Rather prematurely, Delhi’s state government had announced the start of the admission process at Delhi Sports School on 22 June with online registration of the students. The school had hoped to start the academic session in 2022-23 itself, but three months following that announcement the process is yet to be completed and the directorate of education, which looks after it, is fighting against time.
“The process of admission and the final furnishing of the hostel are yet to be completed but we are hoping to catch up with the ongoing academic session. If not this year, then it will start next year,” said Dharmendra Singh, joint registrar of the Delhi Sports University, which is the parent institution under which the sports school will operate.
The government has planned four specialised sports schools in Delhi, the first of which at the site of Ludlow Castle government school No. 2 near Kashmere Gate, is the one that is being readied amid hiccups. The other three schools – including one in the yet-to-be established Delhi Sports University campus – will come up at a later date.
The school is open for aspiring sportspersons from across the country and the initial online registration saw close to 6,000 students applying for the initial batches of Classes 6 to 9 at the centre at Ludlow Castle.
Even though the school hostel has space for about 250-300 boarders only, the management is looking for more applications from across the country.
“We have to hire an agency to handle further applications. We are looking for more applicants for these seats. We have zeroed in on the agency but it is yet to get the approval as the file is still lying with the finance department,” said Isha Kapoor, an education Fellow with the government, who is a part of the managerial team of the upcoming sports school. She explained that the school is looking to conduct 13 camps across the country and the agency, once it is hired, will be responsible for these camps to select the trainees.
While the school already has enough applicants to fill the limited number of seats available — a maximum of 350 – more invitation of applicants and the four-layer process of admission, that involves trials as well, is bound to take more time and is set to overshoot the tentative deadline of 15 October.
“We are looking at October 15 as the maximum after which I think it will be difficult to start the session in this academic year. But we are hopeful things will get sorted out and we will be able to start it,” said Sanjeet Sangwan, a senior official involved with the school and university project.
“Following the first stage, the agency is set to explore the other states in the second stage,” he added.
Isha says that the reason why more applicants are being invited is because they want to reach out to those outside Delhi as the applicants through the initial phase of registration via the website are mostly from Delhi and nearby places.
“After the tender – request for proposal (RFP) – was floated, some companies showed interest. However, they could not fulfill the technical parameters. So it the tender had to be floated again. That has led to some delay. Once the agency is given the go-ahead, we will start the process and who knows we can complete it quickly and start the session this year,” explained Sangwan.
Despite the statements by Sangwan and others, it looks unlikely that the school will start anytime soon.
The officials say that the school will provide free academic education as well as sports coaching in 10 Olympic disciplines namely swimming, badminton, lawn tennis, table tennis, athletics, archery, boxing, shooting, weightlifting and wrestling.
As many as four head coaches and 10 coaches of the various sports along with 10 assistant coaches are expected to be appointed, explained Isha.
At the moment, since the first school at Ludlow Castle has limitations of area, athletics and archery will be conducted in other venues.
“We will have buses to ferry the trainees from the hostel to the venues where they will get to train for these two sports. However, the other three schools that will be built from scratch will definitely have facilities for these two sports too,” adds Isha.
The academic curriculum will be customized for the trainees.
“The idea is to ensure that the kids don’t miss out on the education. While all academic subjects will be taught at the school, the books will be customized to relate to sports,” said Sangwan.
Another member of the managerial team said that the explanations will be given in sporting terminologies.
However, at the moment, the curriculum is yet to be decided upon and finalised. Another agency is set to be hired to prepare the curriculum and there is only a rough sketch of it being discussed as of now.
Curriculum not ready
The officials spoken to also aren’t sure about the exact content of the curriculum.
All these things — the admission process and the curriculum — are likely to take a long time but officials are saying that once admission process is finished and the final touches to the school complex are given, they can start the academic year.
It appears that as far as the curriculum is concerned, there will be more of a trial and error approach.
“The curriculum will be prepared simultaneously. It will develop as we teach. Since it is a new concept, we want to keep it open because if there is a mis-step, we will be able to improvise,” explained Isha.
School no. 2 – of the four schools at Ludlow Castle – already had facilities for swimming and badminton among other sports. It was also refurbished ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. But this, part of Aam Aadmi Party state government’s plan of having Schools Of Specialised Excellence (SOSE), is being discussed as a new and revolutionary concept. The sports schools will also serve as feeder to the Delhi Sports University that is expected to start by next year.
The classes offered in the school will be from 6th to 12th although in the first year, students from Classes 6 to 9 only will be admitted.
Jaiveer Dahiya, wrestling coach at the Chhatrasal Stadium, from where likes of Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar and Ravi Dahiya have emerged, says that many of his trainees currently also attend school. But this concept could allow the trainees a more focused approach.
“We are still unaware of the details of how the schools and the University will work. But I think the trainees will benefit by getting everything at one place with focus on sports. They won’t have to go to a school which will be separate from the academy they train in,” says Dahiya.
He is also unsure if the schools, which won’t have any quota for those with domicile or birth in Delhi, will serve the purpose of addressing the demand of quality sports training within the Capital and neighbouring areas.
The fact that the school, despite the limited number of seats, is eyeing students from across the country may not eventually help those aspiring from Delhi and nearby areas.
Sanjay Bhardwaj, a cricket coach who has moulded the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Unmukt Chand, Amit Mishra and Nitish Rana among others, at his former academy in a government school in Ashok Vihar, says that up until recently it was only the enthusiasm of the coaches that allowed the academies to run in government-run schools.
“The sports academies would run only in places where the coaches showed enthusiasm and dedication. Otherwise, the quality of coaching and training despite the infrastructure wasn’t that good in most of the government-run schools. This concept has been talked about for long and should have been done much earlier,” he said.