Sports as a tool for building life skills — Fatema Agarkar, Founder at ACE


Ramdas Shenoyy speaks to Fatema Agarkar on ACE and Ajit Agarkar’s vision.

What inspired you to start the initiative of ACE?

Ajit has been a sportsman all his life, and for him, it has taught him and given him everything he is today and this was us coming together to combine the value of sport and education. It combines my experience of working with families especially children having set up close to 40 schools now pan India to create a platform for children – be it in the school curriculum or after school hours or actually allowing them to specialize by managing both in a time table. 

What is the gap in today’s education system, specifically on life skills and how do sports play a role in building life skills?

Life skills is the nucleus around which all subjects and co-curricular will center in the years to come because I think statistics ‘scream’ out that grades and marks alone cannot define success and enable or empower these children. They need practical and hands-on skills that make them life ready and these indeed can be taught. And should be … sport is that perfect blend! From decision making, handling pressure, managing conflicts or complexity, creativity, flexibility, relationship management, time management, discipline or even project management skills – like how do you go about preparing for a big tournaments are great platform for these to come alive in a non-threatening way.  

Educators tell that Life Skills are to be taught at homes(by the family), how can school play a role in teaching life skills?

They have to be inculcated by adults – be it at home or when children are in school, by educators. 

We need to help them, explain to them, give them case studies and help them through cause-effect by simulations and debates and discussions and also enabling them that there are several choices with each decision and not all strategies work all the time, so you have to know which one to adopt when.

These situations or scenarios, therefore are better handled by trained and qualified facilitators, teachers and coaches. And therefore must be focused on in schools.

Digital detoxification is the new challenge for parents (with regards to digital devices used by children at a very young age), your views to address this?

We have to learn to deal with the transformation that has already happened. Quite frankly learning to balance it out, harnessing its potential as opposed to banning it will be the smarter way to do it. 

Gadgets today are anti-glare, children need to be oriented about its usage and ‘addiction’ factor and honestly allowed to make some decisions along the way as well. 

I think including them in conversations, encouraging them to have a fitness and physical routine and an alternative to screen time by showing them the way and enabling them to enjoy both is the balance I believe in. 

What were the challenges in driving the ACE initiative and what is your methodology to address them?

Well, we have just started and while there is tremendous excitement, a lot of people need to understand its value, importance and understand that it is a lifestyle choice as well and not only building a career. 

Identifying the right coaches and training them will also be critical as this remains our promise. Quite frankly having worked with several academies as an owner, we know how this story u folds and we want to make sure we are niche and then scale up. 

With Mr. Ajit Agarkar at the helm what kind of vision he has for the organization?

Just wants to give back all the experience and expertise that was given to him when he started playing at 10. The right coaching and mentorship

It is critical and at the end of the day, it is a child that we nurture and every one is unique and different and he wants to emphasize on that. It takes 11 to make up a team and each role is important – some might be super achievers, some make it to a certain level but it takes 11 to play and that is what makes ACE so different because he thinks about every child on that team and wants them to evolve and grow. 

What is your advice to women of today on work-life balance?

I strongly believe everyone should work – be it women or men because it brings to your world independence, control, freedom, identity and ability to learn all the time. 

Both spouses have a role to play and thankfully we are born in an era which is turning (although slowly) gender-neutral where both take turns and shoulder responsibility. 

I just feel alive and excited when I work and that I hope is part of everyone’s world – not just women. 

Your motto for life ? 

Believe in creating value … it gives you immense satisfaction when you are part of a value proposition that helps others. Along the way, you take a few risks and encounter a few challenges. Change them into opportunities- you will always then grow and evolve. And feel alive!! 

#fatemaagarkar #imaagarkar #zaheer_khan34 #sagarikaghatge

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