The changing scenario of the culture of sports in India:A conversation with Deepthi Bopaiah

'Champions are made, not born' - Unknown

Indian athletes had an incredible run at this year's Commonweath Games in Gold Coast, Australia. With a medal haul of 26 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze medals, India surpassed its medal tally of the last edition at Glasgow in 2014.

It is noteworthy that the scenario of sports is changing in India. However, if we look at India's performance at the Rio Olympics or the Asian Games, we would realize that we have a long way to go!

One organization working towards professionalizing Indian sports and working to improve the scenario in the country is GoSports Foundation. The Foundation’s initiatives are premised on the belief that sporting champions are created when the right talent gets the right support at the right time.

In a conversation with Tata Tea Jaago Re, Deepthi Bopaiah, Executive Director at GoSports Foundation, discusses the need to build a culture of sports in the country and the way to pre-act in order to help our athletes in their quest of putting India on the global sports map.

Converting participation into winning! Looking back at India's performance in CWG ‘18 and the road that lies ahead.

First of all, I think we need to pat ourselves on the back! The performance of all the athletes in these Commonwealth Games have been incredible, not just from the perspective of the medal tally but also the kind of performances that were displayed by each player. After all, it is always the spirit and the determination that matters! Even as an organization, we focus primarily on supporting an athlete’s pursuit of sporting excellence rather than just their podium finishes.

When we compare Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Olympics, we must remember that the base is really in terms of the number of countries that participate in the tournament. For instance, 76 countries participated at this year's CWG and inspite of India’s minimal representation and participation in medal-heavy sports such as athletics and swimming, we finished third in the over-all medal tally and managed a clean sweep in shooting, weightlifting, table tennis and badminton. This I feel is commendable.

Winning a medal is definitely the goal of any athlete but it can only be achieved by putting the right process of planning and training in place. Therefore, we focus on the journey of the athlete and ensure that we give them everything that they need to excel - we not only provide them the necessary mentorship through our board of advisors but also aim to fulfill their requirements around sports science, travel, training stints, and equipment, among others.

Long gone are the days when our athletes' representation in these Games was limited to participation. There is a huge change in the mindset of Indian athletes due to many factors. One of the key factors is the increased success stories of role models and it's only going to get better as we approach Tokyo Olympics 2020 and the Asian Games. Are we going to win 15-20 medals at the Olympics like a lot of reports are saying? I personally believe that there is some way to go before that happens.

Another applaudable factor of this year's CWG was the kind of collaboration that happened between the Sports Ministry, the Federations and organizations like the GoSports Foundation, with the sole aim of providing aid to the athlete. I think that if such collaborations take place more often, we will be able to see more athletes excel and bring home the medal. This kind of support is essential for athletes as it gives them the assurance that they are not fighting their own battle and have a team that would back them.

Inspiration leads to Impact: The underlying role of media in the life of an athlete!

I think media and sports outfits play a huge role in making sure that the voice of the athlete is heard. Why do you think that cricket gets this much attention? Because it's been written about, talked about, shown on television, it's everywhere! I think a lot of credit should be given to Sony Pictures Networks because they have taken some bold decisions of telecasting sports that don't get covered a lot of times. That is an important step towards creating awareness about the lesser known sports.

I think media and digital platforms have a huge responsibility when it comes to creating role models and sharing the stories of their journey. One of the pillars of our Foundation is Inspiration! We are constantly communicating these incredible athlete stories through different media channels as we believe that inspiration can strike through various sources. So inspiration is a large aspect for us from the standpoint of creating an impact. You can never document it, you can never show numbers on it but you can feel it!

Our role, as a society, to help build a sporting culture in India.

WATCH LOCAL SPORTING EVENTS! Go for state and national level tournaments, go and cheer your athletes. Enjoy, explore and expose your kids to different fields of sports and help them develop an interest in sports. It's only when we go to watch our local athletes perform, do we develop an interest in their sport and their journey. Moreover, this also helps the players to stay motivated and perform better. Cheers from the crowd always feed into the energy of the athletes and fuel their performances.

I also believe that films play an important role in this aspect. For example, the awareness about Mary Kom's or Milkha Singh's achievements increased significantly after the release of films that documented their journeys. As a society, we are extremely influenced by cinema. So my advice would be to take your kids to watch more sports-inspired films in order strengthen the sporting culture of our nation.

Message to the budding players of our nation.

You are extremely lucky because today you have people who are ready to back you in your sports journey. You have the opportunity, the exposure and the technology that athletes did not have, five years ago. Take all the opportunities and go live your dream!

What are your thoughts on the initiatives that we, as a society, can take to encourage participation in different fields of sports? Tell us how you would pre-act today to help shape the future of sports in our country?

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