Mediocre show by school athletes underlines declining standards

The mediocre show by athletes in the recently concluded State Schools athletics meet has underlined the slow decline of the sport in the State.

The four-day meet failed to produce any record in track events. The timings returned by athletes in most of the track events were poor and way behind old records. The saving grace was the seven records set mostly in the throw events.

But for a State which prides itself in producing the best sprinters and jumpers in the country, the School meet was a reminder of the declining standards. The Covid-19 pandemic also forced changes — the extended closure of playgrounds and sports hostels affecting the training of many athletes, who are still struggling to match pre-Covid timings.

The pandemic also affected the functioning of sports hostels run by private school managements. The hostels are struggling to make ends meet in the wake of reduced sponsorship by patrons after the pandemic.

Sponsorship down

The Kerala State Sports Council (KSSC) was also lax in distributing nutritional allowances to trainees of private school sports hostels. “Post Covid we are struggling to stay afloat. The private schools and their hostels were responsible for raising standards at school meets. But lack of sponsorship and no help from the government has forced us to cut down on the number of inmates,’‘ said Shibi, the PED teacher of Mar Basil HSS, Kothamangalam.

The scarcity of PEDs in Government schools is also affecting grassroots development and talent scouting. “There is no point in having sports hostels if you don’t have good grassroots development programmes. Most schools don’t even have physical education teachers who are responsible for identifying talent. The government must address the shortage of physical education teachers in schools urgently,’‘ said P.I. Babu, the secretary of Kerala State Athletics Association.

Losing glamour

Dronacharya awardee T.P. Ouseph said athletics had lost its glamour and most parents were reluctant to send their children for training.

“Over the years the patronage of athletics among the middle class has decreased. Sports like football and cricket offer more monetary benefits and job opportunities compared to athletics. There is a lack of dedication among athletes and coaches. There is no concrete long-term plan to nurture talent. The State Government is not doing enough to promote athletics. There should be a concerted effort from all stakeholders,’‘ he said.