The recent 19-medal haul at the Tokyo Paralympics 2020 has led to a discussion regarding the current infrastructure and future need for quality Sports education for para-athletes. Currently, apart from few private training centres, there is no formal structure in place to provide these athletes with the physical and/or financial help they require.
Need for formal instruction
Deepa Malik, president, Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), says, “Knowledge of Science is an important addition to the sporting journey of para-athletes. For instance, understanding the correct prosthetics required by athletes is a Science in itself. Also, Sports education is not just about the Science involved, but also about creating awareness on related subjects.”
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When PCI conducts national camps in search of fresh talent for major para sporting events across the globe, a majority come from rural backgrounds. “Sports education is essential, as apart from training para-athletes in their chosen sport, it also teaches them aspects of money management, soft skills and more. An athlete’s journey does not end on the sports ground but continues far beyond and formal training gives para-athletes the confidence to deal with it all,” says Malik.
Coaches should be prepared
Raw talent in any game needs to be honed with proper guidance to convert the sportsperson’s efforts into medals, adds Malik,
Satyapal Singh, chief coach, PCI, says that coaches of able athletes have it simpler, as all able sportspersons have a similar basic physical structure. “In case of para-athletes, everything, from the required prosthetics, kind of training, its intensity and the support they need varies from one athlete to the other. Thus, coaches must be trained accordingly,” he says.
Malik adds that the current educational structure trains coaches to become experts in any one sport. “To truly empower para-athletes, the curriculum for courses being imparted to future coaches should necessarily have a section that helps them train para-athletes in their sport,” she says. This will add to the number of trained coaches at the ground level.
Issues being faced
There are no formal guidelines to help coaches in their bid to train para-athletes. “When we met the Prime Minister recently, he advised that all related information be compiled to become the first-ever formal instruction guide for coaches of para-athletes. “I am currently working upon the same and hope to finish it at the earliest,” adds Singh, who is also a Dronacharya awardee.
Malik says that the apex body (PCI) is just six years old and still facing teething troubles. “We need more funding schemes in place so that para-athletes get access to the tools they need to hone their talent and bring more medals,” she says.
District sports offices must be empowered to search for new talents and provide them withinitial training. “Accessible playgrounds for kids and sports grounds for athletes need to become a mandate. Also, Sports and Physical Education (PE) teachers at the school level should be trained to impart coaching to physically challenged, sports inclined youngsters,” she adds.
Singh says that there seems to be minimal awareness among the upcoming sports universities regarding the need for formal instruction for para-athletes. “There should be more traction from the stakeholders, which is missing thus far,” he says.
Karnam Malleswari, the first woman athlete to win an Olympic medal in weightlifting in 2000 has been designated as the vice-chancellor of the upcoming NSU at Delhi. She says that the medal haul at Tokyo Paralympics 2020 proves that training of para-athletes is being done in a right way. “Since there is no para-weightlifting event, currently I provide para-powerlifting training to para-athletes at my institute in Haryana,” she says.
“We have begun discussions on the curriculum at the University. This will include courses that are specific to training para-athletes. However,nothing concrete has been pinpointed yet,” adds Malleswari.
Our institute is still in an infantile stage, wherein we do not even have a permanent campus yet. We have started operations with only five regular programmes. One of our targets is to integrate para-related sports and adventure sports within our regular curriculum. However, this would be possible only when we shift to our permanent campus, says Laishram Shyam Kumar, registrar, National Sports University (NSU), Manipur.