Sports for all. That is the dream and goal of the country.
That is also a slogan and brand, as two individuals, Rishikesh Joshi and Vishwas Choksi, are quietly revolutionising grassroots sports in schools for the last eight years through their Sports For All movement.
There have been 12 championships for schools, across many disciplines, catering to all age groups in different cities.
“We will conduct 10 championships in a four-month window this year. In Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Indore, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Dehradun,” said Rishikesh, as he explained the vision and execution of taking sports to students in a big way.
Last year SFA hosted four championships, bringing school sports alive in Hyderabad, Pune and Uttarakhand.
“35% of the participants were girls, which is a very encouraging sign,” said Vishwas, a chemical engineer who did his Masters from Columbia University.
Rishikesh, a national level swimmer, has rich experience of having worked in IPL apart from being associated in the growth of marathon runs in the country.
SFA has been working with Khelo India Games and the National Games in Gujarat.
The two intend to pioneer the cause of hosting school sports in 50 cities in the next five years.
“We are trying to integrate school sports with the sports ecosystem, strengthening the fundamental pillars. The normal school competitions are restricted to under-14 and under-17 age groups. We try to include all age groups. Every student should get a chance to play,” said Rishikesh.
Taking advantage of technology, a lot of data is generated, identifying talent and helping it to blossom. Schools realise their strength and the healthy competition helps them focus more on sports and in various events. The race is for the best school for sports in the city, across different boards.
“Olympics shows every country where it stands in the world of sports. We do it at the schools level. In Olympics, there are about 11,000 athletes. In our championships, we deal with more than 15,000 athletes. Infact, in 2016 we dealt with 26,000 athletes in one championship,” said Vishwas.
Having crossed many hurdles over the years, the two are able to appreciate the changed mindset of the country towards sports and promise to provide the best platform for school students to flourish in sports.
“We want to give the students the best taste of sports, in terms of infrastructure, officiating, and best professionals hosting the events. Every athlete will have his video,” said Rishikesh, an engineer who has studied Sports Management in Australia.
Sports for all is definitely strengthening the grassroots of Indian sports, sowing the seeds for building world-class athletes and making the country a sports power.