City athletes need to set their priorities right – Times of India

City athletes need to set their priorities right  Times of India

Nagpur: The Covid-2019 Pandemic has affected everyone and sportspersons are no different. It’s distressing to see city’s top long distance runners Jyoti Chavan and Prajakta Godbole struggle to make ends meet during the ongoing lockdown.
While NGO’s, Nagpur Municipal Corporation and citizens have come forward to help Jyoti and Prajakta — who have represented the country in World University Games in Italy last year — their problems are far from over until they get a permanent job.
After TOI highlighted Jyoti’s woes, the state government helped her with Rs25,000. Prajakta is also likely to get help from Mahrashtra government. Several city athletes like Geeta Chachrekar, Tejaswini Lamkane, Vikas Shende and Leelaram Bawne are experiencing tough times.
It’s the lack of education that is hampering their future. The secretary of Nagpur District Athletics Association (NDAA) Sharad Suryanwanshi said youngsters need mentoring from an early age. “Earlier, there were sports quota jobs but the scenario has changed. You need to meet certain criteria to get a decent government job. Coaches should think of developing their allround personality instead of concentrating only on skills. They should act as mentors. Education is very important these days and this where most of our athletes lack,” Suryawanshi told TOI.
Even Jyoti agrees to the fact that education is equally important to get job under sports quota. “Now a player needs to be graduated with above 50% marks to get good position in government job. All my coaches have guided me to give equal importance to education and I also tell the same to upcoming athletes,” said Jyoti, who had to take a break in education twice due to various reasons.
Prajakta, who too had to take a break in education twice, echoed Jyoti’s sentiments but she is ready to do any government job in any position with a “for steady income”. “Education is must but government should value the performance of athletes. Athletes need to have fixed income for survival,” Prajakta said.
Besides, most long distance runners go for prize money marathons, whereas for government jobs, they need school national, all India University, World University and World School games and senior nationals medals. However, because of prize money, they regularly participate in these marathons and after two three years, their performance suffer. “It’s like a cricketer missing Ranji Trophy. Also, when they see struggle at home, all they think is how they will survive next month,” Suryawanshi said.
Earlier, local athletes would get recruitment locally in Railways but now the trials are conducted on all India level where they prefer high performing athletes. Same is the case with Income Tax and Customs department, who not only prefer high performing athletes but also certain level of education.
Jyoti, Prajakta and other top two long distance runners Nikita Raut and Sayali Waghmare are trying for government jobs but so far haven’t got any success. “It won’t happen overnight. They need to keep trying and also perform well where it matters the most. At least, three of girls these have World University certificate. They also need to keep performing at optimum level,” he said.
Nikita, who is in final year of BA, has won 10000m gold medal in state meet but she was unable to win medal in the senior nationals. In 2018, she won the gold in the 21-km half marathon in the All India Inter-University meet and qualified for the World University games at Italy last year. Nikita knows she needs to do better in senior nationals to get a Railways job. “I am a regular marathon runner but Railways don’t medals in marathon. I also know education is important for athletes,” she said.
Suryawanshi said humble background shouldn’t be excuse for not having proper education. He cites the example of Raut sisters Rohini and Monica. Both come from very humble background but have government jobs now. Rohini, in fact, got banned for the period of four years for doping in 2016. “She used this time well and cracked MPSC entrance. Rohini is now in the Excise department. Monica is a Railways employee. Both practice at Pune. They can be inspiration for all,” he said.
Suryawanshi said NDAA provides guidance but it’s for elite city athletes. “We tell them about the vacancies. We had even made some players join English speaking classes. However, generally we find that not many take interest in education. Some of the clubs like Nav Maharashtra Krida Mandal and Track Star Club educate them. We need all the clubs to follow this,” said Surywanshi.