Bengaluru's Sports School: Finding the right balance between academics and a sporting career

The Sports School, with world-class infrastructure spread over 27 acres in Bengaluru, aims to provide an education that hones a sportsperson’s intelligence and knowledge, thereby contributing to all-round growth.

Established in 2019, the Sports School has already been recognised at the FICCI India Sports Awards as the Best Professional Services Company in its first year of existence and the Best Educational Institute Promoting Sports in 2020.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Striking a balance between academics and a sporting career has always been a struggle. The Sports School, nestled in the green environs of Bengaluru, addresses this efficiently – by providing an education that hones a sportsperson’s intelligence and knowledge, thereby contributing to his or her all-round growth.

With academics build around sports, the teachers at the Sports School find the right time slots to teach students who are otherwise engaged in training to be professional athletes. And with sportspersons of the highest pedigree such as tennis star Rohan Bopanna, cricketer Robin Uthappa and national badminton coach P. Gopichand as well as Indian Super League club Bengaluru FC involved, the institute ensures the best guidance for its students.

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“Education plays a vital role in taking the right decisions,” says Mandar Tamhane, the chief executive officer of Bengaluru FC. “The athlete has to be smart thinking. It is all about decision-making.” By getting professionals to guide the students at the school, the club ensures that the talent pool is on the right track.

There are excellent grounds for cricket (above) and football, with the latter having an artificial surface that meets international specifications.   -  The Sports School

 

The Sports School, with world-class infrastructure spread over 27 acres of land, has an indoor arena with 12 badminton courts and work on swimming pools is set to start. There are excellent grounds for cricket and football, with the latter having an artificial surface that meets international specifications. For tennis, clay courts are being added to the seven synthetic ones already present.

Dr U. V. Sankar, as director of sports, anchors the school, focusing on helping the students set sail in the direction of their dreams. “We take students from the fourth standard. We have CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) syllabus till the 10th. Thereafter, we have Karnataka board for pre-university. We have a tie-up with Jain University for degree courses leading up to PhD,” says Dr Sankar, who has played a significant role in the careers of hundreds of elite sportspersons over the years.

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“Everything is under one roof. The kids have great talent. We try to help them with their education and sport both,” says former doubles world No. 3 Bopanna, who is convinced that his father would have jumped at such an opportunity had it existed during his formative years. Bopanna — who, in combination with experienced coach Balachandran Manikkath, provides the best possible grooming for the aspirants — underlines the fact that a multi-sports system not only offers students of one discipline the chance to try others, but also teaches them to respect other athletes.

Uthappa remembers with gratitude the support of Sankar and Jain College, from where he graduated, in his getting a “complete education” despite playing cricket at the highest level. “I am very honoured to be a part of his venture,” says Uthappa, who distinctly recalls his month-long studies with swimmer Shikha Tandon and 23-time billiards and snooker world champion Pankaj Advani before college exams, and the joy of scoring a “first class.”

Former doubles world No. 3 Rohan Bopanna (left) and experienced coach Balachandran Manikkath provide the best possible grooming for the tennis aspirants. (Below) The Sports School’s head basketball coach, John Mahesh Rao.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

 

With academics woven around sports, the school ensures its students have a wide array of options so they can continue to be associated with sports — and utilise their vast knowledge — even after their sporting careers end.

“If you don’t want to purse sports after a stage, you can do something different in sports like being a physiotherapist, trainer, sports psychologist, sports manager, talent manager, et cetera,” says Uthappa. “We will educate you to balance everything, and it empowers you,” he adds.

That balance is reflected in the words of the Sports School’s head basketball coach, John Mahesh Rao: “The sports student is not a dull student. He will be a topper. He is fit in body and mind, with a better grasp and response to ideas.”

The institute is planning tie-ups with international universities to enhance its students’ employment opportunities, as India’s sports industry is opening up in a big way. With the school offering scholarships to deserving candidates, the parents have a lighter load to bear.

“The sports student is not a dull student. He will be a topper. He is fit in body and mind, with a better grasp and response to ideas," says the Sports School’s head basketball coach, John Mahesh Rao.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

 

“We are careful in seeing who needs that opportunity,” said Bopanna, emphasising the care taken to understand the young athletes and making the right choice for scholarships.

While the school has the capacity to house around 1,500 students, it does not want to take in more than 800, with 100-150 for each discipline. Established in 2019, it has already been recognised at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) India Sports Awards as the Best Professional Services Company in its first year of existence and the Best Educational Institute Promoting Sports in 2020.

“We will deliver the best sportspersons to the country,” says Dr Sankar, who is convinced that the right processes and a holistic approach to integrating sports and education will lead to the emergence of world and Olympic champions from his institution.