BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
The Khelo India State Centre of Excellence (KISCE) in Goa, like a one-year-old baby, is experiencing teething problems.
But, with parents slowly understanding the rigours of churning out excellent sportspersons, Sumith Rajeshwari believes it will not be long before a Goan stars at the international level.
Sumith Mohan Rajeshwari, High Performance Director, KISCE, Goa
“Apart from football, Goa lacked a sports culture. Excellence in sports comes only through hard work, and there can be no compromise on it. I can now see a change in the attitude of parents,” reasons Sumith Mohan Rajeshwari, as he runs through his one year in office as high performance director.
The KISCE in Goa started with fanfare, and as it grew, the schedule and course left many parents, athletes and the three associations running the three sports – table tennis, badminton and swimming – bewildered.
However, the roll of the ball to attain excellence could not be stopped.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has selected 30 states and six union territories to set up thirty-six centres of excellence to prepare athletes for the 2036 Olympics.
Despite the hiccups, Sumith believes that Goa is on track to contribute its share to the medals tally.
The KISCE in Goa is designed to accommodate ninety athletes, thirty in each discipline in its residential academy, and forty-seven were admitted in its first year.
“We retain athletes depending on their ability to grow. If no growth is possible, they are sent back,” claimed Sumith while justifying why the centre relieved twenty-one athletes this year.
The ball initially started bouncing awkwardly for officials of KISCE when parents realised the routine their children would have to go through to be part of this ambitious plan of the Government of India.
“The rules are grounded on hard work, and many parents did not understand or were misled into what it meant keeping their children in the hostel. This is not a free home, but a place where one has to sweat because it is only through sweat that world champions are produced,” believes Sumith.
KISCE had a three-day selection to fill in the ninety slots for this year in April. After only twenty children from Goa had attended the trials, they threw open the floor for children from other states of the country.
“Competition is the key to success, and as far as our children are concerned, they have excelled in all sports events conducted by the various state associations in Goa,” claims a happy Sumith, adding with glee that all his protégés are below the age of eighteen.
“When it was decided to have the three spots at the KISCE in Goa, it was decided to have it at the indoor stadium in Campal. Sports venues cannot be changed now because it goes against the rules. The rules are the same for all centres, and they cannot be separate for Goa,” says Sumith, trying to explain why venues of sports disciplines cannot be changed.
“Rationally, since the state pays for half the fees to run the centre, our boys and girls should be allowed to represent Goa at the National Games. But, that is not an issue with us. It is for the Sports Authority of Goa to take a call on it,” reasoned Sumith.
The KISCE now allows non-residents to avail of coaching facilities. Though, not the best way forward, Sumith believes anything that nurtures competition is.
“Goa has a very low national ranking in sports, and they can climb higher only through plenty of competition. Otherwise, it does not make sense,” thinks Sumith, who believes that in a few years, all the ninety slots at the centre will be taken by Goans wanting to excel.
Until then, as one parent watching her child practise said: “My daughter has just started. I am watching how she is improving and will decide later.” That time may not be too long.