/IIT Kanpur Sports – A Waning Culture

IIT Kanpur Sports – A Waning Culture

Disclaimer: The views presented below are the author’s own and are not in any manner representative of the views of Vox Populi as a body or IIT Kanpur in general.

IITK had to wait for 49 years to clinch it’s first Inter-IIT General Championship when history took a turn, and we claimed the trophy in 2013 at IIT Guwahati, followed by two more championship wins in 2014 and 2016 (The 2015 edition was called off due to incessant rain and subsequent flooding in Chennai). We fulfilled our motto of #3BaarLagataar, and our grip over General Championship increased year after year with the rising victory margin every time. From nowhere in the competition before, we rocketed to such dazzling performances in 4-5 years which made everyone wonder what conspired in this span to make IITK the best amongst the equals?

The Contingent with the Inter IIT Trophy

Our success was based on the investment of time and energy of the sports enthusiasts, Directors and Deans, numerous other faculty members, gymkhana, coaching staff and of course, the participants. We raced ahead of other IITs as we went forward with full-time coaching staffs for all the sports disciplines and the investment in the development of the sports culture based on love for the sport, hard work, desire to achieve paid off with desirable results.

In 52nd Inter IIT Sports Meet at IIT Madras, 2017, we started our campaign as hot favourites, but as the tournament progressed, our victory chariot was checked, with an end to our winning streak. A little introspection did go into the failure, but no major, organised attempt to scrutinise the shortcomings was made. The few defeats that we faced were close enough to make many believe that our loss may be a fluke and we will rise stronger in 2018. However, that was not the case, and in contrast to our expectations, we were handed a thrashing in Guwahati. The results were as miserable as they could be, and we finished the meet at 6th position in the points tally.

So how come in a narrow span of 2 years our performance fell so miserably? The result is merely a reflection of our wrong decisions of the past, training, culture, and leadership. The defeat has surfaced our flaws in the handling of our human and physical resources, along with showing us the signs of our declining culture. Other institutes caught up with our formula of hiring specialised coaches around 2015-16. Following this similar system, if other institutes are getting ahead of us, the issue raises eyebrows towards competency and dedication of the training system and the lacking innovations and discipline. The coaches employ different mechanisms to hide their flaws, few of which are interfering in the Captain appointment process to select those who would be inclined towards them and assuming a sacrosanct status in the team so that students do not even think to complain.

Moreover, there is a sense of utter disbelief within the sports community regarding the attitude of certain coaches towards their sport. Take, for example, a senior member of the Volleyball team mentions what their coach said to them after losing the quarterfinal match, “Mujhe to pata tha tum log ya to league se bahar ho jaoge. Ya at the max, quarter tak pahunchoge, usse zyada to kya hi jaoge.” This is a sheer disrespect of more than twenty players, who have dedicated long practice hours throughout the year, and is against the spirit of sportsmanship. Most of the members of the Lawn Tennis team mention that the coach is a major cause of their miserable performance, as he never arranged practice matches, never tried to teach them new skills, and in some cases, he didn’t even know their game style. Many members of the team feel that, if the attitude of the coach doesn’t change, they will leave playing lawn tennis.

The story is the same for many other disciplines. Many Table Tennis players have complained regarding the purchase of racquets from the coach, amounting up to as large as 9000 INR per racquet, with some of them have never received the racquets after making the payment. Majority of the Hockey team members feel that, despite dedicating lots of time, they were incompetent at the platform of Inter IIT as they were never taught the skills that other teams possessed, and due to the stunted skill development, players are distancing themselves from the sport.

A sportsperson at IITK dedicates an average of 2-3 hours per day training under the guidance of the coaches. After spending 4-5 years, a student gets out of the campus, having learnt a little. The PE 101 and PE 102 courses, which were designed keeping in mind the importance of physical education in the overall development of a student,  are reducing to an attendance taking exercise. Inter-IIT performance is what the coaches have reduced their job to, and despite this, we have had dismal performances. Take for example, in Table Tennis, both men’s and women’s team have not been into semi-finals of the past four Inter IITs. Hockey, Volleyball Men, Athletics Women, Lawn Tennis Women have had occasional and highly inconsistent performances. On the other hand, teams like Weightlifting, Cricket, Athletics Men, and Water Polo have excelled on most occasions. When we generalise these team’s success over a few championships, we see direct indicators of the various coaches’ competence, work ethics, and attitude towards sports.

