Marketing is definitely required to popularise a brand but without substance and quality, no brand can sustain for too long. While India has taken care of its marketing responsibilities by appointing the Bollywood star, Salman Khan as the brand ambassador of the Indian contingent at this year’s Olympic Games, who is taking the long-term responsibility of actually encouraging, preparing and supporting young talent for the sporting events? Well, GAIL India Limited surely is, at least for the sprinters.
GAIL and the NYCS (National Yuva Cooperative Society) together with their technical partner Anglian Medal Hunt Company have launched a program that, probably, the entire non-cricket-sports-loving population of India has been craving for. It is called the Indian Speed Star and aims at identifying athletic talents in boys and girls aged 11 to 17 across the nation at the grassroot level and providing them continuous, well-structured, world-class training and mentoring to make them capable of participating and excelling in international sporting events for the 100m, 200m and 800m disciplines. You can call it the Indian Idol of the sporting world! 😉
The mission of the Indian Speed Star program is to create an interest in sports and games among kids right from their school and college days and to provide them the opportunity to understand and develop their skills to pursue it as a way of life. It envisions to unearth a good number of youngsters with a passion for sports that can be further nurtured with training support and can possibly earn India a bunch of medals at the highest levels of sporting events –like maybe Olympics 2020 or 2024.
The fact that this program is deeply in earnest is evident from its selection committee that comprises legends like P.T. Usha, Anuradha Biswal, Rachita Mistry and Kavita Raut. Their job is not limited to setting the selection criteria only. They are very much involved in formulating the training modules and structures.
The identification of talent is to be done in 3 levels, namely, District, State and National. District trials have already completed under the supervision of selectors and coaches chosen by the selection committee and based on criterias set by the committee again. Out of 25000 kids participating in 55 districts across a total of 10 states, 850 have qualified for the next level that is States. The State level trials have commenced and is still continuing. So far, Odisha has 14 kids qualifying for the Nationals, Delhi and Kerela have 28 each and Jharkhand, 4. Gujarat and Maharashtra are up next.
The shortlisted participants from the State level will then go for an intensive national coaching camp, scheduled at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in May 2016. At the conclusion of it, final trials will occur and based on the qualification criteria set by the selection committee earlier, a bunch of kids will be selected for a year-long extensive training. The 9 most promising kids from them will get to enjoy the world-beating training facilities till the Olympics 2020, the main aim being conquering it!
After years of over-concentration on cricket, it was definitely a fresh breath of air when football’s Indian Super League gained nation-wide popularity. We cannot deny that involvement of stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Sachin and Sourav had something to do with it. And no matter how weird it sounds, probably, making Salman the goodwill ambassador of the Rio Olympic Games is indeed a clever move by the government towards popularizing the other forms of sports, keeping in mind his huge fan following.
However, other than just sales gimmicks, India needs more effective ways to ensure people are motivated and supported enough to not only watch but also participate in these events and benefit from them just like cricketers do. Afterall, they also bring glory to the country. India indeed needs more programs like the GAIL Indian Speed Star. Let’s hope to see them coming up in future!