If it’s the summer vacation, it’s time to dump the books and head for the sports field.This summer, Mumbai’s grounds will be dotted by coaching camps that aim to teach your child the finer points of sports as diverse as cricket and gymnastics.
The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) and Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) are among the local sports bodies that conduct camps that are supervised by professional, experienced coaches during the summer break. Two other local sports bodies — the Mumbai Hockey Association (MHA) and the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA) — also have coaching schemes for children, but their programmes extend throughout the year.
In addition, Mumbai’s many gymkhanas, clubs and sports academies also conduct camps that are equally good.
Former Test cricketer and MCA’s director of coaching, Chandrakant Pandit, said: “These camps are opportunities for youngsters to get noticed.” He added: “There are many youngsters who are talented, but they can’t attend MCA’s regular coaching programmes due to academic commitments. The vacation camps are an ideal platform for such talent.”
Hockey Olympian Viren Rasquinha agreed, adding that such camps could determine whether a child takes up sports as a career. “It’s important to organise such camps as they provide children with an introduction to sports, which could become a career option. I’m a perfect example — my talent was spotted during a camp and I was given an opportunity to represent a club, the Bombay Republicans, in the MHA league.”
This was Rasquinha’s stepping stone to success. He went on to play for other major clubs before representing Mumbai in the national championships, after which he graduated to the international ranks and the Olympics.
International footballer Abhishek Yadav echoed the view. “School children need to optimise their energy through sports; summer camps provide that opportunity,” he said.
“As a kid, I enjoyed attending such camps. They were fun and after play I could get back home without worrying about school the next day,” said the India striker.
“The camps keep children occupied and all children enjoy sports. At this age, they can improve their game with proper coaching techniques,” said Yadav, a product of Don Bosco High School, Matunga, which has a rich sporting tradition.
Parents, however, need to be wary of money-making rackets passing off as coaching camps. The rising demand has meant that several camps not recognised by local sports associations pop up during the holidays. Unqualified coaches, in it only for the money, land up doing a poor job of guiding the children. Parents should always check coaches’ credentials before enrolling their children for the programmes.
The local sports associations don’t have the authority to curb such camps.
Both Rasquinha and Yadav warned parents to avoid such coaches as they could land up harming a child’s game.
“There should be some regulation; such camps are not good for youngsters,” said Yadav.
Added Rasquinha, a former India captain: “Sports administrators and coaches organise these camps only to cash in on the demand. Some parents don’t bother to check the authenticity of such camps; all they want is to get the kids off their backs for a few hours every day… The camps are a great opportunity to provide valuable life lessons through sports. But there should be a proper structure in place, which includes good coaching staff.”