08/02/2017 11:09 AM IST | Updated 09/02/2017 9:12 AM IST

'Need For Sports' Scores By Taking Learning To The Playground

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The World Health Organisation recommends that children between the age of five and 17 should accumulate at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity daily. However, many children in India don't get even a fraction of this suggested playtime.

"All I saw my kids doing was coming to school, eating, attending tuitions and sleeping. On their sports day, they could not even run a 100-metre race properly," remembers Abhiram Natarajan, a 2014 Teach For India Fellow. When he, along with a few other Fellows in Hyderabad, noticed that their students were acting out, possibly as a result of not getting enough physical activity, they decided to introduce sports into the equation. The Fellows began taking their students outside for 30 minutes of play followed by sharing reflections and noticed a stark change in their behaviour. The sessions not only gave the children a fun outlet, but taught them critical values of discipline, teamwork and sports(wo)manship.

In one of our communities girls aren't allowed to play outside, especially after 5pm. We now see the girls' fathers bringing them to NFS meets enthusiastically. Vivek Pidempally

This is when the group, comprising Naheed Pasha, Prasanth Nori, Mohammad Jafar, Soumya Kavi, Bhanu Priya, Vivek Pidempally, Sushanth Nambiar, Vivek Madinur, Eshwar Bt and Abhiram, came together to create Need For Sports (NFS) in an attempt to make sports accessible for their kids, by finding practice grounds and trainers and organising sporting events.

In April 2016, NFS held its first field day, where more than 850 kids competed in carrom, chess, athletics, pin football, crossfit, and kabbadi. "We started out with these six sports, because they are popular, cover a range of interests and play to our expertise," says Vivek P, a state-level chess champion himself. The three-day event drew participation from 25 schools within the Teach For India network and two non-Teach For India schools as well! The group was able to garner donated equipment and crowdsource ₹1,25,000 within two months to make the idea operational. "What really struck us was the engagement of community members and parents. Everyone was pitching in to hand out refreshments and manage the courts. All hands were on deck!"

The NFS team also trained 75 students to help coordinate the competitions so they could learn critical leadership skills along the way. They did such a good job that in the end, the Fellows were only needed to emcee the event! The NFS team is most proud of the faith that's been placed in them as a result of the impact they have made. "In one of our communities girls aren't allowed to play outside, especially after 5pm. We now see the girls' fathers bringing them to NFS meets enthusiastically. We're amazed and humbled by their support," says Vivek P.

The group has garnered quite a following and is extremely excited about the future. The team had a moment of pride when a member of the Telangana Sports Authority who attended the event told the NFS team that never before had he seen 12 kabaddi courts organised on a single ground for a day. The impact doesn't end there. Says Abhiram, "The headmistress of our school was so pleased to see our school win the rolling trophy that she has now arranged a playground for the kids on rent!" With the idea of equipping educators everywhere to train their students, NFS is now collaborating with the Hyderabad Sports Association to design a simple, universal sports curriculum that can be used.

What started as an idea about playtime in class has grown into an organisation that has impacted 850 children, and aims to reach almost three times as many students in the next year alone. Here's hoping that their ultimate vision for every child to have the opportunity to explore their potential through sport creates the necessary impact across the country.

Written By Aastha Singh (2015 Teach For India Fellow) and Sneha Kalaivanan (Associate, Communications at Teach For India).

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