Visionary Speaks : May Issue

To achieve excellence of any sort the first prerequisite is a supple, well formed, healthy and happy body. And for that reason, Sports, is without doubt, one of the defining features of our school. By the Grace of God, Jaipuria prides itself for having created many students who have excelled in various Games and Sports. And all this is due to Jaipuria’s rigorous Physical Education Regime and the sincere dedication of our coaches. The sports infrastructure at most of our schools is best-in-class, and there is an endeavor to further enhance it.

In our determination to further enrich the sports curriculum at Jaipuria, we came across Mr. Jay Shah, founder of The Sports Gurukul. The young and dynamic entrepreneur is a true example of ‘do what you love, love what you do!’. He is an exceptional person who found his true calling in his one passion in life, sports. Today, The Sports Gurukul curriculum is running in hundreds of schools across the world, and they have collaborated with some experts in their respective field, such as the legendary Michael Phelps. Determined to help sports reach the every city, town and village of India, Jay shares his journey with us, and also highlights why India needs a boost in sports at the school level, why parents are often skeptical of sports programmes and why their mindset needs a change, and finally, what are the challenges ahead for schools for implementation of sports programmes parallel to academics. We start the series of learning from experts in various fields, interviewing Jay Shah in the Interview of the Month!

Interview with Mr Jay Shah

1. How long have you been a sports man? How has it helped you personally?

The Sports Gurukul is the result of my not getting a chance to be professional sportsmen. I have been a diehard sports lover all my life but never had opportunities. One fine day in year 2000 when I had a collapse of My IT Company during the dotcom bubble I was thinking what I would love to do throughout my life. The answer was sports and with effort, dedication and passion we have come a long way. I being with sports has kept me fit and active.

2. What is your view on the saying ‘A sound mind in a sound body’ as far as children are concerned?

This is the ultimate truth. Its like a computer which works well with the right hardware and software together. The best hardware without good software is of no good and vice versa. Physical activity stimulates the mind and helps it perform better. In fact research clearly states the correlation on the impact of intellect in an active body.

3. Sports Gurukul— It is a new concept. Can you please elaborate upon?

For many years we operated from mumbai until in 2010 we received the award for the best sports business idea which is capable for shaping the future of India. This gave us the necessary boost and we realigned our overall focus and vision to wanting to do something where there is maximum impact. We saw schools as a very important place,where academics grew but Physical education and sports was limited to a few who were outstanding by default. This is where the foundation for a lifelong learning is possible to instill. Hence with the growing awareness in parents and schools about overall child development we saw more and more schools welcoming us where we could help them make a difference at 3 levels.

  • Develop potential of every child by making them fitter that helps them fight the rising epidemic of obesity in children.
  • Provide systematic and scientific sports and PE program whereby every child in the school is motivated to remain fit for life as well as help them scout talented children and train them after school for excellence training.
  • With proper physical activity keep a child involved in being active all the time thereby helping children to also better their academic performance.

4. What is your experience being pioneers in introducing sport awareness and its importance to students through your initiatives?

We have had phenomenal experience. In fact there are 2 things which we are proud to state.

  • We bring the world’s most researched curriculum for physical education to India, we are the only company doing that with Human Kinetics, USA.
  • We are the first ones to introduce pedagogy in sports and PE which until now was something more seen in education. The art and science of right teaching which we impart through intensive 150 hours training program that every coach at TSG undergoes for delivering the right coaching to children.

The combination of the above gives a school a fantastic program which has visible differences that school owners and parents are able to see while the children are enjoying and learning to be fit through a playway method.

5. Do you think we should introduce small children to sports? If so when should they start?

Before sports we need to introduce children to physical education. It is the fundamental program which helps a child develop their motor skills. (In simple words all the movement that we do with our body is part of motor skills. A motor skill is simply an action that involves your baby using his muscles. Gross motor skills are larger movements your baby makes with his arms, legs, feet, or his entire body. So crawling, running, and jumping are gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are smaller actions)

When motor skills are not developed then how can we expect children to perform in sports. Before a child makes a sentence he needs to know the ABC , similarly for doing better at sports a child needs to be trained atPhysical education first and then sports should be introduced. Ideally from Jr Kg to 4th standard physical education program which involves fun games and routines should be done and sports can start from grade 2 or 3 untill grade 12. The focus of in school program can only be learning and implementing skills.

6. How does sport help with overall development of a child?

The advantages a child receives through sports are

  • He learns to work with people, something which no text book teaches. Sports helps learn this important aspect of team work and socializing.
  • 1 hour physical activity a day is the recommend standard by world bodies such as NASPE, National Association for Sports and Physical Education.
  • Children learn valuable lessons of life like leadership, team work, brotherhood, respect for others, patience, perseverance, hard work and so many life skills which ultimately decide how we cope up with life and its pressures.
  • Last but the most important of all, it teaches us how to rise after failure. Children who can deal with failures well are always ahead in the world and are in better position to deal with future failures in their lives. This according to me is the single most important reason why every child should take up a sport for life.

7. Tell us something about yourself and how do you see your prior expertise in the field of sports benefitting a start-up collaborative effort?

I have been a sports lover all my life. I am thankful that I got the opportunity to convert my passion for sports to my profession and we train over 1 Lakh children, in 40 cities and almost 150+ schools in India today. Although it is run as a private company for us it is social entrepreneurship. We are bringing mass scale revolution at the grass root level and shaping the future citizens of India and that’s what excites us.

