Pune, which honed the skills of many a young sportsman for the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, continues to be the hub of budding players of varied sports..
Today, it is the current lot of `helicopter parents’ who are encouraging and relentlessly supporting their wards.
Last week, I witnessed the under-12 boys’ national tennis championship underway at the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA) in Mumbai. The lobby was packed with young parents from leading metros of India, not just to escort them but also to play the role of cheerleaders, dieticians, psychology counsellors and coaches to their wards.
Their involvement in the matches was so meticulous and deep that some of them had special Apps to record ball-to-ball scores while some others did so with their laptops.
One parent from Hyderabad told me that the city is pretty `dry’ when it comes to the quality and quantity of tennis tournaments unlike Mumbai and Pune, which are prime destinations to hone competitive skills, through power-packed leagues, that go on practically the whole year, except in the monsoons.
In fact, Pune has risen to be an epicenter of lawn tennis and has scripted its name in the world tennis map as South Asia’s only ATP World Tour Tennis Tournament is held here. Known as the Tata Open Maharashtra, it has attracted a host of International Tennis stars like Kevin Anderson, Gilles Simon and Ivo Karlovic and renowned Indian stars like Leander Paes, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Rohan Bopanna.
In the other endeavour, Adar Poonawalla Maharashtra Tennis Academy has been recently instituted with an aim to provide the mainstream of lawn tennis a perennial pool of young players who are trained and oriented to international standards. The website states the mission: `Our long term plan is to give them the best, in terms of modern techniques, tactics, physical and psychological conditioning. We aim to produce National Champions from the High Performance Tennis Centre, with a long term vision of podium finishes in Asian Games, Davis Cup, Fed Cup and Olympic results.’’
You will see the same enthusiasm at the public swimming pools, particularly the Tilak Tank of the esteemed Deccan Gymkhana Club.
Young swimmers receive professional swimming lessons at this Olympic size pool and it is thrilling to watch them making a splash and charging through the waters to improve their timings.
Last year Teenager Sampanna Shelar created a world record by crossing, twice, the 32 km Bangla Channel. There are several city winners at the annual Aquatic Championships, which are sometimes held in Pune too.
Construction of the Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Sports Complex in Balewadi, the venue of the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games; spurred the sporting spirit even further.
While it is a popular venue for state and inter-state Kabaddi championships, the Shooting Academy run by renowned shooter Anjali Vedpathak-Bhagwat has earned good repute.
Similarly, young chess players also have several training centres, one of them being run by the Indian Chess Grandmaster, Abhijit Kunte and Mrunalini. In 2018, Pune boys, Aarush Dolas and Nivaan Khandhadia, won Gold and Bronze medal respectively at the World School Chess Championships at Antalya in Turkey.
As many are aware, the game of Badminton started in Pune and was called Poona.
States a website dedicated to Badminton (www.dailybadminton.com): “The game as we know as badminton was recognized by British military majors in India in the mid-18th century. It was predominantly popular in the British garrison city of Poona so was known as Poona for a period of time. Left British Army officers took the sport to England where its regulations were elaborated. It was on the record launched in 1873 at the Badminton House, Gloucestershire and so the name became badminton.’’ This game too is popular amongst youngsters and the Poona District & Metropolitan Badminton Association is doing yoemen’s service in this regard.
Football too has caught the fancy of school and college children. FC Pune City (FCPC) is the leading professional club in the city which plays in the Indian Super League. Besides, there are football coaching classes in various neighbouhoods of the city and in schools as well.
Schools too have begun encouraging students who excel in sports.
While 75% is the minimum attendance for them, some schools encourage them to participate in tournaments even at the expense of missing terminal and final examination.
These are taken later at the convenience of the student. I remember Dipti Thanekar, former national badminton champion had to change her school as she was not given permissions to play an important national tournament. The attitude and approach of educationists has indeed undergone a sea change and for the better.
Indeed, Pune has established itself as a sports city, besides being a cultural and educational centre.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
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