A group of youngsters showcasing extraordinary skills while rope skipping is a scene to behold. This sport, however, isn’t as promising in the city. With no championships conducted due to the pandemic, Delhi-based rope skippers are taking to social media platforms to showcase their talent.
A fun journey
Introduced in India by Late Bhim Sen Verma, the sport was promoted nationwide by Harpal Singh Flora, who even set up a federation for it. Player-turned-coach Devesh Mundotiya, informs, "In 2007, the federation got divided and the members formed three private federations, which organise school and national championships and send teams to participate in world and Asian championships."
Currently, rope skipping is not recognised by the International Olympic Committee. In India, it is recognised by School Games Federation of India (SGFI), Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, and the Association of Indian Universities. Mundotiya explains, "The game has been in India since 2000 but it got popular after the first SGFI happened in 2009-10. Private schools started focusing on it after CBSE National started in 2012-13. The game had even come under the Ministry [Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports] for two years in 2007."
Before that, they used to participate in Federation Nationals.
A challenging sport
Rope skipping is not a cakewalk in Delhi. Mundotiya, who has led Indian team to international championships in Dubai (2015), Hong Kong (2018) and Belgium (2019), and works as a coach as Sri Venkateshwar International School, Dwarka, rues, "Our kids don’t get the facilities that children get abroad. The first requisite is wooden flooring because practicing on hard floors can cause knee injury. But very few stadiums have such flooring."
National player Aazim Muneeri (24), who has been rope skipping since 2012, and is a coach at MBS International School, Dwarka, has been requesting government bodies for a practicing space for his troupe Skipper Crew, but in vain. "I have sent letters to my MLA but nothing has happened. Even the federations organise events but they don’t support the talented players. Every game gets enough funds but they are not spent on players," adds Muneeri.
In the absence of any government-designated space, these players go to public parks to practice. However, they have to face the wrath of the public. Muneeri says, "People don’t let us practice. Recently, we went to World Street, Faridabad, to practice and shoot our videos, and people asked us not to practice there. For our regular practice, we got to Shakur Basti Railway Station nearby Madipur Metro Station. Since it is an under-construction site, nobody raises an objection."
Coaches also feel that there is not enough support from the government.
Chandrika Adhikari (24), who is pursuing Bachelors in Physical Education, and has been training students at Darshan Academy in Model Town, says, “In countries abroad, rope skipping is equally important as Badminton. But, kids don’t get scholarships here even after winning world championships.” Zorawar Singh of Flying Jumpers group seconds this thought, adding, “Every sport faces some issues like funding. But, we spend our own money. There is no space to practice and a lot of politics in the federations.”
A digital boost
The digital boom has allowed these athletes to gain some recognition and growth. Singh, who founded Flying Jumpers seven years ago with just four members, now has 14 members, including four girls, who are set to perform at India's Got Talent after several trials. Showcasing their skills on social media even gave them a chance to be featured in shows like OMG! Yeh Mera India.
"Since we are so used to it [rope skipping], we can’t leave it. So when people like us on social media, that gives the game a boost. It has even inspired a lot of people," adds Singh, who has 16 Guinness World Records to his credit.
Adhikari, who has been training kids for the past six years under the Indian Rope Skipping Federation, asked her students to upload their videos on social media to gain recognition. "These are the players who can’t afford to participate in championships where one needs to pay money. They are using social media to showcase their talent because they don’t get enough opportunities," she adds.
Mundotiya believes that there is good talent in government schools but due to lack of funds, they lose several opportunities. He says, "Social media is a good medium to vent that energy out and create their identity."
These groups practice in a way that the whole group gets selected for a particular tournament or event.
Singh mentions, "I have rented a room near my house in Pitampura and we all practice in a park. My mother cooks for all of us."
Muneeri's team also works on their routines by watching videos of international championships, as well as America's Got Talent. "We learn the steps from there, and sometimes, we improvise them. Our team goes for state, national and international level championships together," he adds.
A major bonus
A few years ago, Delhi government started scholarships for children winning medals in SGFI. Mundotiya says, "For gold winners, it's Rs 60,000 per medal, Rs 40,000 for silver, and Rs 20,000 for bronze, and that is what motivates students. But apart from that, there is no other scholarship for these players."
Rajesh Salotri won these scholarships in 2015, 2017, and 2018. "I got to know about the sport through a demo session in school, and I became fascinated with it. Internationally, it's a famous sport but in India it hasn't gained much popularity. We post videos on social media to popularise it. Proper facilities, coaching, and support from the government is required to give it a boost," concludes Salotri, whose last win was a gold medal at the World Inter-School Rope Skipping Championship at Tai Tong in Hong Kong in 2019.