The idea that cricket and academics can coexist without affecting the other is something that most India parents would never truly agree upon.
It would not be uncommon to hear stories of kids, who grew up playing cricket and admiring the national team but had to, unfortunately, let go of their aspirations when their parents invariably pulled them out of sports and athletics to focus on studies.
But haven’t we all been taught in school that, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?”
This timeless proverb reiterates the fact that a healthy balance of both is essential to allow the cogs of physical, cognitive and emotional development in any growing child to flourish. Additionally, playing a sport also inculcates qualities like leadership, teamwork and sportsmanship early in life.
To change the narrative, a few driven youngsters in Mumbai have taken up the challenge to bridge the gap between both the worlds by encompassing sports and education under a single sphere.
The Right Pitch (TRP) is an endeavour started by Teach For India fellows in 2014 with the sole intention of providing an excellent education to kids from underprivileged sections of the society through sports. And, what could better than cricket in a country where the sport is revered like a religion!
TRP is the brainchild of Subhankar Paul, who had come up with the novel idea for the ‘Be The Change’ project that is undertaken by TFI fellows in their second year of fellowship.
“No amount of classroom-bound lessons seemed to hold the attention of the kids, who were more or less susceptible to fall into bad habits. I noticed that games period was something that most of them fervently looked forward to and thought why not use sports as an incentive for children to attend schools regularly and take an interest in studying as well? This line of thought subsequently paved the way for a full-fledged tournament,” says Subhankar to The Better India.
In 2014, the tournament was organised for the first time, and close to 200 boys and girls from 15-18 low-income schools in Malwani had participated in it. All of these kids were coached by Subhankar and a few other fellows for a month.
Not only did they find a noticeable change in terms of cricketing skills, but there was also an immense growth in character of the kids, who were better involved and genuinely motivated in academics as well.
“Apart from guiding the kids away from bad habits, one of TRP’s greater objectives was to imbibe values like teamwork, leadership and self-confidence that would help these kids perform better in all spheres of life,” explains Subhankar.
From here, they slowly started scaling up their reach and brought more schools under TRP. From the second year, they began to conduct the event in a more organised manner and introduced the age-group system with teams being spread out in different categories like under-11, under-13, under-15, and under-17.
Interestingly, the participation also increased—300 kids participated in the event.
“Such a categorisation was included with the intention to train the students properly for the state and national trials next year,” says Arko Banerjee, one of the present organisers of TRP.
Through corporate sponsorships and funding, the organisers were able to not only rope in professional coaches to train 450 kids from 36 teams across four age-groups for two months, but they also bought shoes and jerseys for the participants by the third edition of the tournament.
Currently, the responsibility of TRP is collectively shouldered by Arko, and three other fellows as Subhankar now is a full-time teacher in a school and remains occupied most of the times. Together, they organised the fourth tournament in February this year, and 900 kids participated in the event! In this season, they also introduced athletics to expand their domain.
Through this venture, what the TFI fellows now aims to accomplish is to introduce ball practice sessions, as well summer camps for those who showcase an extraordinary performance on the field as a stepping stone to foster their talent for a bigger arena.
The overall goal of course, is to providing a safe space for young kids to play and flourish as an individual in the process.
“Those whom we are nurturing here probably may not seem significant, but each child here is nothing less of a champion in the community that they belong to, and we want to create more community champions who may inspire other kids around them to give up wasteful habits and find interest to study all over again,” Arko adds.
To know more about The Right Pitch and their endeavours, click here.