Chennai and Mumbai teams clash in Ultimate Kho Kho match Credits: Ultimate Kho Kho

Games beyond cricket: How to plan and build a career in rising sports

Indian athletes medal-winning streak is prompting young people to train for competitive events

There are sports beyond just cricket. Invest your time and money in alternative Indian Sports if you have the aptitude for them

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

When Neeraj Chopra won Olympic gold, people woke up to the fact there is a sport called Javelin throw also, which can be played professionally at the international level. For the longest time, the spotlight was hogged by cricket and this left other games out in the cold and struggling. But finally, India is looking beyond cricket and expanding its horizons to develop infrastructure, training institutes and create an entire ecosystem for alternative sports. The time is ripe to hone your skills in whichever sport that you have an aptitude for and this need not be just cricket.

For those keen on sports as a passion or a profession should get started before 10 years. Parents usually give exposure to the children by introducing them to various sports at private institutes or extra coaching classes for the game at school, during stay back. A student is expected to clear Zonal round in school, then State (three rounds) followed by the National level and then aspire for international level such as Olympics, Commonwealth games etc.

According to sportsperson and entrepreneur Tenzing Niyogi, “When I started playing cricket at the age of 10, I knew exactly what my career graph would be- there is an Under 14, an Under 16, and Under 19 and then University and eventually one would go for Ranjhi trophy. IPL was not there at that time.”

Training to be a Champ

There are government aided sports institutes such as Delhi DDA Sports Complex at Dwarka, Siri Fort and Rohini which have a range of sports from table tennis to lawn tennis, football, basketball, volleyball, badminton etc. Besides, every school offers training programs for sports where they have trained faculty, and the coaching is given for an extra fee. The monthly fee at government aided institutes and schools can range from Rs 1,100 to Rs 3,000 per month.

Then there are private academies devoted to one particular sport. These are often set up by famous Indian athletes, particularly Olympians, who have gone to great lengths to start some of the finest sports academies in India. Take the case of Gopichand Badminton Academy, which has produced shuttlers like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap, Kidambi Srikanth. In Badminton, you have other institutions such as Prakash Padukone Academy, Chetan Anand Badminton Academy where one month of coaching ranges from Rs 3,000 to Rs 15,000. For para-athletes badminton coach Gaurav Khanna recently opened a special institute called Gaurav Khanna Excellia Badminton Academy in Lucknow.

In football you have the likes of BhaiChung Bhutia Football School, TATA Football Academy, Indian Tigers Football where typically the monthly fee is Rs. 2,500 (Members) and Rs. 3,125 (Non-Members). For Shooting, you have institutes such as Gun For Glory, Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range, Maharashtra Rifle Association while boxing has Bhiwani Boxing Club, Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Crosstrain Fight Club, Mary Kom-SAI Boxing Academy. For wrestling you have the likes of Yogeshwar Dutt Wrestling Academy. Many of these former Olympians and champion athletes of the country don’t charge anything other than hostel fees. A brand manager of Yogeshwar Dutt Wrestling Academy shares that players such as Yogeshwar Dutt and Mary Kom raise money from corporates and don’t charge even a single penny from students. He says that it’s their way of giving back to society by setting up a sports academy in India to strengthen the grassroots and enrich the talent pool.

Era of Homegrown sports

Currently indigenous sports such as Kabaddi and Kho Kho are coming up in a significant way. According to Punit Balan, Owner Mumbai Khiladis (Franchise of Ultimate Kho Kho), “In our country cricket is a religion and everyone wants to follow that religion. When people are following this religion, somewhere it is the other sports whether it is kabaddi or Kho Kho, tennis or football or badminton kind of sports have got a little overshadowed. The players are also not getting the absolute justice for the efforts that they put in the various games. And that is why as a group, I wanted to promote homegrown sports and indigenous sports.”

How does one become a Kho Kho player? Says Balan, “Technically every game has a federation like Kho Kho Federation of India. A player who wants to take this up professionally, must go and register themselves with the federation and once they get selected for local tournaments and state tournaments, they can aim to come for League such as Ultimate Kho Kho.”

Leagues such as Pro Kabaddi or Ultimate Kho Kho are the IPLs of these homegrown games. Take the case of Ultimate Kho Kho League. The idea was born in the mind of Tenzing Niyogi, CEO and League commissioner, Ultimate Kho Kho who watched kho kho being played at Ichalkaranji (which is next to Nagpur and is a hub of Kho Kho). Says Niyogi, “I saw 2 lakh people watching a four-day kho kho extravaganza on mud with four halogen lamps. That was the time I saw kho kho in its real time avatar and I was mesmerized and convinced that if this was produced on television with right camera angles, with right stakeholders, it would be hugely successful. It’s a game with a fast-paced format where people are literally falling off their seats and it’s as though they are watching an edge of the seat thriller. Kho Kho is the only run and chase model in the world.” The influx of local club culture is huge in kho kho and there are many clubs in states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and even Karnataka and West Bengal.

One of the other indigenous games which is showing promise and potential is kabaddi. In 2014 when the Pro Kabaddi league started, nobody knew it would become so big. GMR group which owns a kabaddi team as well as a Kho Kho team has opened an academy for kabaddi BK Kabaddi Academy in Meerut, in Meerut. Says Sujoy Ganguly – Business & Marketing Head – GMR Sports, “When the sports grow, the ecosystem along with the sports is bound to grow. Today we have the world’s best kabaddi academy in Meerut with a gym, swimming pool, one sand and one mud kabaddi facility and a running track.”

A sportsperson needs to be disciplined. You have to follow a strict exercise and eating schedule. You have to be competitive and be confident in yourself and believe that you’re a winner. Your lifestyle has to follow certain rigours of diet and training on a consistent basis. Ganguly shares an anecdote of how players of kabaddi would earlier eat a lot- “It was a challenging thing for them to eat less in the beginning. We were giving them the right food, with more nutrition value for their body and muscles. We also introduced them to strength and conditioning training and a specialized group of physicians, nutritionists, experts.”

Finally, if you want to be a professional athlete who is recognized nationally, you can make millions in having a career in sports. But to make this dream come true, you will require proper guidance, dedication, training and a disciplined lifestyle.


Leading Institutes

Ballpark Fee (Rs)


Pullela Gopichand
Badminton Academy, Prakash Padukone, Chetan Anand Badminton Academy

The cost of one
month of coaching ranges from Rs 3,000 to Rs 15,000


Bhai Chung Bhutia
Football Schools,
TATA Football Academy, Indian Tigers Football

Monthly fee Rs2,500
(Members) and Rs. 3,125 (Non-Members)


BK Kabaddi Academy in Meerut,
Chaudhari Ram Swarup Kabaddi Academy, Kathura Kabaddi Academy Sonipat

Some academies are
offering free kabaddi coaching while the hostel costs would be around Rs
4,000 to Rs 7,500 per month


Gun For Glory,
Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range, Maharashtra Rifle Association

One Month Basic
Foundation Course
Rs 2,500
Weekend Basic Foundation Course Rs. 5,000
Annual Membership for all age group Rs. 25,000


Bhiwani Boxing
Club, Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Crosstrain Fight Club, Mary
Kom-SAI Boxing Academy

he monthly cost of
a boxing class ranges from Rs 2500 to Rs 8000. Three months classes range from
Rs. 4500 to Rs.10,000
Six months classes range from Rs.7,500 to Rs.18,000

Source: Market Research

Source: Business Standard

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