When one thinks of Tennis in the context of India, there are only three names which come to mind: Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupati and Sania Mirza. These are the ones who have made it big on the international stage, and have quite a few titles to their name, albeit mostly in the doubles category. Why is it that in all this while that Tennis has been a sport in these sportspeople have done well over the years, that there are no other rising stars? No prodigies to speak of? Well, that could be due to some of the obstacles faced by the sport in the country.
Here are some of major hurdles in the growth of tennis are:
One of the major hurdles for rising tennis players in India who want to play professionally is the extreme cost involved. From training, to having a full time coach, to travelling to the many tournaments held all over the world – a must if the player wants to improve and be taken seriously as a professional – all of it has high costs, and the expenditure can range from anything between 30 to 50 lakh rupees per year! Not exactly a feasible amount for those coming from middle class families, or even lower. And until a player breaks into the top 150, the return on investment is almost negligible when compared with the money invested. These aren’t inflated numbers but actual facts.
The obvious solution would be for the sports ministry to help these rising tennis stars with the expenditure, by providing scholarships, grants, rewards, and the like, however for now, most of the current young crop of tennis enthusiasts are either spending their own money, or managing with the help of a sponsor. Sadly, some of the sponsors are only providing rackets and shoes, and only a few of the state governments are helping some of their top players.
The government needs to start grass root level tennis academies, appoint talented coaches who can help these youngsters grow in the right way, and reduce the burden on families.
As tournaments happen all over the world, parents have to take time off from their busy schedules to take their children to these competitions. This is not always easy, especially in an age where both parents are working professionals.
One solution for this could be that companies could grant leaves to such parents, since it is only going to help the profile of the country if its people do well in the sport. In return, these companies could use the goodwill generated, and the advertising eyeballs received, as a form of CSR activity.
Another option is having qualified government trainers and coaches taking the children to these tournaments and taking their all-round care while they are in their care.
Slowly, but surely, the attitude towards sports in India is changing for the better. This needs to continue. Instead of dismissing sports blindly in favour of education, parents should try and help their children manage growth. This will not only help their physical development, but also help them grow as a person.
The sports ministry should be offering grants, scholarships, and rewards to those coming from the poorer sections of society so that they can continue following their passion. After all, money should never be the factor which makes a person quit following their dreams.
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