From a near-total absence of sports or athletic training, to the abundance of facilities available in Ananthapuram today to achieve world-class proficiency in a variety of games and athletic endeavours, RDT has promoted a thriving sports culture that cuts across class, caste, gender and abilities.
Ananthapuram Sports Village (ASV)
Special Olympics Programme
Nadal Educational & Tennis School (NETS)
Sensitisation through Rural Sports Coaching Centres
Before RDT came to Ananthapuram, it is safe to say that sports as a discipline barely existed. Children of course played traditional games like Chilla Katte (Gilli Danda in Hindi), street cricket, Kabbadi and so on. Girls, being delineated from boys at a very young age, played their own games like hopscotch and skipping, in their backyards.
People of SC/ST communities were struggling under crushing poverty unable to fulfil even their basic needs like food and habitation. When RDT came to Ananthapuram in 1969, the basic
Rural communities, parents and school authorities will appreciate the importance of sports for the overall development of their children, encourage their participation in sports/games and also become more engaged in promoting it.
Children and youth will have access to all necessary means to learn sports/games professionally and participate in them with a competitive spirit.
Individuals and teams having sports talent will be accessing opportunities and services to pursue their sports career with professional standards.
Girls and Children with Disabilities will be encouraged to participate in sports and games confronting discrimination, thus paving the way for their inclusion and social integration.
Aside from the supply of materials to schools, another activity that was started in the early years was the conducting of occasional coaching camps with the help of the District Associations for various sports (cricket, hockey and football). For these, RDT would bring in outside coaches and run a short summer camp for that sport.
It was these camps that drove home the fact that there was exceptional sporting talent among rural SC/ST children that deserved to be identified, brought to light and nurtured. Sports also were found to be a great leveller of people. At a deeper level, sports also brought about the kind of unification and cross-sectional support that RDT strived for in its other programmes in other sectors as well. No initiative for the poor can be successful without the implicit support of other communities and stakeholders like the government, private agencies, higher caste landlords etc. Sports was an endeavour that bridged these gaps and was enjoyed by one and all, and so RDT drove to include it wherever possible with interested school authorities. Most of all, sporting talent gave SC/ST children a natural and self-contained reason to rise above their peers, irrespective of caste and class. The more they were nurtured, the more they shone; they were stars in their own right, and the truly exceptional stood the chance of qualifying professionally, and through existing government reservations for sports talent, and went on to make a living from their talent.
The government had provisions for encouraging sporting talent like School Games Federations and Panchayat Yuva Krida aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA). Physical Education teachers were appointed in many government schools and sports meets were conducted at school, division, district and state levels. Department of Youth Services Coordinators scout for talent to be trained at government academies. But knowledge about them, their facilities and what they did, was slow to reach rural school children and villagers. This gap was filled by RDT’s initiatives and once the forum became available for sports locally and in village schools, interest amongst people awakened and more talent began to be unearthed.
Over time, seeing the effects of sports in children, RDT started to build permanent, RDT-owned and managed sports infrastructure. While these came up, supply of sports training materials and organisation of coaching camps continued. A watershed moment was the first ever Rural Cricket Tournament held in Ananthapuram in the year 2000. Starting as an under-19 tournament, it grew every year till it included high-school students as well by around 2005. The Rural Cricket Tournament was the entry point for RDT’s full-fledged Sports Sector.
By around 2006, a structure started to emerge and systems were set in place. A proper selection and enrolment process to the coaching camps and academies was instituted in which a committee composed of RDT coaches, the District Association for that particular sport, and senior Physical Education (P.E.) Teachers from government schools identified children eligible for admission at the grass roots level. Aside from this, other activities unfolded such as, hiring of full-time coaches, building support infrastructure like changing rooms, dormitories and the hiring of managers and other support staff. More importantly, it was decided that RDT would not limit enrolments to its academies to only those children and youth who are from disadvantaged communities and castes, but anyone found eligible could enrol him/herself.
Over time, the schools where RDT provided materials or held coaching camps, formed nurseries to identify and nurture fledgling sports talent, and the academies became centres of excellence where talented children’s skills could be honed further. The effect of sports to overcome differences and create achievers based solely upon their talent, was seen as an opportunity to bring children from all walks of life together in a positive and healthy expression of their skills that enriched their childhood and education to form happy memories of their school days.
Preparing the field of the future
World-class academies, trained coaches, and international exposure also need to be accompanied with a change in people’s attitude towards sports. In the coming years, along with improving infrastructure, RDT will also be focussing on increasing awareness at the grassroots, especially at school level.