While Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about a long-term plan to provide Indian athletes a much-needed support system, a lot will depend on the earnestness of the ‘task force’ .
Modi had on Friday announced the constitution of the crack team which will prepare a long-term road map — spanning three Olympic Games or 12 years. The decision came after India’s team of 118 athletes managed to bag just two medals -- one silver and the other bronze -- at the recently concluded Rio Games.
A plethora of ills continue to dog Indian sports, the least of them being official apathy that does not even respond to the most advanced antibiotics. Here are the 10 things the ‘task force’ can do to give that push to Indian athletes:
1. Catch them young: In 2013, Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat, said: “During Olympics, people often say despite its huge size, we don’t get medals. Have we linked sports with our education system? Did we give enough opportunity to our youth...?” The best way to catch ’em young is to hunt for talent in schools.
2. Ensuring continuity in training and planning of calendar: Long gaps in training and coaching lead to performance levels reverting to original. Annual training schedules need to be formalised. These should include training in India and abroad, high altitude training, coaching and competitions (India and abroad) to cover 305 days in a year. This way continuity of training can be ensured.
3. Dietary supplements: Dietary requirements including food supplements should be provided under the supervision of experienced nutritionists and sports doctors.
4. Support of sports specialist doctors: Competent doctors with specialisation in sports sciences, physiologists, physiotherapists, masseurs, sports analysts, yoga instructors, psychologists depending upon the sports discipline should be made available to elite athletes.
5. Advanced equipment: SAI centres need to be strengthened and given a world-class makeover in terms of accommodation, training infrastructure and facilities, sports science backup equipment, performance monitoring equipments, etc.
6. Engagement of top-level foreign coaches: Top-of-the-line foreign coaches should be hired when there is a certainty in respect of their eligible remuneration and period of engagement.
7. Improve skills and techniques of home-bred coaches: Indian coaches should be sent for advance-level coaching abroad, so that they can come on par with foreign coaches.
8. Curbing doping: To keep doping in check, samples of athletes should be taken and checked on a regular basis in these training centres. Seminars, workshops for sportspersons and coaches should be conducted frequently to familiarise them with the rules and regulations and to educate them about the harmful effects of doping.
9. Monitoring system to assess impact of training/coaching on athletes: A web-based monitoring system needs to be developed to monitor the progress in performance levels of elite athletes. For each discipline, a set of monitoring parameters need to be developed and progress of each athlete with respect to these parameters should be recorded on a regular basis. The system will link the training centers to a central monitoring system.
10. Test events of international level: They should be organised in each discipline before major events. This will not just test the newly-created facilities but also enable the Indian athletes to familiarise themselves with competition environment.