Athletes from the Siddis, a native African tribal community living in Karnataka, are set to receive scientific training from sports scientists to improve their performance.
The training will be conducted by sports scientists from Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) in a programme that will also see sports science students visit the athletes to collect data and assess their performances.
The training programme will be conducted as part of an agreement between MAHE and Bridges of Sport, a not-for-profit organisation that is working with schools in north Karnataka to train children from tribal communities in sports. This is the first time MAHE is collaborating to train athletes from tribal communities in collaboration with Bridges of Sports, a not-for-profit initiative that is working with schools in north Karnataka to train children from tribal communities in sports.
Athletes who will be part of the programme include members of the Siddis living in the forested areas of Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Athletes from other tribal communities including Golla and Lambani communities will also be trained in the programme.
The training will include a baseline physiological tests to determine the areas athletes can improve upon and a 15-day training camp in Manipal by the Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences. "So far, we have done baseline physiological testing for the athletes. It is a basic test to check their performance and based on the tests, we decide the areas they can improve and what they can do to improve their athletic performance," explains Mayuri Joshi, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences, MAHE.
A performance training camp will also be conducted towards the end of May for the athletes. "We are planning to have a high performance camp for 15 days towards the end of May. They will have a training schedule and we will be helping them with strength training and conditioning", Mayuri adds.
This is not the first time steps are being taken to train members of the community in hopes of tapping into undiscovered athletic abilities of the Siddis. In 1987, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) under the leadership of then Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sport Margaret Alva started a scheme to train members of the Siddi community. Around 65 members of the community were initially chosen to be trained in athletic events as part of the 'Special Area Games Scheme'.
The scheme was discontinued six years later and although further efforts were made to revive the scheme in the 2000s, it was criticised for its short-sightedness and lack of inclusiveness
Bridges of Sports is attempting to revive the efforts of training members of the Siddi community and have already begun training members of the Siddi community in and around Mundgod in Uttara Kannada. "While the initial training camp will be held in Manipal, sports science students will also visit Mundgod to assess the development of the athletes. We have coaches to train the athletes but we require inputs from sports scientists, something that is not given a lot of importance. The athletes will learn about injury management, periodical training and this will not just develop athletes but also develop coaches working with us," says Nitish Chiniwar, founder of Bridges of Sports.
Sports science students in Manipal will also travel to Uttara Kannada district to collect data and assess the performance of the athletes and there are also plans of introducing student internships to encourage this.