23 Jul

The Joy of Sports - The Ripple Effect Series, Part 1

When the journey began to create a grassroots sports program for girls from low income backgrounds in India, the objective was quite focused: enable girls to play sports.  All our strategic planning revolved around this goal.  However, this sports journey has affected much more than the lives of these individual girls; it has rippled out to touch the mind and hearts of the community around them.  This is Part 1 of a series of articles that explores “The Ripple Effect” of our sports programs in India.

Female Community Leaders Embrace Sports

The “Nanhi Kali” sports program for 180 000 girls is being taught by over 4000 female Community Associates (CAs).  The CAs support these girls in their daily education and are now involved in their sports development.   They are also the coaches, officials, and referees for our programs; learning and being educated in the language of sports for the first time.  Rather than being just another technical element to their job, they have been willingly enveloped into a new world of sports learning.

From the very first whistle, these CAs have embraced the program and sports in general.  Rather than be intimidated by learning new skills, they too felt the excitement of being involved in a sports community.  Many have gone even further and applied the sports learning to their own physical and health development.    Any free moment in the schedule, there are seen kicking the ball or running the race with the girls.  They are also on the sidelines, full of encouragement and excitement, cheering on the girls.  They have found a new element to their working community. 

This ripple effect was also evident during the pandemic period.  Desperate to help the girls lead healthy lives during this trying period, we began offering online personal sports in isolation.  We developed a series of videos that we share with the community via whats app every week.   Once again, our objective was focused:  enable these girls to be active during covid.   But, we have discovered that these sports have, once again, rippled out to affect the lives of the CAs as they eagerly await the publication of the weekly sports tips and many completed the exercises themselves.  

This overwhelming support for the Nanhi Kali sports program by the CAs  has been a wonderful outcome but, how can this ripple effect and broad support be explained?  There are a multitude of elements that contribute to this.  

Community of Learning

For the great majority of the girls and CA’s they are being exposed to sports for the first time in their lives.  They are all newbies together on this sports journey.   Thus, there is less judgement on abilities and levels of experience.  They are all learning together and will experience success and failure together.   In addition, our investment in sports leadership development for our CAs, affording them experience as officials has helped develop confidence in leading these initiatives.

Welcoming Environment  

Our sports program is endeavouring to “empower girls through sports”. This sports vision is based on inclusion, enablement, and development rather than competition and winning. This clear mission has encouraged all participants to learn and flourish in sports at their own pace and ability.  CAs are part of an environment that encourages them to take risks and participate. 


The CAs are constantly exposed to the incredible motivational of the girls they are working with.  Even in times of isolation, when living in extremely dense conditions, these girls are finding small spaces to do their sports exercises.  Some can be seen using old rice bags on the bare ground to do their push ups or sit ups; others are finding space in the narrow hallway where the laundry is hung.  Working with girls with such strong perseverance and motivation, ripples out to the CAs themselves and influences their motivation to participate.

Established Trust

The relationship and trust between the CA’s and girls was already well established before the sports program was introduced.   They have daily contact with the girls and continual contact with families and, in most cases, have been involved with the girls’ development for years.  This trust gives the CAs confidence in the relationship to explore the new programs, even if they are not experts in the domain.

A Changing Culture

Many of the CAs have the feeling that they have been missing out on the benefits of sports their whole life.  They are very proud that the girls they work with, in the organisation and program that they work for are being exposed to these benefits.  They want to be a part of this sports revolution in India.  

Thus, the joy of sports has extended much further than the hundreds of thousands of girls involved in the Nanhi Kali sports program, and has enveloped the CAs teaching the program.  However, CA’s are not the only ones positively influenced by the sports programs introduced to underprivileged girls in India.  In the next articles, we will explore how the sports program for girls in India has rippled out to affect their families.  In addition GNWs Clinic Psychologist, Daniela Tomer will offer a psychological explanation for this wonderful sports ripple effect.

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