Sport is generally considered second to academics in India, more as an add-on to students’ development. A sports-focused institution in India is rare, but Delhi Sports University (DSU) is an exception.
Here, the emphasis is on sporting success without sacrificing academics. Boys and girls hostel accommodations are available at DSS, a residential school situated on a four-acre campus at Ludlow Castle in North Delhi. It is the first sports school run by a university, according to DSU vice-chancellor Karnam Malleswari, and is overseen and managed by the Delhi Sports University (DSU), a government initiative in Delhi.
In contrast to traditional schools, talent search camps for ten Olympic sports were held across the nation to determine admissions. The selection process involved three stages for the kids. The candidates’ residence in Delhi was not a requirement for eligibility, reported The Times of India.
“With our first focus on where the search camps could be held, we analysed sports data of the last five years to shortlist seven states for these camps,” Malleswari, the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal, a weightlifting bronze at Sydney in 2000, told the paper.
“The selection process enabled children from the adjoining states to join in. In the camp in Rajasthan, for instance, talented children from Madhya Pradesh and adjoining areas came. We also wanted to set up a camp in the Northeast, but we had to cancel due to the violence in Manipur.”
Sixty-five per cent of the 96 boys and 85 girls admitted to DSS are from rural backgrounds, extending as far as Kerala and Assam. The first few weeks were challenging for the administrators as well as the students because of their varied cultural practices, customs, and eating habits.
“In the beginning, I was homesick and missed our regular food,” said Ankita, a Class VII student. “But I was overjoyed to be able to practice weightlifting twice a day, with a few classes in between. I also met a good friend from Chhattisgarh but she left. I am now trying to find another good friend.”
TOI further mentions that training takes place on school grounds for table tennis, badminton, and weightlifting. There’s a small synthetic track for athletics. However, as facilities for these sports are yet to be available on campuses, the trainees for swimming, wrestling, boxing, tennis, archery, and shooting go to other stadiums.
Five students from each sport were chosen for classes VI through IX, for a total of 50 students in each class. Other than two physiotherapists and an internal nutritionist, there are about 15 teachers and 21 coaches. For medical care, DSS has partnerships with two hospitals, and the state government has given every student health insurance worth Rs 2 lakh.
Class VII student Jivika Singh of West Bengal, a weightlifter and a DSS student, told the paper. “I was studying in a private school, but my parents faced financial difficulties and shifted me to a government school. I didn’t like it and requested my mother to do something about it. She heard about Delhi’s sports school and now I am happy training in weightlifting.”
DSS principal Praveen Kalra was quoted as saying, “We have an excellent table tennis player from Kerala. She understands neither English nor Hindi. Like her, some children had difficulty adjusting to life in Delhi. But things are getting better.”
At 5:30 a.m., the kids head off to practice. They return by 7:30 to change and complete breakfast. 10 a.m. is when classes begin, and they end at 1 p.m. Lunch is offered from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. After that, there’s some downtime before evening practice begins at 3.30 pm, with refreshments served in between. Around 7:30 p.m., everyone has dinner and gets milk before going to bed.
Dronacharya awardee wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, one of the coaches, told TOI, “We also want the students to later become good coaches. So, we are strengthening their basics, which we, as players, never learnt. These kids are studying things related to their sport too. I was wrestling but studying BCom (Hons).”
The Delhi Board of School Education prescribes five standard subjects, but in addition to those, the curriculum also covers the theory of different sports.