Lockdown blues: Private sports academies in Chandigarh struggle to cope with no income
For sports, the worst of Covid-19 does not seem to be over yet. At this time of the year, the grassroots academies generally prepare for the post-exam rush but have now been left struggling to come to terms with the Covid-19 lockdown.
While the bigger associations and their academies can withstand the impact, it’s the smaller centres, which serve as future players’ first contact with the game, that are hit the hardest.
Two of the most popular sports in terms of number of privately-run academies in tricity — cricket and tennis — employ many coaches and also ground staff, and are struggling to make ends meet. With around 60 academies for these two games, many stakeholders doubt they will be able to sustain financially.
“It is a very difficult period for everyone. A lot of parents enrol their wards in sports post exams. I am not sure whether parents will send their children for practice after the lockdown ends, so monetary loss is something that everyone will have to bear,” says Sumandeep, who runs a cricket academy in a Mohali school and trains 45 trainees from Under-6 to Under-16 age groups. There are around 30 cricket academies in the tricity.
Coach Devinder Kapoor of Total Tennis Academy, which has its main centre in YMCA, Sector 11, and seven others in the tricity, adds that the loss of source of income has affected everyone in the sports academies’ circuit.
“Yes, the players are suffering, but so are the coaches and centre owners. We have tie-ups with various schools besides a centre in YMCA. We are dipping into our savings and trying to secure loans in order to help our coaches and groundsmen. April was generally when the rush started, we had on an average 60-70 players per centre and even more in some places, and the footfall of four-five months during the summer season is enough to sustain us for the year. But with no income, we are trying to give salaries and let see how long can we sustain,” Kapoor says.
Former state-level cricketer Ravi Verma runs three academies — two in Kharar and one in Chandigarh — with over 100 trainees. But since mid-March his centres are deserted. He is now living off his savings.
“Since the lockdown, I have lost around Rs 2 lakh. I am paying the groundsmen and the team of coaches and also looking after my family. It is difficult to make the trainees learn from videos and analyse their skills. It is yet to be seen how many of the budding cricketers will resume training and also maintain social distancing along with wearing masks. Covid-19 has changed the way we live,” says Verma.
Parveen Sharma recently started a cricket academy at a school in Sector 24 and hired services of four coaches, including former India cricketer Dinesh Mongia and former Himachal Pradesh Ranji Trophy cricketer Rajeev Nayyar.
With such eminent cricketers at the helm of coaching, more than 60 trainees joined. “Tricity has wonderful cricket academies. With idols like Kapil Dev and Yuvraj Singh, youngsters want to emulate them and learn the sport. But even if we open, we will have to maintain social distancing. Until a vaccine is invented, life cannot return to be normal especially for sports,” says Sharma.
Another tennis coach Anupam Chetri, who assists in a few academies in the tricity, adds that he is afraid some might close in the near future. “Financially, it will be become unsustainable if this lockdown drags on,” he says.
Another tennis coach Vikas Berwal, who has two centres in Chandigarh and Hisar, says he has to pick and choose while releasing salaries for his staff of five coaches and three groundstaff.
“While the ground staff got the entire salary and will continue to get it in April. I asked some of the well-off coaches to take a pay cut and released salaries for others,” he says.