Chennai: In 1992, to promote sports among masses and to achieve excellence at national and international level, the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) was constituted. Twenty-four years have passed and the result is Tamil Nadu is nowhere in the picture of global sports map.
“In 2001, the state government announced high cash incentives to outstanding sports persons in lieu of the scheme of allotting house, ranging up to Rs 2 crore for an Olympic gold medal. Till date, no one has availed himself or herself the benefits and I doubt that the scheme will come into reality”, said a former coach and now a manager with SDAT.
According to SDAT insiders, the State annually supports 2500 students through district sports hostel taking care of their end-to-end needs. “Annually, the State spends over Rs 250 crore for sports development, but we are unable to match other Indian states like Kerala, Punjab and Haryana.”
When contacted on the poor performance of Tamil Nadu in sports, a senior official said the problem is that the State is unable to tap its rural talent and the entire mentality of the parents and society is to produce engineers and graduates. Every year, 500 students enter the top engineering and medical colleges through sports quota only to roll out as degree holders. For some, sport is as an entry card to top engineering universities and after joining the college they just leave the practice with the consent of their parents. “We are improving, there is no dearth of funds or facility and Tamil nadu is a pioneer in the country, when it comes to encouraging sportspersons. Tamil Nadu is the only state that supports its elite players showering sponsors and cash benefits. The problem is with the school education system and the existing academic peer pressure, the official said.
Endorsing the bureaucrat’s view, a government school physical education director in Kancheepuram said about 20 lakh students are studying in government schools across the State. There are no physical education training teachers in several government schools. There are posh private schools with a population above 2000 students with only one physical trainer for entire school.
PT teachers are also responsible for discipline and sports development, but there is a huge lacuna in the education system. With money minded schools and government schools lacking teachers Tamil Nadu cannot encourage rural sports talent, the teacher said.
“There are 50 sports associations in Tamil Nadu affiliated to Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu and often prominent personalities and bureaucrats (IAS and IPS) are designated as association office-bearers. Sparing a few, others hardly attend any meetings or add any value to the association. Some of them are holding prominent government posts and they hardly have any time for sports activities”, said a SDAT coach seeking anonymity.