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How well can DU students balance sports with studies?

National champs at Delhi University have been balancing sports and studies with help from colleges and classmates, but do they need more support?

education Updated: Sep 28, 2016 14:05 IST
Vandana Ramnani
Arshpreet Bhullar, national basketball champion, Hindu College, Delhi University, participating in a tournament.
Arshpreet Bhullar, national basketball champion, Hindu College, Delhi University, participating in a tournament.

India’s performance in the recent Rio Olympics has been dismal to say the least. Sakshi Malik got the bronze in women’s freestyle wrestling and PV Sindhu the silver in the women’s badminton singles event. For a country with a population of 1.3 billion, two medals are just not enough. What can be done about it? For starters, giving adequate support to young athletes in colleges and universities can ensure they are able to give 100% to their sporting disciplines.

It’s not as if universities in India do not lay emphasis on sports curriculum. A large number of students get admitted every year through the sports quota after tough trials (as many as 10,000 applications were received under the sports quota by Delhi University this year). There are many students from Delhi University who participated in the Olympics and many others who are national champs. This year three students participated in the Olympics. Lalit Mathur of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College represented India in athletics, Manika Batra and Apurvi Chandela of Jesus and Mary College competed in table tennis and shooting, respectively.

Inderpreet Kaur Nanda, assistant professor of physical education and sports at Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, University of Delhi, says that colleges try and help students who excel in sports in whichever way possible. “If their schedule does not permit them to attend classes, colleges are often liberal when it comes to giving them attendance. They are also allowed to turn in their assignments and tutorials slightly later than other students if they are out for practice sessions or attending camps.”

Most students active in sports pursue BA or BCom programmes. Very few take up science, she adds.

HT Education caught up with a few champions who have made it big at the national level and have been ‘braving’ it out, balancing hours of sports practice, studies and meeting attendance criteria. All of them were of the view that training and practice was the only way for students to achieve success at global sporting events. They were ably supported by classmates who were ever ready to share daily class notes on WhatsApp. The practice facilities offered on college campuses, not to mention the special diets arranged for them at the college canteens, helped too.

Many of the champions, however, were of the view that their performance could improve if the university ensured they had access to the latest sports equipment (which could cost lakhs) and give them cash awards as and when they won medals. Currently, the university rewards students Rs 500 for winning gold in inter-university sports events, Rs 400 for silver and Rs 200 for bronze. Corporate sponsorships can also help, they say.

Divya, a national archery champion from Khalsa College, said “Our equipment costs anything between `2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh and bows are priced at Rs 1.5 lakh. A dozen arrows cost Rs 36,000. Much of the amount we receive as stipend from the universtiy goes into our diet. I wish all this could be taken care of either by the university or through sponsorships.”

Divya, national archery champion from Khalsa College, Delhi University

Ram Karan Singh, who did his graduation from Satyawati College and was pursuing an MA in Hindi from Khalsa College, was all praise for his institute. The 25-year-old visually challenged Arjuna awardee and a middle distance runner won medals at the 2010 Para Asian Games held in Guangzhou, China and the 2014 Para Asian Games in Incheon (Korea) as a student of Khalsa College. At the institute he was made to follow a sportsman’s diet. Teachers were also extremely cooperative with attendance.

Arjuna awardee Ramkaran from Khalsa College in action

“Classmates were more than happy to share notes of lectures that I am unable to attend and teachers are more than willing to accept my assignments even though I submit them a bit late. Initially, attendance was a big issue. When I went to attend class in 2012 and the teacher saw me for the first time, she asked me why I had not attended classes all through the year, I showed her the Arjuna award that I had received a day before and there was nothing else that she could say except congratulate me,” Singh said.

An avid sportsman, Singh did a stint as a wicket-keeper for the Delhi and the UP team before he took to marathon running. In 2011, as a first year student at Satyawati, he represented the country in the World Games held in Turkey before winning accolades at Incheon. In February this year received a gold for the 1500 m at the Asian Championship in Dubai.

Arshpreet Bhullar, a national basketball team member, also has no complaints against Hindu, his college. A second year student of the BA programme, he practices for almost six hours every day. “My college helps out in terms of facilities.We have an excellent basketball court and teachers are liberal when it comes to attendance as I sometimes travel for months together, attending sports tournaments or practice camps,” he says, adding, “I have been travelling for almost four months now and will be able to attend college only from next month. My classmates are my biggest strength. I am constantly in touch with them over WhatsApp.”

Bhullar’s diet is also monitored carefully at college. “Since we require more calories in our food (around 3500 calories) and eat after every two hours versus the normal 1500 calories, our college canteen provides us with eggs, bananas, salad, special milk shakes and juices,” says the basketball champ who loves to party with friends whenever he is in town.

For Divya, the “biggest support” has come from classmates, seniors and friends. “I am largely dependent on group studies and tuitions for my course and despite the hectic practice sessions, I have managed to get a first division,” she says.

Divya, who completed her graduation from Hansraj College and is currently in the final year of MCom in Khalsa College, started participating in archery events from Class 10. Despite the hectic training schedule, she received 91% in Class 12 and was a topper in accountancy.

For her, the biggest challenge in college was to balance academic performance with hours of sports practice. “I was disheartened by my performance in first year of college when I scored 180 out of 360. In the second year I bettered my performance and won the bronze in the mixed team even and in 2015 I won the senior nationals in Meerut.”