Managing a Sports Department

by Sahadev Komaragiri

After we started the games period in our school, the kids were eagerly waiting for an opportunity to go out and play. At times they complained that they did not have games period the previous week because of a holiday or an examination or something else. They wanted to cash a rain check that was never offered to them. Kids used to ask me early in the morning whether their right to use the games period that day was going to be honored or not. I used to joke back with a “we will see” response and enjoyed it when they said “Saaaar”.

This article is part of the series on Making a Difference. Please read Starting a Sports Department before reading this article

For the first time in our school’s history we took our cricket team to go out and play a friendly cricket match with a neighboring school at an open ground. It was never supposed to be a professional game at a good ground. It was going to be a hard tennis ball match on an uneven ground with patches of pooled muddy water at a number of places. After getting the nod from school management, we took the boys to the ground by the school bus. There was not going to be any class that afternoon for the 10th class because majority of our players are from that class. Girls from 10th class, about nine of them, wanted to join the fun and be there to encourage the team. Sadly, the permission was denied. When we went to the ground we were surprised to find a whole battalion of the opponent team, including the girls.

In the course of the match, it is needless to say that we encountered a number of challenges – accusation of chucking the ball, unacceptable umpiring calls and disputes surrounding whether the ball crossed an imaginary boundary or not. In spite of practicing quiet a bit on running between the wickets there were run outs. Elaborate catching practices did not mean we did not drop any catches! In spite of all that we were not deprived of some funny moments. An exhausted fielder was having soda when the ball approached him. With soda bottle in one hand, he was able to shoot straight at the wickets with the other hand to capture a clean run out. Fortunately there was no argument about the validity of that run out.

Although we batted first and scored a disappointing 80 odd runs, the opponent team got bundled out for a mere 40 runs. The jubilation cannot be described easily, we returned in the school bus amidst various chants of self congratulation. Some children wondered if there was going to be a brass band to welcome the heroes of the day. With the way they were shouting and dancing in the bus, when we arrived at the school, there was no need to announce that we won. While returning I reminded all the boys to sit quietly for a minute to thank God for giving us an opportunity not only to play a game like this but also for a comfortable win. They all did that in full glee. Gods must have been happy that we did not forget them.

At the end of the academic year, I had a long list of all the winners and their houses for all the sports activities conducted throughout the year. This list included the academic performance in all the classes for all the tests. Points were awarded for each win and for each student who found a place in the top 3 ranks in the class. I tallied all the points in an excel spreadsheet. With this information it was easy to find out which house stood first. The house in the second position trailed behind the first one by a mere 3 or 4 points. I bought a nice gold colored shining cup and got it given by a visiting VIP at the school annual day. That was another first in the school!

All this did not come without crossing many hurdles. Whenever I tried to organize a sports meet, there was always resistance about the timing and even about the need for such an event in the first place. There was this silly argument about who will do this if I were not there next year. They also asked about why we should set such high expectations for the kids that we may not be able to meet every year. These questions are invalid if there is no corresponding introspection on why we cannot do this every year no matter who is in charge! I told them that I am able to do all this without any prior experience and asked them why the experienced school teachers cannot do the same!

Whenever it was a games period for the children, I used to go out and collect the children from their classrooms and have them assembled in the ground. Sometimes one or two teachers who did not believe that the games period is important resisted the idea. They simply continued their classes while the children nervously looked out of their classroom windows for my presence in the corridor. I did not disappoint my students, I convinced the teachers to finish their work quickly and let the students out. They obliged grudgingly and in one case I had a big argument with one teacher who said that she will not be able to do her job of filling out the student diaries or completing the syllabus in time!

