Recently I witnessed for the first time in my life how a sports competition is organized in Karnataka. Coming from a sports-crazy state like Goa, I found the organization appalling. To say things were done half-heartedly would be an understatement. I found things done heartlessly. The cluster level competitions were primarily of track and field events besides kho-kho, kabbadi, volleyball and throwball.

The other sports were fairly well organized but the track and field events took a good beating. Firstly and primarily, the ground was poorly marked. Track and field events pride themselves on precision marking and meticulous measurements and time-keeping. But here they evidently depended on majority discretion and a ‘get-it-over-with’ attitude. Favouritism and partiality were rampant until more staff began to make their presence felt on the field. The PE teachers who are mostly male hardly heeded the questions and objections of the female non-PE teachers who accompanied the girls of the school of which I am a part.

The start and finish line was not clearly demarcated and the number of rounds that the participants had to make in the various sprint events and distance running events was adjusted according to the overall situation of the participants. There was hardly any professionalism in the organization and I wonder what the students are learning and taking away from such events. It is a well-known fact that the PE teachers, who are also the chief organizers, are sympathetic and favourable to their own school and to schools in which they have friends. I don’t think it suitable at all for the PE teachers to be organizing much less umpiring or overseeing the events that their school participates in. Even though they may be impartial, it would be better if they hadn’t got involved just to avoid any possibility of favouritism and partiality.

From the part of the student-participants, the spirit of sportsmanship or sportswomanship was nearly absent. It seemed that the vast majority had come just to skip school. It was clearly evident that no prior screening of the participants was done. Many never knew the rules of the events they were participating in and the PE teachers were literally explaining it to them on the field. This too, doesn’t speak well of both students and teachers. On the whole, girls fared far worse than boys in track and field. The causes and implications leave a lot of room for reflection and follow up.

Witnessing this big ‘joke’ set my mind in motion. What is the level of sports in our country? It’s evident from the ongoing Olympics. Countries far smaller than India have already opened their medal accounts while we are still waiting on our first piece of silverware. If sports at the grassroot levels are going to continue to be conducted at an unprofessional level, how are youngsters going to develop a sense of sport and a spirit of sportsmanship? Sports, in India leave a lot to be desired. Eminent sportspersons have spoken out against the shallow treatment meted out to sports but hardly anyone in the upper echelons is listening to them. If India is to become a world power in sports than the monetary must become secondary and the sport must come first. Love for the game must once again replace the love for money. Frivolity and trifles need to be set aside, and genuine efforts need to be made to improve the state of affairs else the status quo will, in the long run, will take the game out of sports and leave it an empty shell to be blown when one’s pockets are running dry.