19 August, 2016

Let your children play

India is a nation of 1.3 billion people and yet it only gets a handful of medals at the Olympic games. In the current games being held at Rio, India currently ranks at 70 with 1 bronze medal and a couple more medal hopes. Any medal won by an Indian sportsperson is celebrated with great fanfare by the country. A few people mock at Indians celebrating crazily for a single medal bagged at the games. Those few do not understand the value of things that are rare and precious. Things that make a billion people happy and things that are hard earned with so many difficulties. The Olympic medals are such precious things.

Yet, we have to accept the fact that India, a country of a billion people fails miserably at sports. The only sport we are champions at is Cricket. A sport that is considered a religion in a country of cricket fanatics. Even in cricket, we were behind Australia for many years. While the Aussies, from a country with a meagre population as compared to India, excel at many other sports and do quite well at the Olympics.

India's failure is blamed at the lack of sporting infrastructure and investment. To excel at sport one needs better infrastructure, equipment and most importantly, high quality training. Given the right setup, Indian athletes are capable of challenging the best of the world. The best example is P. V. Sindhu who is just 21 years old, trained with Gopichand who is a well known Badminton coach and trained in an excellent Badminton academy in Hyderabad. Sindhu has qualified for the finals at Rio Olympics.

So yes, we need investment, a lot of investment in infrastructure and training equipment. But most importantly, we also need a sporting mindset. The problem with Indian parents is that they only want their children to be successful in academics. I have been a victim of this mindset. I was a sports person till the 10th grade. I was quite good at roller skating but my parents stopped me from skating after I had a bad fall and was injured. In fact, they should have encouraged me to continue instead of getting scared of my fall. Even in cricket, I had to stop playing after my 10th grade because my parents enrolled me in IIT coaching (read the story here). I had to stop playing because according to Indian logic, academics are the most important thing in life and everything else is useless.

So stop pressuring your kids to just study. Of course studies are important, but that should not come at a cost of compromising other things like sports, exercise, and other extra curricular activities. Let your children go outside, to the ground, or to the gymnasium. Let them develop an interest in a sport. Later, encourage them to go ahead. Do not stop them. Our school system also does not encourage sporting activities. American/European schools have a lot of facilities, and more importantly, have a culture of sporting. They have annual games, school teams and many other events that encourage the students to play and take part in sports.

If you are a teacher or a parent, "let your children play"