Having been a sports enthusiast all my life, I believe it has played a very important part in shaping me as a person. I bet most sports players will agree with me when I say that although a stress buster, it is hard to manage time for sports with our hectic work schedules as adults. We wish we could go back to our golden childhood days where we had hours to practice and perfect a skill.
Kids pick up sports faster than grownups, are more agile on field and have a bottomless stamina reserve. That’s why it becomes that much more important to channelize this energy to yield maximum result. To be on the national team one needs to have a coach from age 8 and 30 hours of practice every week. The reason china churns out so many Olympic medalists a year is they find their players young, as young as age 6. At that age how does one tell whether they have the skill it takes to play a sport? They have a series of tests from medical to body length measurement to scout their trainees and subject them to the tried and tested sports person diet and discipline to turn them into champions. But if you trace back stories of Indian Olympic medalists you will find it is either painful, driven by the need to earn or out of sheer coincidence. The access to resources is the biggest challenge in India. That is the reason most Indian Olympians are from the Indian army.
I was lucky enough to have access to these facilities as a child and have fond memories of horse riding, Olympic sized swimming pools and golf summer camps. But even though our school had a huge play ground we lacked proper coaching. Affordable private schools do not even have a privilege of that. Hijacking the games period to finish the syllabus is the worst form of torture you can put a child through and happens all the time here. Thus, the fact remains that sport is not given the due importance it deserves in our academic curriculum for the overall development of a child here in India.
Sport instills integrity, honesty, teamwork, leadership and teaches one honor, the importance of participation and also teaches to cope with defeat. It’s an easy choice when it is between learning life skills versus sitting in a class every single day, staring at the black board and mugging up pages and pages of things they don't comprehend. It is unfortunate to see crucial aspects of personality development that sports adds are being left out in a typical school schedule.
The concept of mixed sports and gender equality is non-existent in most APSs. The year before last a couple of IDEX fellows had tried to have a mixed team cricket league, but of course were faced with a lot of opposition from the conservative and regular schools alike. ‘Girls-versus-boys’ in a classroom environment is the norm but never in a playground. They say the only way to get better at a sport is by playing with people better than you. But girls are never given a chance to. Girls don’t have hand eye coordination because they play with dolls and not throw around a ball high up and play catch. But if they are allowed to they can do as good a job or even better!
The basic idea of a school sports program in my placement school was to make them pick up a sport, understand it, play by rules and in the process get kids to lead healthy active lifestyles. With after school and before school programs for Kho-Kho and ultimate Frisbee we sure had a good performance at the year tournaments. It doesn't have to be a sport which requires high level equipment. Any sport from kabbadi to kho-kho to gulli danda, does it. With a little investment of time energy and effort you can teach students way more valuable lessons outside the classroom.
Picture Credit: Aditya Sanjay (IDEX 2013 Kho-Kho league)
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