INDIA was not one of the table-toppers at the Olympics and Paralympics, but its athletes at the Tokyo Olympics gave India hope for the future. While exceptionally talented athletes like Neeraj Chopra, Avani Lakhera, Sumit Antil, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, Lovlina Borgohain and others became household names, many more talented young athletes, mentored by NGOs in sports, are aspiring to be just like them.

Undoubtedly, the government has helped the international-level athletes with facilities including training and travel. But some NGOs in sports development who focus on seeing India shine at international events have also contributed through additional funding, training and fine-tuning. One such nonprofit in sports helped javelin star Neeraj Chopra recover from an elbow injury that almost threatened his career in 2019.

Besides sports foundations that focus on talented and established athletes, there are also sports NGOs that concentrate on developing and providing sporting opportunities to youngsters from disadvantaged and marginalised communities. In a country like India that is beset by economic and social problems, sports may not be seen as a vehicle to improve lives and livelihoods, but some NGOs in sports are doing just that.

Here are the top sports NGOs training our future champions:

1. Bridges of Sports

This Bengaluru-based nonprofit identifies socially and economically backward communities with an inherent inclination, attributes or interest in athletics. The Indo-African community of Siddi in north Karnataka is one such social group. Bridges of Sports is building one of India’s first hyper-local talent identification and development systems to spot future champions early.

Bridges of Sports

After convincing the parents of youngsters about their children’s talent and future, it takes them under its wings. From accommodation to training and nutrition, youth from poor backgrounds get international-level professional training. It also provides them with education so that they can pursue other careers. The overall objective is to uplift the lives of young people from marginalised communities.

Bridges of Sports hopes to see one of its youngsters compete at the Paris Olympics in 2024. You can contribute to its efforts by donating here.

2. Oscar Foundation

This nonprofit uses the power of the world’s most popular game to identify and train talented youth from underprivileged communities, build a network of young leaders and improve their overall education.

Oscar Foundation is headquartered in Mumbai, but it has reached out to children in Mumbai, Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand. While Oscar runs different initiatives for the underprivileged, it is known for its ‘Football and Life Skills Programme’. Centred on their ‘No School – No Football’ policy, this programme reaches out to children who are committed to completing a formal education.

Oscar Foundation

The programme delivers structured sessions using football-oriented games designed to teach children essential life skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, managing conflict, positive thinking, the importance of education and more. It also has an ‘Education Programme’ that offers interventions in early childhood education, remedial education and digital learning in low-income communities across India. You can help these initiatives by donating here.

3. Khel Khel Mein Foundation

The Khel Khel Mein Foundation (KKMF) aims to transform the grassroots sports culture in India by engaging schools and communities directly. So far, it has worked with over 10,000 children across 80 schools to promote sports at the primary and secondary levels. Going by its motto, ‘play, perform and prosper,’ KKMF believes every child should get the opportunity to play multiple sports, perform in competitive leagues and learn crucial life skills through sports and self-awareness.

Khel Khel Mein Foundation

The organisation ensures that children get structured support, appropriate exposure and encouragement from parents, teachers, and society at large in their pursuit of sporting and career goals at a very young age. You can help KKMF reach more children through its programmes by donating here.

4. Victory Sports Foundation

What started as a boxing academy in 2004 to train young enthusiasts has developed into a foundation that wants to promote sports amongst children from all backgrounds. It focuses on football and boxing as a means to fitness, identifying talent and improving the attitude towards sports. This relatively young organisation has reached out to over 2,500 children through its ‘Sports 4 All’ programme. Besides identifying talented athletes, this Chennai-based nonprofit provides football and boxing sports kits, and nutrition, organises special camps and helps youngsters participate in local and outstation tournaments. It also funds higher education for deserving youth.

Victory Sports Foundation

It even trains sportspersons with skills to take up lucrative jobs in the field of their specialisation. Some of its athletes have gone on to work as football and boxing coaches across the country. Under one of its programmes, ‘Play 4 Health’, it wants to promote a healthy lifestyle through sports in children from underprivileged backgrounds. You can help this initiative by donating here.

5. Sanskriti Samvardhan Mandal

Sanskriti Samvardhan Mandal (SSM) is one of the oldest nonprofits in the country involved in integrated rural development for more than 60 years. While its activities have always been among the deprived rural communities, especially women and girls, its project ‘Sagroli Sunrise’ launched in 2005 is designed to harness the rural youth’s sporting talent in Maharashtra’s Sagroli and Nanded districts. SSM identifies talented young sporting talent in these rural districts and provides them nutrition, training and education.

Sanskriti Samvardhan Mandal

The programme, which nurtures talented children in the age group of 9-18 years, has received various accolades with some of the trained athletes performing and winning laurels at the national level. You can help SSM train more children to enter the world of athletics. Take a look at the profiles of young people from rural areas that re being trained and make your charitable donations through their monthly giving programme here

For India to become a serious sporting nation, it has to look for talent in every corner. Some of these NGOs are doing just that. You can donate and help these NGOs develop sporting champions for India. Who knows? Your contribution could be one of the reasons why an athlete will end up on the podium at the next Olympics.

This article was updated in May 2023.

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