Time to be a sport

Updated: Apr 18, 2020, 08:19 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

Make your home your playground. With major institutions going digital, here are online sports-related initiatives to keep you up and running.

Somdev Devvarman
Somdev Devvarman

How much can you possibly do within the four walls of your home? For sportspersons, the possibilities are endless; Ashwini Ponnappa hits her HECS ball against the wall, and Bhaichung Bhutia juggles a football in his living room. And while players are adapting to the lockdown, coaching institutions and academies are also going digital. This week, India's Minister of State for Youth Affairs & Sports, Kiren Rijiju attended the first-ever online knowledge enhancement workshop for coaches put together by the Sports Authority of India (SAI). MS Dhoni Cricket Academy is offering live classes on Facebook for its trainees and so is R Ashwin's Gen-Next Cricket Institute.

Jatin Paranjape
Jatin Paranjape

NBA has also taken basketball training online under its NBA Basketball School programme which is open to male and female players aged between six and 18. The bi-weekly online sessions are being facilitated across 17 after-school programme partners throughout the country with two coaches helming each session. Marc Pulles, basketball operations team leader, NBA India, asserts that the space limitations of Indian homes were specifically kept in mind while designing the model. "Not everyone has access to wide-open spaces; we did not want that to become a hindrance. The minimum requirement is to have a basketball," he says. A typical session, he adds, begins with a warm-up, some ball-handling drills, form shooting work, and defensive work. "We finish up with a group discussion on a basketball-related topic and assign participants some videos to watch and give homework to do such as form shooting," he shares in an email interview.

An online session by NBA Basketball School
An online session by NBA Basketball School

KheloMore, a platform founded by former cricketer Jatin Paranjape, which enables people to book sports-related facilities has launched a section on their website called Train At Home. Here, you'll see two drop-down lists: type of sport and level. So, if you choose cricket, you will find videos for beginners, intermediates and pros. "We had limited content that we had planned for the week before the lockdown was announced. However, we reached out to each and every coach associated with the website to make more videos and take more sessions online so that the learning doesn't stop," Paranjape shares. The work for the section started in the second week of March, with the first video being rolled out on March 22. The response has been great, too. "We received more than 3,000 views per day and till date, the total number of unique views has been over two lakhs," he adds.

Earlier this month, on Instagram (IG), former professional tennis player Somdev Devvarman, started a page called Players Are Ready, Thank You with a bio that reads, "Talking about what's going on in the tennis world." It's apt considering you get to see Devvarman in conversation with producer Rachna Nayyar, who he's worked with closely, and sometimes, other personalities from the tennis community like Sumit Nagal. There are IG live sessions, after which snippets are posted on the page.

A KheloMore tutorial by tennis player Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan
A KheloMore tutorial by tennis player Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan

The format is light-hearted even though the subjects under discussion are not; you get to hear about how players' rankings have been affected due to the suspension of matches, the psychological impact of such a break and recent news such as the Indian Fed Cup team qualifying for the playoffs for the first time. From his Chennai home, Devvarman tells us that the lockdown hasn't been all that bad for him, as he gets to stay indoors with his wife and dogs. He also explains that the page wasn't an outlet to bring about awareness of how the community is being affected, per se. "There are bigger problems at hand. The point was to keep the conversation going. There's always someone with a good story to tell and a valid point to share," he says.

Marc Pulles
Marc Pulles

Devvarman, 35, has also started a fundraiser for the tennis markers, ball kids and support staff who have been affected due to the lockdown through his charity Life Is A Ball. "The response has been amazing in 48 hours. I made calls to Sania [Mirza] and Mahesh [Bhupathi] and they came on board immediately," he says. The larger point of an online platform like his, he hopes, is to cast a wider net of solidarity. "I was speaking to some of the golf caddies who earn from tips, and they have been massively hit. The sports industry relies on people going to clubs and taking lessons. So, what I want the page to also do is encourage people from their own communities — be it track and field or golf — to reach out and offer support."

Log on, play on

For home training: khelomore.com
For discussions: Players Are Ready, Thank You on IG
To take a challenge: Community Football Club India on IG
For talks: Sports Authority of India on Facebook

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