Swarali Chodenkar is glad she took up air-rifle shooting and fencing in school. It earned the 15-year-old student who was in state education board curriculum school an additional 20 marks in her Class 10 examination, driving up her score to 99% from 95%.
“I had signed up for these sports to increase my concentration levels and be consistent in my performance,” said Swarali, adding that she was inspired by watching Abhinav Bindra win the gold for rifle shooting in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “My school has an air-rifle shooting range in its basement.” Despite space constraints, Mumbai schools are going beyond football and cricket to make sports interesting to students. Extra marks — ranging from 15 to 25 marks — for sports awarded by the Maharashtra state education board and concerns over a sedentary lifestyle of the students are reasons for this new trend.
Schools are taking up unconventional sports and the latest workouts regimens, which don’t need much space and make exercising fun and appealing. These include air rifle shooting, fencing, touchball, rock climbing and different forms of modern exercise routines.
For many years, schools considered sports only as an extra-curricular activity restricted to physical education or training periods. During these periods, the instructor would pick a few students who showed talent in cricket or football and train them for state- and national-level tournaments. The rest of the students were largely ignored.
Schools in Mumbai are using uncommon sports activities to lure students into sweating it out and tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity and diabetes.
According a report by the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation, the prevalence of overweight/obesity among teenagers in Mumbai’s private schools is 33.9%. And, in public schools, it’s 8.4%.Using past studies by the Indian Journal of Medical Research as a base, there’s an average 2.5% increase in childhood obesity in India, over a two-year period.
Children are little to no exercise as they spend their time staying indoors glued to their laptops or mobile screens. This combined with the bingeing on fast food and high stress levels are increasing health hazards,” said V Balasubramanian, director, NES International School, Mulund.
For this reason, Oberoi International School, Goregaon, has added a plethora of unconventional sports to their kitty. One of the popular programmes is boxercise — an exercise class based on the training concepts boxers use to stay fit. It may involve hitting pads, kicking punch bags, push-ups and sit-ups among others. “This is a really fun concept, many students are signing up for it,” said Shane Russell, head, physical education, Oberoi International School, Goregaon.
The school will soon introduce touch rugby, touch football, synchronised swimming and others that are usually not offered by schools. “We want to ensure our students pick up at least one sport, which they will pursue throughout their life. It will help them in the university and to stay fit in the future,” said Russell.
Getting in touch with their roots
Traditional sports such as kabaddi and malkhamb are making a comeback in city schools thanks to reality shows and celebrity endorsed sports leagues. They are also easy to fit in a limited space. “We don’t have much space, but we encourage kabaddi, boys and girls in our school have become enthusiastic about it after watching the game on TV,” said Sunita George, principal, Bombay Scottish School, Powai. The school will also introduce gymnastics after the Diwali break. “Acrobats performing gravity defying feats on reality shows have made gymnastics popular among students,” said George. “In India, sports get attention if you glamourise them,” she added.
Schools said traditional sports help make students agile and athletic. Pawar Public Schools in Bhandup and Chandivli have weaved traditional sports such as lagori, tipri, sakli and kho-kho into their timetable. “We devote an hour after school for Indian sports that are forgotten these days,” said Madhura Phadke, principal of the Chandivli school.