By Umika Sharma:
It has barely been a week since two of our athletes have come back from the Olympics with medals. The initial celebrations are done and dusted. The euphoria of being proud of these women has calmed down. State Governments and others have announced rewards and have already been praised for their magnanimity. Celebrities have been torn down for daring to make fun of India’s dismal show. You won’t find a lot of statuses or memes on sports anymore, and we will all comfortably forget about the sorry state of sports in the country till we send another contingent four years down the line. I simply ask, why is it that we only have our share of brilliant children winning Science or Math Olympiads or Indian kids dominating Spelling Bee contests? Why is that whenever a kid around me goes to a career counsellor, he/she is rarely suggested taking up sports professionally? Is it because, maybe, Indians are just plain poor at sports? Because if that is so, then I don’t know how Milkha Singh or Sania Mirza or Dipa Karmakar or Leander Paes have managed to achieve what they have.
The most probable answer to many of the questions above is quite simple actually. We as a society, don’t encourage sports. We love to celebrate our sportspersons every once in a while (apart from Cricket), but when it comes to ‘real’ career options, we still prefer the route of engineering, medicine or law. You will find parents encouraging or forcing a child to take up Science, but you will rarely find a parent nudging a child towards sports. There can be a number of reasons behind such an attitude.
Firstly, we belong to a system where teachers take up ‘sports time’ to teach classes, because well, doing Math or Science is far more important than sports. Any day. Our teachers or schools never take sports seriously.
The condition is even worse if you’re a girl because most of the girls are expected to sit and chat during sports time. Absurd notions, such as you will get tanned in the sun are often used by mothers. The root of which is the Indian obsession with fair skin. Furthermore, you can see that the clear lack of proper infrastructure is another such reason as it is a huge hindrance when it comes to professional sports.
Most of the people heading our sports authorities are politicians looking for a quick buck. They would prefer sending their radiologist sons on foreign tours than care about our athletes getting basic medical facilities. They also care about giving out the money of taxpayers to players who have already done well for themselves instead of investing it in providing better facilities or budding sportspersons who are still struggling to secure access to basic facilities.
Another major reason for this pitiable attitude towards sports might be in the archaic belief system of somehow associating intellect with scoring marks. This is a major flaw in our education system as well as our thinking that sports somehow make children dim. How such notions have survived so far despite the fact that sports require intense concentration, focus and use of cognitive thinking to formulate complex strategies along with physical fitness, are beyond my comprehension.
Furthermore, we somehow still do not associate respect with sports. Respect is for IAS officers or MBAs, but it can rarely be found for sportspersons who have not gone to the Olympics. It is indeed sad to note that sportspersons often do not get a decent enough shot at having a career. The sports quotas existing in the country are used as a means to an end where landing a government job is considered lucky.
As a nation, we need to understand that celebrating sports is quite essential, but encouraging sports is far more important for the long run. It is high time that we let go of our age-old biases towards sports and sportspersons and usher in a wave of giving sports their due credit. A lot needs to be changed in the country, our attitude towards sports needs to be another item added to that list.