A Take on our Sporting Culture – What’s wrong (and right)?

When it comes to sports, it’s no secret that IIT Kharagpur’s performance has been dismal in recent times. The last time we topped the inter-IIT standings was in the 41st edition of the event, which occurred a good eight years back. In fact, the men’s contingent has bagged a mediocre sixth position for the last three years. What may be the reasons for the falling sporting standards in the oldest IIT and what are the measures that can be taken to set them right? We at The Scholars’ Avenue caught up with the 2 Sports General Secretaries, Shrrinesh Balasubramanian and Abhishek Malhotra, in an attempt to find the answers.

The Other Fest

It was in 2008 that a few enthusiastic KGPians put their heads together and conceived an Annual Sports Meet. Thus, the foundations were laid and Shaurya was born. The motto of this sports fest, not unlike others of its kind, was to create an environment for sportsmen and sportswomen from the nation’s best colleges to compete against those of KGP’s. The motive was to paint the true picture about the quality and calibre of the teams representing IIT Kharagpur, both inside and outside campus. It would be a reflection of their preparation for contests, specifically the imminent inter-IIT, and their commitment to victory and excellence in the spirit of sportsmanship.

Allegations have been cast multiple times at Shaurya for not being able to improve inter-IIT results. All this has culminated in the permanent scrapping of the fest by the administration. In other words, KGP will just have two fests from this session; there will be nothing called a sports fest any more. As Abhishek puts it, “Shaurya has been conducted every year since 2008 (except 2011) but there has been no improvement in the performance of the IIT Kharagpur contingent in the inter-IITs. Therefore the Gymkhana President, Prof. Manish Bhattacharya, has issued an order to scrap the fest.”

But one wonders that with no sports fest left in the autumn semester and with most of the events of the prevalent inter-hall GC scheduled to take place in the spring semester, will the resulting lack of match practice not harm the performance of the contingent in the upcoming Inter-IIT? In answer, Shrrinesh says, “We’ll be organizing match practices for all the teams representing IIT Kgp (in this year’s Inter-IIT) throughout the year.” Indeed, the General Secretaries have been talking to various teams in Kolkata to come to play with the teams of our college, and there have also been talks of sending KGP teams to Kolkata to provide them with the match practice they require. Matches between our teams and teams under the Sports Authority of India (Kolkata) have already been scheduled for early October.

This new plan has its own pros and cons. Shaurya used to acquaint our players with the stress that they would be facing in a high-profile tournament like the inter-IIT. In the current scheme, having one-off matches with other teams would definitely not provide them with a similar intense experience. However, these singular matches will be scheduled throughout the year (unlike only during the few days of a fest), which means that the teams will get year-round practice in both home and away conditions. Also, it might be possible to set up matches against highly acclaimed teams from Kolkata and/or other states, which might not have had any plans of participating in a college sports fest. This will enhance the exposure of our teams to tougher challenges.

So is it already time to write Shaurya’s obituary, or can the sports fest perform a phoenix act? As of now, the chances of the latter seem to be quite low. “We cannot comment on the return of Shaurya right now. But the shape of our teams seems to be better compared to the last two years,” says Malhotra. “The IIT Kgp contingent should definitely get a place better than sixth this time,” adds Shhrinesh. If this is indeed going to be the case, and we are all keeping our fingers crossed for a better showing this time around, it would vindicate the claims of Shaurya’s detractors and might very well push the already scrapped fest into oblivion.

The discussion about the impact of scrapping Shaurya ended up being a generic conversation about the perceptions of the General Secretaries on the state of sports in the campus. After a lengthy discussion, it turned out that one of the biggest reasons for the poor performance of our contingent might be the attitude of the students towards sports in general, and the inter-IITs in particular. This is put into perspective by Shrrinesh, “Not many students in the campus seem to be too interested in sports. In all probability, this is because the pursuit of sports does not seem as lucrative as the membership of the numerous societies on campus.”

