09 September, 2019

“We need a long-term sports strategy”

Neelam Babardesai, Head, Sports Portfolio, Tata Trusts, sees Sports as a beneficial tool to building health and self-confidence at an individual level, and as a provider of alternate livelihood opportunities at a community level

Sports has always been an important catalyst for development - it raises aspirations, improves physical and mental health, and strengthens the overall development of children. In fact, the UN lists sport as a development tool with a host of beneficial effects, from raising the standards of health around the world, to attracting funding and investment in infrastructure, to spawning new livelihood opportunities in the sports ecosystem.

The Tata Trusts have a long history of contributing to the development of sports in India — with an involvement that dates back to Sir Dorabji Tata, extending support to the Indian Olympics Contingent and heading the Olympics committee in early 19th century. The Trusts support sports as a powerful accelerator for meaningful development with the focus on young children and youth from marginalised communities.

But with the exception of a few sports, India has not been able to realise its true potential. Its important to analyse the reason, accept it and work towards bringing about the change.

There has to be a long term strategy for development of sports. Short term 4 year Olympic plans do not produce results. The ‘WHY’ is very important while making this strategy. And making a strategy is just half the work done. Most important is implementation, which requires the right kind of/capable and passionate people in positions of authority, who are then given opportunity, freedom and resources (people and funds), to implement programs, within the boundaries and are held accountable for the work done. All this together make a good recipe for success. But most of times, practically, something or the other is missing.

‘The Why’

Tata Trusts, has a strong ‘WHY’ and opportunity to implement sports programs in their existing regions of work. The ‘WHY’ is to complement their existing work with children in the field of education, and have a better impact on their lives.

When it comes to leveraging sports as a tool for socio-economic development, the Trusts have adopted a unique strategy that resonates with local populations and is based on sustainable solutions. Instead of importing a new sport, the focus is on strengthening the traditional sport played in that region - such as football in Meghalaya, badminton in Mizoram, hockey in Jharkhand and cricket in Maharashtra.

The Sports portfolio focuses on investing in human resources, skilling and building capacities. Sustainable momentum is built in to the process by developing community resources. The intent is to nurture a creative ecosystem that will aid in the holistic development of children and youth from marginalised communities. In parallel, the Trusts are investing in setting up world class facilities that nurture talent by providing support services such as sports managers, physiotherapists, nutritionists, and more.


Tata Trusts has resources – people and funds, to implement the programs. People at the helm, who are passionate and knowledgeable about sports, who can design meaningful, progressive phases of the programs, which are interlinked and all focused on achieving the planned objective.

‘The Strategy’

Our sports strategy is based on the ‘Sports Development Pyramid’, which aims to lay a strong foundation of fun physical education and sports through its in-school and grass roots programs, and then builds on this fundamental building blocks, to provide identified talented players and coaches, competitive training opportunities leading to excellence program. The foundation layer would like to reach out to maximum children in the state to not just enable them to have fun and play the sport so that they can adopt healthy lifestyles throughout their lives, but also imbibe in them the different life skills like discipline, teamwork, confidence etc, which will help them become better, responsible citizens of the country. Holistic development of children, is a common focus in all our programs. The design team can then, chalk out the implementation plan and recruit the right kind of people to implement the plans and guide them on the field.

We have partners or can build partnerships, which can make the programs stronger and sustainable.

The Trusts identify local partners with outreach capabilities such as local clubs and state level sporting associations. The focus is on building aspirations and strengthening the capacities of the local population - this is done by partnering with national and international experts who are able to help Indian talent shine on the global stage.
‘Putting Accountability helps’

We have the freedom with accountability, to ensure that the programs work and the objectives defined in the program are achieved. With financial and quality reviews in place, there is a strong focus on defining and documenting process, keeping in mind that processes are aligned towards the objectives linked with the end beneficiary ie the children and the coaches. As our experience builds up, we want to refine to keep refining these processes, and after 2-3 yeas when programs have stabilized and strengthened, we would have SOP’s for all these different type of programs. Sports technology will be used wherever possible to help in better monitoring and strengthening of the programs. With good programs, partners and a good number of participants for all different kinds of programs, sports science based research would also be our focus area.

We want to execute such well-planned programs, implement them, document the process and achievements and success stories and show case it to the nation and wish to contribute developing healthy, happy and sporting individuals leading to many more, proud moments on the podiums.