blessings in order to cross the finish line, as intended. That's sport.
#8: Exposure & Opportunity - The opportunity to compete in different tournaments, other geographies, against different athletes in different match play conditions provides phenomenal exposure to the athlete to test himself. In such testing situations, he discovers himself and evolves for the better. In other situations, the shock pushes the athlete to introspect and then work harder to improve.
ELEMENT 02: DIMENSIONS
Five dimensions (in no order of priority or importance) that need to develop in order to compete and succeed at the highest level of play in any sport and includes:
#1: Fitness, Sleep & Nutrition - What you eat, your hydration levels, how you train and how much you rest your mind and your body fundamentally defines the outcomes you want to attain as an athlete. If you are well fed and well rested and then enter the playing arena, you will be bursting with energy and the desire to give the best account of yourself.
#2: Attitude & Mental Conditioning - Attitude is a sum total of an athletes level of long-term goals, individual ownership, process adherence, appetite for challenge & risk-taking ability. Bad attitude leads to poor preparation, sub-optimal execution and delivers disappointing results. Positive thinking, game and outcome visualization, scenario planning, mental & physical drills to deal with competitive pressure & breathing exercises are some of the tools used to prepare, perform and deliver results.
#3: Core Strength, Mobility & Agility - Its quite unfortunate that most athletes pay the least attention to this fundamental dimension. Core strength protects you from injury, protects your central nervous system, improves body balance and allows endurance. Mobility is an indication of how well and efficiently we move and is key to avoiding injuries. Agility helps the body efficiently orchestrate integrated, coordinated and well-balanced movements and directly impacts speed & reflexes. All three are critical to a sport.
#4: Enjoyment & Fun - If you're not bursting with energy and enthusiasm every time you enter the playing field, its time to move on. Committed athletes cannot think of life without sports. Its a way of life for them. Coaches play a critical role in ensuring that time on field is interesting, challenging, stimulating, competitive and fun.
#5: Skill & Technique - Technique is the ability to perform a physical task, whereas skill is the ability to perform a task in a game setting. Both these critical abilities are required by an athlete to excel in his chosen discipline and are fundamental to success. Mastering them takes hours and hours of practice, focus, persistence and steely resolve. This is the blood, sweat and tears each athlete puts in to emerge ahead of the pack. Ultimately, the athlete arrives at a point where he can efficiently & repeatedly perform a drill, at very very high levels of accuracy. The importance of a good coach is critical here.
ELEMENT 03: ATTRIBUTES
Six inherent attributes (in no order of priority or importance) that help set the context, especially in the early years but continues to make the difference between extraordinary & spectacular performance and includes:
#1: Self Belief - Is the confidence in one's ability to perform under challenging conditions but deliver intended outcomes. It is based on positive thinking, trust in your hard work, work ethic and training. This is built over time but delivering results & performance help accentuate the process.
#2: Focussed Outlook - A singular goal, a deep desire to succeed and a willingness to sacrifice characterizes committed athletes. Everything comes second to their passion. What doesn't fit into their focussed outlook ultimately doesn't matter.
#3: Absolute Truth - Athletes are brutally honest to themselves to the point of being self critical. They expect their immediate circle of influence to share honest feedback, even if, it is hurtful. They introspect, face the uncomfortable reality and then take corrective action in order to move closer to their ultimate goal. And this becomes an ongoing process.
#4: Life Balance - Balancing multiple priorities is a fine art that the athlete learns in the early years. Time management, outcome focus and concentration becomes critical life skills.
#5: Sheer Hard Work - The blood, sweat and tears put in to master the many nuances of sport helps the athlete understand the patience, frustration, determination and the quantum of effort it takes to deliver success.
#6: Passion & Drive - The motivation and resilience to succeed underlines the big picture of an athletes life and helps convert potential to results. Passion & drive frame the singular purpose of the athletes existence and highlight the commitment and resolve to succeed.
"The journey to becoming a world-class athlete is lonely, tough and full of sacrifices. However, the rewards at the end of the road fuel the fire and ignite the passion. While young adoption in sports is growing at 17% each year, the rate of drop out from sports is averaging about 60% in the late teen years. Coaches and family play a critical role in keeping the athlete aligned with his long-term goals."