Sky Photo of the Y16 batch, taken in one of their PE101 sessions, to increase support for the 2016 Contingent

These are some of the long lists of incidents, which do not point towards a healthy sporting environment. And it isn’t just the Inter IIT players who are infuriated. When the GNS Council received a review regarding CPA through online sources, it reflected unpleasant trends. Beginners, who just want to learn a particular sport, in most cases, expressed that they had been given zero to negligible attention. Alumni have voiced their dissent towards the downward slide and their emails to the Director and other relevant authorities raise our eyebrows and points towards issues of incompetency, haphazard work ethics, and financial mismanagement.

Sports can add a unique dimension to each one’s life. With an expenditure of about two crores per annum, and with the availability of world-class infrastructure, we can feed the sporting desires of a much larger community and with a much higher quality of training. But, if we look at the sporting opportunities available to the general community, the situation is nasty. Most of the students seem discontented from the approach of not giving due attention if someone isn’t a probable member of the team. A large gap has been created between sports enthusiasts of the campus and the contingent. Problems like this are profoundly denting the sports culture in our campus.

The lack of accountability and discipline of the coaches is eventually leading to the downfall of the culture which took years to build. The lobbying, internal politics, and non-cooperation amongst coaches of the same sport among many other factors have rendered the deserving and hard working coaches as passive and led to their social sidelining. Under all such circumstances, sports cannot thrive. There is a genuine fear that if we do not arrest the slide, we may end up being even worse than we were a decade ago. Virtues like discipline, teamwork, belongingness, which sports instil in a person are going to be underdeveloped if the will to win is being compromised, the poor results are going to be reflected in the morale and the personality of the sportspeople of IITK, and the reputation of the institute is going to be corroded in all such sporting competitions.

There is a famous saying, “We cannot become what we want, by remaining what we are”, which is very much applicable to our scenario. The need of the hour is to deeply introspect and scrutinise our mistakes closely and act upon the remedies with immediate effect. We need to be determined to change, we need to step out of our comfort zone and be a bit critical, and if need be, a few harsh proposals need be taken. The administrative will is desirable here to bring about necessary reformative decisions. A few unnecessary elements are infecting the system which need to be permanently washed off without any compromise. If there are some internal issues and politics in the concerned bodies, which are denting the culture, then strong efforts must be made to resolve it.

The team wise results of the past few years suggest certain definite trends, which are indicative of their work ethics, practice environment and most important of all, the competency of the trainer. Targeted remedies for each team should be applied, depending upon the statistics and the reviews. Compulsory Physical Activity, which serves as an introduction to the sports at IIT Kanpur, has to be reviewed and sincere efforts need to be made to transform it into a better platform to nurture young talents. We must also look forward to spreading sports to a wider community of students at the campus. Many a time, it has been found that students who are willing to learn a particular sport, just for the sake of learning are not provided with due attention. Incorporating them as a part of the sports community on the campus is very much desirable.

Student leadership also has a vital role to play in the course of bringing about these changes. Gymkhana events like Josh, Inferno, Enthusia, Urja etc. must be structured to provide a pathway of giving the talented a path to the teams. The contingent leaders must envision, plan, and coordinate to reinforce disciplined and planned practice schedules are followed along with the induction of significant innovations being adapted to our situations. The team captains and senior members must be pivotal in preparing the next generation of sportspeople, enlarge their team family and create a culture wherein fellow teammates continue their sport out of passion. From top administration to the novices who are willing to learn the game, everyone has a shared responsibility, and we must play our part in consonance with the goal,  with utmost sincerity for the community which we are proudly a part of, even if it takes to be a bit critical of ourselves.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure how to climb it, go through it or work around it “ ~ Michael Jordan


Written by Rahul Shekhar, edited by Naman Verma.