Many schools hold sports at the fag end of the year when children prepare for exams

With city schools laying so much emphasis on acquiring marks in public examinations, there is no scope to develop a sound mind in a healthy body.

Young sports enthusiasts find a paradox here with the urban schools going through annual sports events more as a ritual and the State government going all out to promote sports activities.

The government, in recent years, has sanctioned huge funds for the creation of infrastructure and for holding tournaments, besides increasing the prize money offered to sportspersons who excel at the State, national, and international level.

All these initiatives have been widely welcomed by sports lovers and health conscious public.

They are of the view that sportspersons, particularly school and college students, should take full advantage of these facilities to build their physique and to excel in sports.

The government, along with these initiatives, should take effective steps to streamline sports activities in educational institutions.

Due importance should be accorded to holding annual sports meets, tournaments and district and divisional-level sports events, is the opinion of many sports patrons.

Gone are the days when the annuals sports events and inter-house tournaments were conducted in a grand manner, not only in big self-financed schools, but also in government schools.

The sports meets used to be gala affairs, extending to at least two days.

In the initial two months of every academic year, sports activities used to be the talk of the town in all schools. School playgrounds used to overflow with sportspersons. Along with physical education directors, other teachers would be present in the playgrounds in the evenings to encourage sportspersons.

Acclaimed present and past sportspersons were invited as chief guests for sports meets and their presence used to motivate the students.

Sportspersons who excelled in the school meet represented their schools in the district, divisional and State-level meets.

Of all the sports events, the inter-school and inter-collegiate tournaments were the major attractions.

The playgrounds where these tournaments were held attracted huge crowds. Students used to ride bicycles for 10 to 15 km to watch tournaments figuring their schools.

“On many occasions, tournament venues were shifted in the last minute to avoid student crowd,” says J. Janarthanan, a sports enthusiast-turned-businessman.

The Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu used to organise events like “catch-them-young” and Pongal sports and games meet and these events, which enabled identification of budding sports talent, used to be very popular.

But the scenario has changed in the last few years, especially in urban schools.

The annual sports meets have become a formality in a majority of schools, lament sports enthusiasts. The pomp and splendour are missing.

The valediction, which was always in the evening hours, is scheduled in the morning hours, which only shows how much importance is given to the prize awarding ceremony. In a bid to escape from the hot sun, most of the urban schools declare open the sports meets around 7 a.m. and conclude with prize distribution by noon.

Annual sports meets are now scheduled in the fag end of the year, when the students utilise the prime time to prepare for examinations.

T.S. Balan, former international volleyball player and volleyball coach, is of the view that the government should concentrate on streamlining sports activities in schools and colleges. All efforts should be made to organise sports meets and tournaments in educational institutions in a manner that they attract voluntary participation. Local sports achievers should be encouraged by giving incentives and recognised as talented students.

The SDAT should revive events like ‘catch-them-young,’ Mr. Balan points out.

More than urban areas, it is the rural areas that contribute more to the field of sports, says N.S. Sivakumar, Director of Physical Education, Urumu Dhanalakshmi College.

The former international stars like Rajasekaran, P. Subramanian (athletics), Simon Sundararaj and Kittu (football), Vijayaraghavan (basketball), hailing from Thanjavur district, are the best examples of rural talent. Villages like Vaduvoor in Thanjavur district and Mettupatti near Lalgudi in Tiruchi district have produced many talented sportspersons.

The government should concentrate on promoting sports activities in the rural areas, by creating more infrastructure facilities and providing adequate incentives to sports persons. Coaches should be posted in all taluk headquarters, Mr. Sivakumar says.