You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy. – Arthur Ashe

about-sportsChildren from disadvantaged backgrounds rarely have an opportunity to become international soccer stars. But give a child a chance with some vision and mentoring and you are likely to see him post a winning goal in the same manner as a Cristiano Ronaldo.

‘Youth for Sport’ – The Sports Programme of Youthreach aims at making some of these dreams possible by providing opportunities to boys and girls who do not have access to sports training and facilities under professional coaches. Many young children who found homes with Delhi-based NGOs such as Salaam Baalak Trust, Udayan Care and Karm Marg have been playing soccer, squash and tennis as part of this programme.

At one level, young people learn the skills necessary for future sporting careers and at the other, sports becomes a way of self expression, and of inculcating the values of fairness, discipline, team spirit, sharing, honour, equality and above all fun. Sports not only helps them to score top numbers in physical and mental health but also develops their ability to make choices, take on challenges and chart ways of overcoming them.

Under the ‘Youth for Sport’ initiative, Youthreach started its squash training programme on the 1st of March 2013, to train and coach boys and girls in the age group of 9-17 years at the DDA Squash and Badminton Stadium, Siri Fort Road. Thirty children from five different NGOs enrolled to learn squash. Five coaches and four courts were engaged to train them three times a week for an hour a day each time. The training comprised of warming up exercises, practise and stretching which was followed by refreshments and badam milk for the children.

Our ‘Youth for Sport’ programme has now completed 4 years successfully. It has been an exciting journey for the children. From not knowing how to hold a racquet in their hands, today many of the children have participated in the Sub Junior / Junior National Squash Level Championships that are being conducted by the Squash Rackets Federation of India. At the stadium they have the opportunity to play with children from different schools, they have learnt master strokes from distinguished players like Dipika Pallikal, discipline and focus on the courts, enjoyed nutritious meals, bonding, sharing, had exposure to other squash academies, travelled to different cities for tournaments and above all had fun.

This programme is now being conducted by National level squash player, Gaurav Nandrajog, at the DDA Vasant Kunj Sports Complex, Delhi. At present, 23 children from 2 NGOs are being given one hour coaching followed by refreshments thrice a week at the DDA sports stadium. Apart from that 7 children from our partner NGOs are being trained by National level player, Ravi Dixit at DLF 5 Gurgaon, under the flagship programme ReSET, a CSR initiative of the corporate ReNew Power.

On conducting interviews with teachers, mentors at the shelter home, parents and players, we were delighted to learn the impact this programme has had on the children and how their lives have changed. The change was clearly noticeable in their academics as well as behavior towards peers and parents.