The General Secretaries have planned to introduce several measures in the sporting culture of IIT Kharagpur, with the hope that such measures will gradually change the general attitude of the people in the campus towards sports. As a small example, Sports Day celebrations were held on 29th August in the form of a quiz and a panel discussion. Here’s some of the other stuff in the pipeline:

  •  A Fresher’s Event for every sport – More fresher’s events were conducted this year, including separate ones for boys and girls. The plan is to conduct a fresher’s for each and every sport within the next few years. The winning freshmen will be given an opportunity to join the inter-IIT contingent if they succeed in passing the various tests that the physical training instructors (PTIs) of the respective sports would have in mind.
  • Open IIT events – This year, for the first time in KGP, a tournament for every sport and open to every student is being conducted. Active participation in every Sport is being ensured. This structure is similar to the existing Open IIT Social and Cultural competitions. The General Secretaries hope that Open IITs in the future will be instrumental in revealing new talents amongst the participants. Currently, the Open IIT volley ball tournament has been half completed and withheld due to bad weather conditions. The tournament will be resumed soon after the mid semester examinations.
  • IIT Kgp Sports – Following the likes of IIT Bombay Sports and IIT Kanpur Sports, IIT Kharagpur now has a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/sports.iitkgp) dedicated to all the updates related to sports in campus, and managed by the General Secretaries. They aim to increase the awareness about ongoing sports events in Kgp through this page.

 These measures look promising. The inter-hall general championship culture helps in identifying new talent for the inter-IIT contingent, and now the concepts of Fresher’s and Open IIT Sports will be another supporting pillar for identifying and training budding players. “Even I came up due to the tennis Fresher’s event,” said Shrrinesh, who is also an inter-IIT tennis player.

TSA: In IIT Bombay, the inter-IIT players are not allowed to participate in the inter-hall events. Do you think that the lack of this rule in IIT Kharagpur is harming its performance in anyway?

Shrrinesh: No, I do not think so. The inter-halls give the inter-IIT players more practice, and the more you practice the better you get. The inter-IIT players can train their teammates too. That way we can have more probable inter-IITians for the next time.

Abhishek: Also, while playing against one’s fellow inter-IIT team mate, one might find out his/her weaknesses and faults. Later, this can be discussed in the team and will lead to a better team.

Our conversation shifted to NSO, where the scenario this year is that people who had a certification about being a player of any sport were given direct entry, and trials were held to fill in the remaining vacancies. This structure is not exactly conducive for a person to start playing a sport after coming to college and master it enough so as to represent KGP in the inter-IITs. It has also been noticed that a lot of students who have been allocated NSO as their EAA end up undergoing the same training as people allocated NSO Health & Fitness, which focuses solely on physical training and fitness exercises. The result is that NSO students have been missing out on practicing their respective sports and have to settle for standard fitness exercises and running laps around Jnan Ghosh.

“That was because IIT Kharagpur had only four Sports PTIs till a few days back, one each for basketball, hockey and football and one person to take care of the general state of sports. The students allocated NSO in sports where there were no PTIs had to undergo the same training as the people who have been allocated NSO PT.” said Malhotra. The situation is further elaborated by Shrrinesh when he says, “When I went to the inter-IIT board meeting last summer, the General Secretary Sports of IIT Hyderabad scoffed at the fact that KGP just has four PTIs, even after being the oldest IIT. Apparently, IIT Hyderabad, which is a relatively new institute and not in any way as established as ours, also has four PTIs.”

Recently, this situation has improved a lot with the appointment of three new PTIs for athletics, swimming and cricket. Another temporary coach has been assigned to swimming for some final fine tuning before their inter-IIT, which takes place in late October. Also, a temporary coach in weight lifting has already started working, while five temporary coaches in badminton, volleyball, table tennis, tennis and squash will join by the first week of October. In summing up, one can say that although IIT Kharagpur has not performed adequately in the sports front in the last few years, the General Secretaries have a well-planned year ahead and the prospects look promising this time around. The Scholars’ Avenue wishes all the inter-IIT players the very best of luck and hopes that their efforts bear fruit.

In other news, the inter IIT board has decided to conduct doping tests for some players (chosen at random) for every sport from every contingent. They will soon be coming up with the list of drugs which are not to be used by any inter-IIT player. If any player is found guilty of using one of the drugs mentioned in the list, the respective IIT will be banned from sending any team to compete in that respective sport.

“It has been heard that during inter-IIT 2011 hosted by Kharagpur, there was a weight-lifter from IIT Hyderabad who openly used some calcium based inoculants just before his performance. When enquired about it, he replied that this kind of drug use was allowed at the international level. The inter-IIT board wishes to regulate and standardise a set of drug-use rules so as to serve the best interests of the participants and promote the spirit of sportsmanship.”

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