Connecting with sports

Connecting with sports

Playing sports has numerous benefits including helping you stay in shape, organise your time more effectively and boost friendships. However, not many get to enjoy these positive benefits in their lives.

Keeping this in mind, Sheetal Suryavanshi, a former corporate professional, decided to promote sports among disadvantaged children through her non-profit organisation, Aata Odanaata.

The idea for an organisation was sown into her in 2004. “I along with my friends used to visit an orphanage in Puttenahalli in Bengaluru regularly, where we played cricket with the children. During one such visit, I saw a small girl struggling to hold a ball in her hands. I came to know that the school she studied in did not have any provision for sports. This deeply affected me as I believe that it is the right of every child to be able to play,” Sheetal recalls. So, she began to teach different sports to children and youth from vulnerable backgrounds without charging a penny. This experience made her realise the importance of every child having access to the right equipment and coaching in the sport that they want to play in.

Playing to win
However, most of the training she was giving was still being done while she was a full-time professional. So, in order to concentrate more on her passion of providing sports training to the underprivileged, she formalised it into a as a non-profit organisation in October 2008. Through Aata Odanaata, which means games and bonding in Kannada, Sheetal endeavours to engage, train and support socio-economically challenged youngsters in various sports and promote sporting talent. As a result, they are enabling the dreams of many young children and empowering them by equipping  with skills to take on bigger challenges through sports.

Their main activities include identifying professional coaches and facilitating training camps, providing equipment and training to schools, individual athletes and civil society organisations such as Ananya Trust and Gerizim Rehabilitation Trust, providing assistance to interested trainees to continue their education and conducting inclusive play events for children who are differently abled.

Some of the sports that the organisation currently trains the students include softball, netball, table tennis, cricket, football, and track and field. “The school has benefited extremely from the sports sessions that Aata Odanaata conducts in our school. Many of our students have responded positively to the sports camps that they conduct on our campus two to three times a year,” says S C Chandrasekhar, vice principal of Fort High School, Bengaluru. “In fact, many of our students have gone to play at the state and national level events with the training.”

So, how does the organisation engage the children in the various sports that they offer? “We take the support of professional coaches to coach children from urban poor communities on scheduled days in different public fields and school playgrounds,” elaborates Sheetal.

Aata Odanaata has successfully enabled many children to play, learn and participate at various events. In fact, nine of them have gone on to compete at the national level. “This includes Radhika and Roopa who have played football at the national level and play for Sports Authority Of India (SAI), and Madhu, Puneet and Arun who have played softball at the national level,” states Sheetal. Furthermore, many of them have also participated at university and zonal level events.

Recalling her time with Aata Odanaata, Radhika E says, “I have been associated with the organisation since 2008. I was approached by Sheetal while I was in school and she suggested that I could learn football. I agreed and within a few months, I became proficient and was selected to play at the national level for SAI. The experience was great. Now, I am able to share my experience and knowledge of football with young children at the school I work at and also with the children at a government school.”

While most of the trainees come from low-income families in Bengaluru, there was a time when the organisation used to train children from nearby towns and cities. “We used to conduct training sessions at a school in Kanakapura, but we had to discontinue it as I was unable to travel after an injury,” states Sheetal. In the past nine years, Aata Odanaata has impacted the lives of many children, and many of them have been able to pursue a career in sports or get a scholarship to pursue their higher studies. As a result of their efforts, the organisation received many accolades.

There are various ways that you can contribute to Aata Odanaata. For instance, you can be an Aata Odanaata buddy by playing with the children, donate, or volunteer your time as a coach. You can also donate unused sports accessories if they are in a good condition.

To know more about the organisation, you can email them at aata.odanaata@gmail.com or visit aataodanaata.org.

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