The point is simple. Every child has a right to stay fit and enjoy growing up in a school environment. Academic excellence is important. But we must remember that character building and staying physically and mentally fit is equally important. Every school, by some unenforceable government rule, must have some sports room, a mandatory games period and an area for playing games. The government is thinking right but executing poorly. Right to education is a cool idea but what about the right to stay fit. We, in India, are failing to provide it to our children. It is expensive to buy sports equipment. It is much more expensive to have a physical education trainer in schools and it is difficult to find a reliable trainer. It is, therefore, very convenient for a majority of the schools to not have a sports hour for any of the age groups. In the era of corporate schools where academic excellence is pursued with a hawkish eye on making profits, it is difficult to find willingness or interest in a child’s physical well being. What options do we have in such a scenario?

Provided there is a will to keep our children happy, there are many things we can do. As part of my current engagement I visited a number of schools. One such school I visited is in Chennai. The school does not have a playground, but they had the will to keep their children engaged in sports. About a kilometer from their school there is a vacant temple land. It was filled with chaotically grown shrubs and weeds. They involved some volunteers and some paid laborers to get the land cleaned up. They pay the temple an annual fee to use their land. Every day the school bus brings the children to play in the ground during their games period. They hired a Physical Education Trainer, a young lady with tremendous energy and a clear agenda. They have two games periods in a week for each of the higher classes. The lower classes are engaged with games in the classrooms most of the times and sometimes at the leased playground. I was astonished at the range of classroom games that they played and how much the kids enjoyed that. The school assembly area is utilized to the fullest extent possible, not just for games and yoga classes but also for classroom activities that require larger space. This school is quite a contrast when compared to our own school which had a large playground but no will to have any organized sports just because they were not able to find a trainer. We do not need trainers. We need a committed management that allows a few of the teachers to come together and take charge of the schools sports activities.

We all can help in bringing back life to schools that are depriving the children of their right to stay fit. Where possible we can help in creating enjoyable school compounds for children to participate in games and sports. That will be the point of our discussion in the next post.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Gayathri Krishnamoorthy February 7, 2013 at 12:08 am

I like the term “right to stay fit”. Indeed! However, the benefits of sports go far beyond the need to stay fit – endurance, perseverance, teamwork, leadership, all invaluable lessons that are necessary to live successfully and be productive citizens. It is sad that many schools do not emphasize sports as much as book learning. It has as much to do with lack of leadership as with space and budget. In that light, what you have attempted and done is laudable. Hope others will learn from what you are doing and become leaders themselves and not become impediments in your efforts. Good luck!


Arunashri February 10, 2013 at 6:20 am

Its good one to read. I was very concerned about the physical activity in the school. sports and games are very important for today’s children to stay fit and healty life in long term. Recently I visited my daughter school for sports day, I enjoyed watching, all childern had paricipated in school sports annual day function. SSP – School sports Program A unique group has planned sports activity for children. you may visit They are visiting 12 schools in Pune and 60 schools all over India.


Sahadev Komaragiri February 11, 2013 at 1:17 am

I think it is important that as many organizations as possible must get involved in changing the public opinion about the importance of sports in the life of a child. Thanks for sharing the link to school sports program.


Jaya February 11, 2013 at 1:34 am

You are doing an amazing job by involving them in sports, which will very well cater to their physical,mental and emotional needs.Children have loads of energy and they need to be channelized correctly. If not, they become destructive. Kudos to you for consistently moving forward with a single focus and achieving your goals one at a time. This needs a lot of energy and planning! Great work Sahadev!


Venki Uddameri July 16, 2013 at 1:12 am

Interesting article and reminds me of my schooldays when Games Period was often another name for Math or Science class. The practical way to get schools to make kids to play games and sports in India is to make it a subject they will be tested on in IIT-JEE and other engineering/medical exams. If they don’t get in their schools parents will make sure they go to more than one coaching class to get it. Keep up the good work Sahadev!! Godspeed and best wishes on your remarkable journey.



Sahadev Komaragiri July 18, 2013 at 1:55 am

Interesting thought Venki. CBSE is making value education mandatory but in a small way. Hope other boards follow the same. Education system in India has seen some change in the past two decades but not enough has been done in the area of sports. We should realize that participation in sports and extra curricular activities is one of the essential elements of integral development of a child.


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