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Meet India’s first sports scientist

by Suman Gupta

by Melinda Rogers, Study Gold Coast.

Karishma Boolani is on a mission to challenge perceptions around sport in India — one school at a time.

As one of India’s few sports scientists, it’s a huge task. However, Karishma says that completing a Bachelor of Sports Science at Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast has been invaluable in terms of skills, credibility and confidence.

“Despite India being well known for its sporting achievements, especially in hockey and cricket, it’s difficult to imagine that physical education is often sidelined in primary and secondary schools,” says Karishma, who returned to her homeland in 2013.

“The general perception is that sport is an extracurricular activity. A lot of parents feel that sport is going to take children away from what they need to be successful.

“We have a massive task in educating parents and children about the lifelong health benefits of participation in sport, and the contribution this can also make to personal success.”

Now working with physical education company KOOH Sports in the Indian capital of New Delhi, Karishma has applied the knowledge gained through her studies on the Gold Coast to develop FOCUS, a unique fitness assessment and improvement program for children.

“Indian parents love seeing report cards and where their children stand against other children. We’ve used that format for FOCUS,” she says. Karishma reiterates the importance of her time at Bond University on the Gold Coast.

“The quality of my course was brilliant,” she says. “We had very small classes, with the best sports equipment possible, and we were given complete freedom to utilise it.

“I also found myself interacting with Australian Olympic athletes, so that gave me a lot of confidence. It’s great to be able to tell people in India that I have already worked at that level.”

Karishma says that because India doesn’t have many people trained in the sports research industry, Australia’s reputation in the field was a natural drawcard for her studies. Even so, explanations are still sometimes required.

“People think if you’re in the sports industry you need to be an athlete, but all you really need is an understanding of anatomy and the development of the human body.”

Karishma is currently working with 185 school across India, but with tens of thousands of schools and millions of students, she has a big task ahead of her. Not that the scale of the challenge has lessened her determination.

“Helping one million children is my goal and I’m going to make that happen,” says Karishma.

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