Famous for its sporting achievements, especially in the field of hockey, and with hundreds of millions of cricket fans, it is hard to imagine that physical education is often sidelined in most primary and secondary schools across India.
“The general perception is that sport is an extracurricular activity,” explains Sports Scientist Karishma Boolani. “A lot of parents feel that sport is going to take children away from what they need to be successful,” she says. “So, we have a massive task in educating these parents and kids that sport is actually vital to the entire lifelong success of a human being!”
Having always been interested in how the human body works, Karishma studied sports science at Bond University in Australia.
“I think Australia is the best place to study sports science, because it really is the hub of knowledge in sport,” she explains. “It’s where a lot of practical and technical experience comes together with a lot of passion for sport.”
Now, as far as Karishma knows, she is the only Sport Scientist in India. And, since returning from Australia in 2013, she has been determined to apply her scientific understanding of how an athlete is built to help Indian school children boost their fitness.
“I honestly believe that the success of someone’s life depends far more on how well they take care of their own health and fitness as a child,” Karishma says.
Working with physical education company KOOH sports in the Indian capital, New Delhi, Karishma has used the knowledge that she gained in Australia to developed a unique fitness assessment for children called FOCUS, which they can use as a guide to steadily improve their health.
It is presented as a colourful and fun report card, which shows kids where they are and where they need to be if they want to be fit.
Karishma has used the knowledge that she gained in Australia to developed a unique fitness assessment for children.
“Indian parents love seeing report cards and to score where their kid stands against everyone else’s kids, so we’ve used that format [for FOCUS],” she explains.
Currently working with children in 185 schools across India, Karishma’s ultimate vision is that every child in the country will one day not only take an academic report card home to their parents, but also one that rates their fitness level.
For now, though, “one million kids is my goal for FOCUS and as long as I am here, I’m going to make that happen,” she smiles.