How my UK degree is helping me use sport to enact social change for young people in India
Suheil, from India, graduated with a master’s in sports management from Loughborough University in 2011. He’s now a social entrepreneur, and through his business, he applies the ideas he developed during his master’s to improve the lives of thousands of young people across India.
‘Ever since I was a kid in Delhi, what I’ve really loved is sport’
Ever since I was a kid in Delhi, what I’ve really loved is sport. Every spare moment has been taken up with it - especially cricket.
After completing high school in India, I studied mathematics and economics at McGill University in Canada, though I had no clarity on the career path I wanted to take. I spoke with a family friend about career options as I wasn’t sure what to do after graduating and he suggested I do a postgraduate course in Sports Management. At that point, I didn’t even know that kind of course existed.
‘My degree was in-depth and multifaceted’
Having done some research, I chose to study in the UK. The course at Loughborough University was in-depth and multifaceted and was full of fascinating ideas which helped me gain a deeper understanding of what sport is. We also had small classes, which helped to give me a sharp focus. It was also an opportunity for me openly share my own ideas, experiences and interests with the people around me.
‘My professors were leading researchers and experts’
In the classroom, my professors gave me the very best education, but they also connected it to the real world. Outside of teaching, they were leading researchers and experts. In my classes, I was invited to talk about my own theories and ideas. I could even talk about sport and the role it played for people in India and how it intersected with people’s lives. It felt great to be listened to and encouraged in this way.
‘While I was at Loughborough, I decided I wanted to do something at a grassroots level in India’
During my course, I had the chance to think more and more about how sport could be a place where societal change could happen. It was while I was studying at Loughborough that I really decided I wanted to do something at a grassroots level in India. Sport is about much more than physical skills. It can help you with your self-esteem, it can be a place for conversations to happen, and it can even break down societal barriers. There is a lot of power in it.
‘In a country where girls and boys are often segregated in schools, I found that sport could bring them together’
In India, there are a large number of disadvantaged young people who do not get access to many sporting opportunities. My initial plan was to partner with local non-profit organisations to set up a sports programmes in schools. Immediately we saw the impact on the young people’s lives. They were more academically attuned, their confidence grew and their health and wellbeing improved. And in a country where girls and boys are often segregated in schools, I found that sport could bring them together to interact in a positive and healthy way.
‘My organisation uses sport as a way to enact social change for young people’
The initial impacts that we saw on young people helped convince families and communities that sport is a good thing for them. While before they thought that sport would distract young people from their academics, now they see the value in it.
My award-winning organisation, Pro Sport Development, uses sport as a way to enact social change for young people - allowing more of them to express themselves and develop themselves in a safe and supportive space.
‘I really got to think differently in the UK. About my education, my career and what sport could do’
I really got to think differently in the UK. About my education, my career and what sport could do. It’s great to be in India, helping young minds to think differently too - and for them to have brand new aspirations in life. Just as I did.
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