That’s what keeps us going. Its almost the 15th year and I can still remember when I set out to start this and everyone thought that I had gone mad. But here it is. My passion and marketing acumen helped me come this long way. A lot of my expertise was created by ground learning and understanding which over so many years has helped us to understand the situation. We have further acquired expertise from best practices round the world and that helps us to be one of the pioneers in the field. Our collaboration with schools is a win win model helping schools achieve their overall growth objective.

8. What were your Vision and Objectives while doing up a sports school?

Our Vision is to train 5 Lakhs school children round the year with the school sports and physical education program by 2020 and our objective is pretty simple and that is every child in a school should get the opportunity to be fit for life and learn multiple sports during their school life.

9. What are your views on the Indian education system, which is undergoing a transformation and do you think it is capable of leading India to a brighter future?

It’s a huge question and may be not possible to answer in short. But talking from our point of view physical education needs to be given equal importance to academics and special incentives created so that it gets the required boost. Else the sleeping epidemic of obesity may adversely affect our future citizens.

10. If you can, do share your daily routine with us, so that young students reading may get inspired!

Currently my daily routine is little off my daily fitness routines since this is the most important part of the year for our entire organization.

My usual routines are

Playing tennis 2 to 3 times a week – each session of 60 minutes
Doing stretching exercises and jog – 30 to 40 minutes
I get up around 6.30 – 7 and end day by 10.30 pm.

I make sure I swim 2 to 4 times in a month and go for long jogging 2 to 3 times a month.
I do stretching in between the work day 2 to 4 times so that I am not seated on a chair for long time.

11. Most of our successful sports people now come from small towns and cities. Is that a concern than metro kids are not being able to full utilise the resources at their disposal ?

I would think so to some extent. Metro children are having things very easy and also with lack of spaces and sports awareness their attention is more towards video games and TV. Also with a high consumption of junk food on a daily basis more urban children are facing the problem of obesity. Somewhere for the above reasons they are not able to utilize their potential to the fullest.

12. What about after school academies? Are they advisable?

A school is a place for learning, it provides a platform for learning and improvising. But just like education, if one needs to excel one needs to put extra hours of work to succeed. Similarly, After school academies provide the infrastructure and opportunity for talented children who could be groomed and helped to take their sports further. School academies are most advisable since they provide the necessary launch pad for talented children to further hone their skills and succeed in the field of their choice of sports.

13. Most schools in India have a traditional PE class . Is that the way forward ?

No, with traditional PE which is unsystematic, unplanned, without curriculum and any scientific basis PE is for the name sake and will never create long term impact on a child’s fitness. Schools are waking up to this reality since they can see that its not working. So schools can either get their own coaches trained through TSG through train the trainer model or replace their existing non functional program with a complete program including trained coaches who can help achieve the overall fitness objective of a school.

14. How do you groom coaches? What is the commitment required? How would you ensure teacher effectiveness in sports education?

We have a 120-150 hours intensive training program every year where the coaches are taken to pedagogy training of sports and PE which makes them ready. Infact the feedback of BPED and MPED who join us after studying for 4 to 7 years are shocked that the they have never experienced any such training in the last so many years and are more confident than ever. Later there are refresher trainings during the year. These trainers are monitored on a monthly basis and by the Quality audit team on quarterly basis. If these coaches are not following the system theyare given 2 warnings and then removed and replaced by a new trainer.

15. You have collaborated with some renowned names in international sport. Can you talk about that and how does that help nurture kids?

We are working with

Michael Phelps Swimming – it’s the foundational training program which is created out of life training experiences of worlds best swimmer and 18 times Olympic gold winner Michael Phelps. We are authorized to provide swimming program under the said license which provides wonderful swimming coaching program.

BOCA football school – the club where greats like Maradona trained, we have a international football academy in mumbai where we train our top trainers under international coach. Also schools which train with TSG get a opportunity to interact with international coach once in a while.

Australasian Academy of Tennis Coaches – this is our Australian tennis partnership through which we provide the best of international tennis coaching program.

16. What are your personal goals in life? What has been the most significant learning experience of your life?

My personal goal is to make a sports school where we train potential Indian international champions. It will be a Gurukul where we take care of the entire education and sports training of talented children and help them become top champions in their selected sports. The most significant experience for me has been where there is a will there is a way. The TSG journey has been against all odds with absolute no knowledge of the field. It was my passion and love for sports which helped us come this far.

17. Besides actually playing the sport and coaching, are there other areas that Kids can make careers in?

The best part of being in sports are the immense career opportunities that now children can focus on, some of them are

  • Sports coach
  • Corporate sports player
  • Sports Coordinator for academies
  • Sports marketing
  • Sports sponsorship expertise
  • Sports center manager
  • Sports psychologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Sports science and biometrics
  • Sports events manager
  • Sports facility manager
  • Player management

And many more

18. What personal message would you like to give to our readers?

Be fit and be active for life. For most going to a gym is boring but playing a sports 1 hour per day is a fantastic way to keep fit, healthy and happy in life. For parents my message is focus on keeping you children more active and engage them in sports not for becoming a champion only, that he would do if he has potential, but more important is so that he can remain fit for life and learn the best of life skills by simply playing a sport. A person connected with sports is always social, friendly and successful in every walk of life. So please give equal attention to physical education and sports as much as you do to academics.

The Sports Gurukul is run by 2 co founders
Jay Shah
Paresh Kothari.
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