I walked into St. Josephs Higher Secondary Government School in Mahalingapuram, Chennai. Situated amongst concrete buildings is a small field with trees planted on the outlines to provide shade. The enthusiasm with which the children, both boys and girls, were warming up for their morning sports session brought a smile to my face. It didn’t seem to matter that it was a holiday- the kids were in school just to play sport.
The entire session was structured and a coach was overseeing it. All the equipment required for the training was also provided. You’re probably wondering by whom.
‘Life is a ball’ is a Not for Profit organization started by three sports enthusiasts Somdev Devvarman, Vikram Menon and Arun Karthik. The concept behind this initiative is ‘a single ball can change a kid’s life.’
“We started off with weekend camps where we went to schools and orphanages for the under privileged and passed around a few balls and started playing games with them. Seeing the amount of fun the kids were having we decided to take this weekend sports camp a step further.” says Vikram Menon, Co-founder, Life is a Ball.
Today, the organization has tied up with 6 government schools across Chennai. The sport instructors go into the schools two to three times a week and make the kids play various sports for an hour each day.
The children studying in these government schools come from neighbourhoods where going astray and developing delinquent behaviour is easy. Arun Karthik, Co-founder, Life is a Ball, said, “We try to teach them life lessons through sport as they do not belong to neighbourhoods conducive to growth. We want to change this for them.”
Not only does ‘Life is a ball’ teach sports but also provides these children with opportunities to play in events against other teams in turn providing them with alternative career options. Sports also teaches the kids values that cannot be taught in a classroom like, team work, decision making, etc.
Physical activity and playing various kinds of sport affect the brain’s physiology in a number of positive ways: improves attention, information processing and storage and enhances coping, resulting in improved academic performance.
Vikram, Arun and Somdev make a living by promoting sport. “We run a business where we provide sports solutions to private schools across the city where coaches are sent to the school to take care of any aspect related to sport. We also host events related to sports in various cities in India and these business initiatives helps us run our NGO.”
When I asked the kids at the school if they were okay with playing sport all day, everyday? “YES!” was the enthusiastic scream from across the field.