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Aamir Bilal

It is up to the decision makers in HEC to implement the sports policy in letter and spirit

Universities worldwide play a pivotal role in promoting elite sports development. Pakistani media usually bash sports federations, Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for producing unsatisfactory results in international sports competitions. No doubt our national sports bodies lack capacity and competence, but in the process of this mudslinging, we forget the role that education institutions should play in the promotion of sports.

If we draw a comparison with foreign public universities in terms of contribution to sports development and production of elite sportspersons, our heads shall bow in embarrassment.

Sports development in Pakistan is subjected to multiple challenges that range from administrative inadequacies to financial scarcity and above all lack of interest by university management, academia and policy makers in education system.

The higher education lacks proper vision, well-defined aims and elaborate objectives in light of which a sports policy could be framed to promote sports in the universities.

Recently a committee was established by the provincial HEC of Punjab to formulate a comprehensive sports policy. This is perhaps the fundamental step to identify the gaps in existing approach and come up with a policy paper in light with the best practices adopted internationally, so that university sports can be organised on modern and scientific lines to incubate elite sportspersons and also produce qualified HR that can serve our national sports grid.

If we peep into the pages of history, we will come to know that most of the sports were developed in education institutions in 1800s. At Exeter College, Oxford in 1850, the undergraduates decided to adopt a steeplechase and used three feet six inches high agricultural hurdles for a race of 140 yards.

The Harrow school in England invested heavily in extending their playing fields from eight acres in 1846 to one hundred and forty six acres in 1900. The university colleges at Oxford and Cambridge did the same to promote sports.

Pierre de Coubertin, the father of modern Olympics, drew heavily on the philosophy of English public schools and universities in drawing up his ideas for revival of Olympic Games. It is befitting that the discussion that revived Olympics took place in June 1894 at the Sorbonne University of Paris.

Thus the Olympic movement has its birth in one of the oldest universities in Europe.

The time has now come in Pakistan where academia should start looking beyond the development of material sciences and humanities and social sciences. Sports must get due attention and financial support.

The Punjab HEC Sports Committee has drafted excellent recommendations in which they have shown the pathway of sports development in our universities. The committee has suggested that HEC must take lead to establish a center of excellence where adequate research and development shall take place in the field of sports sciences, sport management and all allied areas.

The committee also recommends creating a pool of qualified sports professionals in accordance with international best practices and establishing international linkages with renowned universities worldwide.

The effort of HEC thus shall be to create a pool of high performance athletes, capable of representing the country at Olympics and other international competitions.

In order to achieve these objectives, the committee has proposed to make the sports directorate a statuary body capable of giving required incentives to sportsmen, building adequate facilities, increasing collaborations and generating funds.

Under the revised scholarship and incentive policy, the committee has suggested that appropriate monthly scholarships must be given so that deserving athletes can meet their training expenses and tuition fee.

It has also been suggested that medical insurance be provided to athletes and basic facilities like synthetic athletic track, multipurpose gymnasium, and Olympic standard swimming pool. There should be bio-mechanic, anthropometry and nutrition labs and HEC should strongly monitor all public and private universities benefiting from the new policy.

With a total of 209 universities operating under the umbrella of HEC in Pakistan, the universities have the potential to churn out national and world champions in both individual and team games and also create a culture of social harmony and goodwill among the university students, thus making them more tolerant and better citizens of the country. The university sports policy is being developed with utter sincerity. It is now up to the decision makers in HEC to implement it in true letter and spirit.