Bangalore-based sports education company, Sportz Village (estb. 2009) is a pioneer in implementing structured, inclusive and age-appropriate sports and physical education curriculums and programmes in K-12 schools. Having partnered with 1500 schools pre-COVID, the company introduced exclusively curated online sports and physical education during the lockdown to ensure young children don’t miss the opportunity to lay a foundation towards their sports journey in the absence of regular schools. As governments across the country allow schools to open, Krish Iyengar, group head marketing, Sportz Village talks to Dipta Joshi of EducationWorld about measures schools need to adopt to promote physical fitness amongst children.
Q) How did Sportz Village Schools manage to keep children engaged during the lockdown following the COVID pandemic?
A) Post schools shutting down in India due to the pandemic, Sportz Village Schools developed programs and offerings which enabled children to be physically engaged in the safety and comfort of their own homes. We introduced ‘Play at Home’ a digitally enriching program that consisted of physical education classes with the curriculum suitably adapted to be conducted online. In addition to this, we also developed a web-based platform called ‘Sportz Village Leaderboard’. The Leaderboard incentivised children to be physically active by gamifying different physical activities. We were able to engage with close to 1.5 Lakh children with these digital programs and conducted more than 50,000 sessions during the period.
Q) With children yet to be vaccinated, how has the lack of regular physical activity impacted children’s immunity and fitness?
A) Children’s immunity is bound to get impacted in the absence of physical activity and playtime in their routine. The pandemic has not only significantly lowered children’s learning ability but has also widened the pre-existing opportunity and achievement gaps, hitting historically disadvantaged students the hardest. Sportz Village Schools organised over 10 webinars with prominent experts and thought leaders from the medical and education fields as panelists to discuss how schools and parents could boost children’s immunity despite the pandemic.
Q) How has Sports Village addressed the mental health issues amongst students?
A) According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that globally one in seven i.e. 14 percent of 10 to 19-year-olds experience mental health conditions. However, most mental health problems remain largely unrecognised and untreated. We at Sportz Village Schools staunchly believe that regular physical activity will help address certain mental health issues that children may face. To battle this issue and to alert the parents and schools, we conducted over 10 webinars with subject matter experts on how mental health issues of children can be addressed
Q)What measures will schools need to take on reopening physical classrooms?
A) With the government allowing schools to re-open their classes to students (albeit with conditions), we are hoping the near term sees physical education classes also being normalised to ensure basic health and fitness in children. Schools will need to implement social distancing norms as well as follow the protocols laid down by the government. Although the introduction of sports-based classes is necessary, care must be taken that the children are reintroduced to physical activity in a gradual, phased manner as we must take into consideration their reduced fitness levels. Our Sportz Village Schools curriculum has been modified in such a way that there is minimal physical interaction between children and minimal sharing of props and equipment.
Q) What challenges did Sportz Village face due to the COVID pandemic and what kind of growth are you expecting over the next three years?
A) The last one and a half years have been challenging for us as after the start of the pandemic our engagement with some schools became minimal. This was primarily because some schools faced fee collection issues leading to discontinuation of value-added services like ours and secondly as schools switched to online education, many reduced the frequency of physical education classes.
However, we remain optimistic and expect faster growth than our pre-COVID growth rates over the next 3 years as parents and schools will now focus on improving children’s immunity. Sportz Village’s growth will also be led by its commitment towards physical as well as mental health. We made several investments during the COVID pandemic to upgrade our programmes and introduced our ‘Social Distance Curriculum’ as well as the digitally enriching, ‘Play at Home’ and ‘Active Club’ offerings. These digitally enriched programmes have extended our scope to include many more types of schools that would be willing to consider us as a partner to support their existing sports programme.
Pre-COVID, we worked with 1500 partner schools (private and government). We expect to get back to that number in the next academic year and then grow faster due to the investments made during the pandemic.
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