‘Back on track’: An initiative to help the sports fraternity in time of need

June 26, 2021

Dream Sports Foundation (DSF) started the ‘Back on Track’ initiative in August 2020 on National Sports Day.

Bhavit Sheth, COO & Co-Founder of Dream Sports & Dream11

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” These words of the 18th US president Ulysses S. Grant seem apt for the times that we live in today.

The pandemic has altered so much and yet, there are certain things that remain unchanged. One of the things that remains constant, even in these trying times, is the desire among many to be of help to fellow beings. Humanity thrives in times of adversity and life under the shadow of Covid-19 is a reminder that we can get over the toughest of times if we help each other.

It is in keeping with this spirit of co-operation and bringing succour to those in need, that Dream Sports Foundation (DSF) started the ‘Back on Track’ initiative in August 2020 on National Sports Day.

With sporting activities coming to a complete halt in the country during the first wave of the pandemic, several lives were disrupted due to loss of income. Many sportspersons were looking at an uncertain future and were in dire need of help. DSF’s initiative has been able to help people in need from the sports industry by providing financial aid, training and sports equipment support, coaching, proper diet and nutrition, monthly stipends and hygiene kits.

To ensure that the aid reached the most affected members of the Indian sports ecosystem, DSF also helped 16 NGOs across the country, including Nav Sahyog Foundation, Dribble Academy, Nagaland Football Foundation, The Right Pitch, The Ball Project and many more. DSF supported sports journalists through the Playfield magazine initiative who had lost their jobs due to the COVID crisis.

“We started the Dream Sports Foundation with the thought process that we wanted to give back to the sports community,” Bhavit Sheth, COO & Co-Founder of Dream Sports & Dream11, told Hindustan Times during an interaction.

“When the pandemic hit, it hit the sports community pretty badly, especially people that were not at tier one of sports. It was at this time that we thought we should support as many people as we can. That was the genesis of this ‘Back on Track’ program.

“Through this program, we have helped not only athletes, but even support staff, like umpires, referees, even journalists in some cases. We wanted to make sure that they land on their feet and once things are back to normal they are ready to go again,” he added.

Dream11 is a brand that most people associate with the sport of cricket, but Sheth said that the focus of the ‘Back on Track’ initiative was on helping those who are connected with ‘non-traditional sports’.

“Our focus has been a lot more on non-traditional sports as these are the ones which need maximum support. So, while we do support cricket as well, the ‘Back On Track’ program has benefited around 85% of people from various sports like volleyball, squash among many others. So, we are looking at helping people in need who don’t have easy access to either monetary support or non-monetary support,” the young entrepreneur said.

The ‘Back on Track’ initiative has till date had 3500 beneficiaries, according to data provided by DSF. Almost 85 percent of these are associated with sports like volleyball, football, boxing, basketball and squash. The initiative has helped 16 leading NGOs across the country to ensure that the aid reaches the most affected. Female beneficiaries account for 35 percent of the total number.

The reach and effect of DSF’s initiatives can be gauged from the fact that in a brief period it has managed to help a number of athletes and sportspersons achieve their goals and success.

One such athlete is Nethra Kumanan, who will be representing India at the Tokyo Olympics. She is the first Indian woman to win the World Cup in sailing and to qualify for the Olympics. Kumanan, like several others, has been supported by DSF.

While the ‘Back on Track’ initiative will continue to provide help during the pandemic, Sheth and his DSF have plans to help develop sports at the grassroots level.

“We want to reach out to multiple levels, from grassroots to semi-pro to even elite athletes, and through different programs that we have. The plan has always been to add different levels to help different people and support, through different partnerships, whether it be directly, whether it be through different NGOs or even whether it be through some central and sports ministries. The desire is to cover as much as possible. The more partners we have, the better distribution we will be able to get,” Sheth said.

“We don’t want to only help monetarily, that everyone can do. I would say the unique advantage that we bring is our relationships, we help people in getting help and support for stuff like proper diet, access to psychologists and access to good physiotherapists. While monetary help is great, sometimes opening these doors and getting them access to some of these people is very important,” he added.