Catch 'em young but sportspersons drop out

Catch 'em young is government's mantra to ensure that India wins a medal in 2028 and 2032 Olympics but it appears that sportspersons are not that enthused with data showing more than half of the over 1,500 people chosen under 'Khelo India' have refused to join the programme fearing that their studies will suffer.

This has prompted Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development headed by BJP MP Satyanarayan Jatia to suggest that their educational needs must be integrated with their training programme to minimise drop out rate and utilise the talent identified after a long-drawn process.

The report on 'Khelo India' scheme, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, also expressed concern over the shortage of coaches in Sports Authority of India (SAI) where there are vacancies of 544 coaches when the sanctioned posts are 1,524.

According to the report, 1,518 young sportspersons were chosen in 2018-19 for training under the "best" coaches under the ambitious 'Khelo India' initiative keeping 2028 and 2032 Olympics and other international sports events in the future.

However, only 625 sportspersons joined the training camps in accredited academies while a "sizeable" 893 dropped out as these facilities do not have provision for integrated education. "These players were reluctant to leave their schools in the middle of academic year.

The panel expressed happiness at the government's long term planning for preparing athletes for future international events like Olympics as there was a need to have a "fast track training of selected players by best coaches to get immediate results" in international sports events.

However, it recommended all accredited academies should have integrated educational and hostel facilities so that trainees are also able to complete their basic education. It wanted the government to identify new places for training in private schools and colleges, which have sports infrastructure, and should be affiliated with SAI besides providing them with certified coaches.

Separately, the panel said that there was 36% of vacancies of coaches in SAI, which said that it was due to inadequate allocation of funds for salary and pensions. The committee said that 544 posts lying vacant is a "pathetic situation".

"How the Department plans to train young sports talent without availability of qualified coaches is unimaginable," it said.

Referring to the success of the country's sports persons at international level during 2018-19, the Committee minced no words and said, much of this success is "still attributable" to the individual efforts of players and private coaching.

The panel also recommended involvement of private and corporate sectors for mobilising required resources for creation of infrastructure, accreditation of private educational institutions with quality infrastructure for training of identified sports talent and making use of private sports academies for training sports persons for developing sports in the country. 

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