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The Good, The Bad and The Sports

July 25, 2013

Far out on a pale blue dot in the Western Spiral Arm of the Milky Way (more accurately ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha), amazingly primitive carbon based bipedals have always engaged in competitions to establish physical supremacy over other males in the herd. Sports, as they call these competitions, culturally evolved as signaling systems that serve a function similar to courtship rituals in other life forms. Though other signaling systems like name-calling and banging on chests are dying out slowly, sports remains an integral part of these lives. This can be attributed to the huge following for sporting events (and a severe lack of chest banging competitions). Some of the major sporting events with a widespread following on the radio, TV and telepathic channels are The Intergalactic Thumb Wrestling Championship, popularly known as The Olympics, the other Olympics which is organised by the Earth every four years and the Inter IIT Sports Meet which was organised by IIT Guwahati last year.

The dismal performance of the Roorkee team in the Inter IIT Sports Meet 2013, despite boasting of one of the best sports infrastructures among colleges in the country, is no secret. With a lowly total of 2 team gold medals in the 49th edition of the meet organized by IIT Guwahati this year, IIT Roorkee finished sixth in Men’s championship. A fall from second position in 2011 to the current state, even with the silver lining of retaining the Women’s Championship, is something no IIT would expect. Although the administration may blame the fall on injuries of senior players in some major sports, such a drastic change in fortunes is bound to bring any team back to the chalkboard.

##Wake up, play in Inter IIT, go back to sleep The void created by the unavailability of a quality sports tournament between successive inter-IITs was highly apparent this year. Sangram, an Inter college sports fest on the lines of Udghosh(IIT Kanpur) and Sportech(IIT Delhi) was started in IIT Roorkee a few years back. It is said that Sangram didn’t have a glorious repertoire even before it was first cancelled but it served a dual purpose. By giving teams a chance to test new players in a competitive environment it served the purpose of conditioning them to help make up for the loss of experienced players who would pass out eventually. It also gave the teams a reason to remain in prime shape in their off-season.

The sports fest was, sadly, scrapped in 2012. It was attributed to the apprehensions relating to the performance of the Institute in the Inter IIT, which was to be held in Roorkee in December 2012. This eventually led to the cancellation of Sangram 2013 as well which was scheduled for March. The ceremonial cancellation of Sangram continued in 2014, even though this time it was mentioned specifically in the academic calendar. Mr. Sukumar, the Sports Officer of IITR remarks, “The presence of local and private colleges here gave us a tough time while handling the crowd. Such teams would often indulge in fights and irrationally rude behavior. Even then our teams didn’t get good teams to play with. Due to all of these factors, our players did not play very seriously. Many senior players avoided playing in the Sangram matches. Hence, the Deans decided against organizing it. It wasn’t worth it at all.”

To compensate for this, starting from 2014, all sports secretaries were asked to hold invitational tournaments in the spring semester. Successful culmination of the same for football and badminton this year marks a huge step in the positive direction. Although small participation in both these events might be a cause of concern but given the fact that these were only the first editions of the tournaments and were organized on a very short notice, the effort was appreciable. Similar tournaments are expected to be conducted at the end of this semester for basketball, volleyball and a few other sports.

##Cold winter and lazy spring Among all the existing woes of sports department, the improper utilisation of the spring semester for sports purposes is probably the prime tribulation. However, the administration’s co-operation in this regard is no worry at all. The end of autumn, or what can be regarded as the Inter-IIT semester calls for constructive action on behalf of the sports secretaries and joint secretaries. Apparently, going through a really tiring placement season and the fact that they have played their last inter-IIT degrade the enthusiasm of post holders in sports council. This reflects poorly on their performance as official representatives in SAC.

One possible solution is that the posts, that is, the Secretaries and Joint Secretaries, should rotate with the Inter IITs and not academic sessions. Seeing how Inter IIT seems to be the ultimate aim, providing the heads with a year to prepare seems more logical than having an off season. The problem the Sports Council finds with this solution is that these elected people have a role to play in SAC too and since the rotation of posts in the SAC takes place in the beginning of every academic year it is currently impractical to implement the idea. Mr. Sukumar adds, “the appointments are not made keeping in mind just the Inter IITs. Sports Secretaries and Joint Secretaries are responsible for all other Institute and Inter-Institutes sports activities as well.”

##Suitably backed and well supported One thing almost every section on the campus complains about is lack of support from the administration. When asked about the co-operation from the administration Mr Sukumar, quite surprisingly, had no complains. “Administration extends full support. There is no problem from their side. It’s just the students. Players are casual, secretaries do not attend meetings regularly and seriously. Many of them think if they play, they’ll get tired and sleepy and won’t be able to study. This is a very wrong notion”, adds the sports officer. This could mean two things. The Sports Council has either made peace with whatever insignificant support they’ve got from the administration over the years or it falls pathetically short when it comes to translating this support to tangible results. Mr. Sukumar may wholeheartedly appreciate the centre’s supportive hand but there are still many shortcomings in administration which contribute to the overall under-performance on the field. The substantial reduction in the credits awarded to sport proficiency NSO combined with a lack of promotional gesture towards Inter Bhawan sports activities, supports the aforementioned claim.

##Formalities in the name of competitions Inter Bhawan in itself has a totally different story to tell. Currently, the Bhawan tournaments are as interesting as Vogon poetry. The sense of pride and emotion that surrounds the Inter Hostel tournaments of various other colleges is something that IITR can learn from. The tales of age-old hostel rivalries in other IITs add a completely new dimension to the lives of students there. This, sadly, is absent from Inter-Bhawan tournaments mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, students rarely feel attached to their hostels since they are allotted new rooms every year. Secondly, the involvement of Bhawan administration when it comes to conducting and promoting Inter-Bhawans and allocation of funds for the same is minimal. For the Inter IITs, the college administration provides support and encouragement to the players. Special camps for players, kit, shoes other merchandise with proper refreshments make it an enjoyable affair for players. The Inter Bhawan events on the other hand provide no such motivation. The concept of pride in representing your hostel is alien to IIT Roorkee.

Another contrasting situation is observed between the inter-bhawans and institute opens held for racquet games like Lawn Tennis, Squash, Badminton and TT. While the institute opens are a huge success, receiving a large number of entries, the inter bhawan events are a disappointment. Even the chief sports officer agrees that students need to be called specially just to get them to participate. If such neglect continues then it won’t be long when the Inter Bhawan would face the same fate as that of Sangram.

##In the absence of a magic bullet It is understood clearly that the performance of players in Inter-IIT is the ultimate test of the sports department’s initiatives and efforts. But that is just not it. It is a matter of intense pride for our institute. There can be many constructive steps which can stimulate change in our institute’s odds in the tournament.

Firstly, introduction of more medium scale tournaments along the lines of Sangram can be a possible solution. These tournaments, unlike Sangram, should be invitational in nature. Taking into consideration Roorkee’s proximity to Delhi NCR region, teams of nearby colleges and of DU can be invited to participate. Introduction of a distinct ‘Bhawan Culture’ can facilitate students’ interest in domestic tournaments. Although the creation of house rivalry is something that takes years, it is not the only problem that stands in its way. The rotation of hostels on the basis of year and branch is yet another issue which prevents this.

None of these is possible as overnight changes. But a constant endeavour on the part of authorities as well as the students can bring about the change that this institute badly needs. None of the IITs has any special quota for athletes. With an even playing field in terms of new students it shouldn’t be impossible for IITR to rise above others and carve out a legacy for itself. We can only hope that this happens soon enough.