For sports, schools must embrace structured curriculum-based approach: KOOH Sports’ CEO

By: | Published: December 21, 2015 12:08 AM

Chirag Patel, CEO, KOOH Sports, believes that companies such as his are contributing towards making India a sporting nation.

KOOH Sports delivers sports education and training to kids in over 35 cities. Having steadily grown since its inception in June 2010, KOOH Sports has reached out to over 2 lakh kids across the country and plans to tap more than 5 lakh children over the next three years. TCS and HDFC, two of the largest corporate houses, have invested in this sports education start-up. In fact, this month KOOH Sports raised a fresh round of $2 million in funding from a conglomeration of investors, including existing investors TCS, HDFC and private equity fund Faering Capital. The round also saw participation from Mumbai-based sports promotion service Elevate Sports, which will now have a 5% stake in the company.

Chirag Patel, CEO, KOOH Sports, believes that companies such as his are contributing towards making India a sporting nation. In an interview with Vikram Chaudhary of The Financial Express, he adds that there is a positive linkage between sports and academics. (KOOH stands for Kids Out Of Home.)

Do you agree that with the rise in the number of TV sports channels and the ensuing eyeballs, state-level or even district-level sporting events can become a career option for the youth?
A child can participate in a sport as an individual or in team-based formats. Individual sports are generally self-financed and require time and monetary commitment from families. Team sports such as cricket and football continue to be the most lucrative ones in our country. The critical success factors in both formats are dedication, commitment, hard work and repetition of a skill. A minimum of 13,000 repetitions are needed to achieve mastery over a particular skill/sport.

A career playing active sports is limited to and by an individual’s physical health and well-being. Professional players generally retire from active sports by the age of 35-40 years. However, sports as an industry offers a variety of career options, such as coaching, umpiring, broadcasting & media, sports scientist, training instructors, setting up own training academies, etc.

In which all ways can a schoolchild benefit if sports are actively made part of curriculum?
There is scientific evidence to prove positive linkage between physical activity and brain development. Studies show that just a 30-minute session of vigorous exercise demonstrates positive changes in the brain, including improvements in memory and motor skill coordination. Although most people would believe that the best way to improve grades at school is to spend more time studying, research indicates that kids engaged in physical activities and sports possess higher cardiovascular fitness and do better in most subjects, including mathematics, science and English. Participation in sports enhances information processing, goal direction learning, flexible thinking, concentration and memory.

Given the pressure of academic excellence on Indian kids, it is imperative that schools embrace the structured curriculum-based approach for sports.

How participation in sports affects academic scores?
A lot of research has been conducted to understand links between academic performance and physical fitness. In Chicago, a review of 14 studies (ranging in size from as few as 50 participants to as many as 12,000) demonstrated that the more physically active schoolchildren are, the better they do academically. A review of more than 100 studies, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, revealed that both aerobic and resistance training are important for maintaining brain and cognitive health.

Is there a scientific approach to physical education and sports?
At KOOH Sports, we have based our curriculum on the proven long-term athlete development model that clearly outlines and maps a person’s age with skill progression. Our approach is to ensure that physical development and skill progression takes place in sync with each other. We use scientific derivations to deliver any sporting technique. For example, we do not introduce complex sporting techniques to a young kid because myelin, which coats, protects and insulates nerves, enabling them to quickly conduct impulses between the brain and different parts of the body, gets developed only at the age of 10. Complex skills cannot be taught prior to that age. Hence, from 2-7 years, gross motor skills like hand-eye coordination, fundamental walking, jumping, building arm muscles and movement is taught to child at KOOH Sports. After the age of 8 years, other tests which are age and skill progressive are taught to kids, like athletic skills which are the foundation for successful and continued sport participation.

What made corporates such as TCS and HDFC invest in KOOH Sports?
The investment was driven by their unified belief in our business idea, expounded by the founding and management team, coupled with the collective vision to make India a fitter, healthier and sporting nation.

How different are KOOH Sports’ trainers from the physical education teachers found in schools?
We have realised the importance of having high quality trainers and coaches on our staff. We have created a quality & training team that audits, checks, trains and shadows our coaches. Our trainers go through extensive practical and theoretical training before they are placed in the schools and academies. They are also guided and trained periodically by our proficient technical directors and experts and sports luminaries.

Are there other, similar companies operating in India?
There are companies offering similar solutions across the in-school, after school and event verticals; however, we have not come across any one company offering end-to-end solutions to cut across the value chain like we do. We are present with a child from 2 years of his age to 18 years, from the early pre-school ages to the time she decides to turn professional.

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