India’s sports landscape is changing. Consequently, the tides are turning. The lack of sustainable career options after their competitive years forces many athletes to hang up their boots long before their potential fades in India. Realizing this, efforts are being made to address this critical gap and provide diverse and rewarding job opportunities for sportspersons after they retire from competitive play. Consequently, the tides are turning.
Government initiatives like the 5% reservation in Group C posts and sports quotas in central armed forces offer welcome stability. Policies are also now being made to move beyond token gestures and build a robust framework that caters to the varied skills and aspirations of athletes across different disciplines. Policy makers have realized that so many avenues lie in leveraging their expertise even within the sporting world itself. Coaching, refereeing, and sports management offer lucrative, fulfilling careers, ensuring the knowledge and experience gained through years of competition gets passed on to future generations. Moreover, the booming sports industry offers a myriad of opportunities beyond the playing field.
The Government of Nagaland is also reportedly in the process of framing a comprehensive sports policy. Further, it is now understood that we must not underestimate the value of athletes as role models and community influencers. Their stories of struggle and triumph can inspire countless youngsters.
The pertinent question then arises: where does Mokokchung stand, and how prepared are we to harness the benefits of the evolving sports environment? Frankly, Mokokchung lags significantly behind other districts in the realm of games and sports—not due to a lack of athletic talent, but possibly due to a lack of motivation, partly stemming from a lack of awareness. For instance, the Directorate of Youth Resources & Sports conducted the selection of young athletes for admission into IG Academy, Kohima in December last year in the disciplines of wrestling, archery, boxing, taekwondo, and football. Not a single athlete from Mokokchung features in the selected candidates because nobody went for the trials!
The traditional narrative of “sports as a hobby, academics as a career” needs a radical revision. We must recognize athletic excellence as a legitimate career path, worthy of investment and infrastructure. This transformation demands a multi-faceted approach. The Nagaland government is anticipated to pass the sports policy bill in the upcoming budget session of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly. Can we proactively establish an expert panel to scrutinize the policy and formulate a district-specific strategy for sports in Mokokchung?
By transcending traditional paradigms, Mokokchung has the potential to shape a future where sports careers are not solely about medals but encompass diverse and fulfilling professional journeys. Achieving this shift necessitates collaborative efforts from leaders, educational institutions, sports bodies, athletes, private entities, and the community at large. Let’s rewrite the narrative.