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Why Do Indian Sportspersons Fail To Deliver At International Events?

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By Atul Maharaj:

Indians have had a great track record at home. No matter what sport it is, Indians are always ‘sher‘ (lion) at home. Be it the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 or the commonwealth games, we have done exceedingly well in such tournaments. Though there have been some hiccups during such tournaments, the teams have performed well during the tournament on a whole. However there have been times when the Indians have ‘choked’ at crucial stages. How about the infamous loss of the Indian Cricket team against Bangladesh that knocked them out of the World Cup? Or the loss of the Indian Men’s Hockey team against arch rivals Pakistan in the recently concluded South Asian Games in February 2016 ? Indian teams choke at the world stage, take Rio 2016 for instance. Indians tried hard but their efforts ended with only 2 medals.

Even though this year India had sent in the largest Olympics contingent which should technically have improved our chances of winning medals, things were headed south since the start of Rio 2016. Most of the matches the Indians played at Rio 2016 have been close fights – from the 3-second goal loss of the Indian Men’s hockey team to Germany, the close fight of the Women’s Archery Team against Russia or the tiebreaker (read heartbreaking) loss of Abhinav Bindra for bronze. On the flip side, there has been some bad games at the Shooting arena and the Tennis court, which everyone would surely want to forget !

There are a lot of other things which lead to failure of the teams at the time that matters the most. Here are a few points I would put forward as to why Indians choke at the big stage especially at Rio 2016.

Indian teams do participate in various World Championships and other international games. However, it’s only for these events that the teams fly out to alien environments where they have to prove their mettle. There aren’t many ‘friendlies’ taking place round the year in various sports – especially outdoor sports. Sports like hockey, archery, trap shooting and other field games should have more foreign exposure so that they get more practice in different environments. This will ensure that players get accustomed to various environments that will help them perform better at the stage when it matters the most and not choke.

Further, there was a lot of pressure and expectation from players. Hardly anyone would have known Dattu Bhokanal, Atanu Das or even Dipa Karmakar before the start of Rio 2016 (heads up, Dattu Bhokanal is only the 9th Indian rower to feature in the Olympics and the only one to qualify for Rio 2016. Atanu Das is an Ace Indian Archer while Dipa Karmakar is the first Indian woman to qualify for the finals of a Gymnastic event at Olympics ever). Today these rising heroes face an uphill task due to the high expectations of a billion people. Hopes of the entire nation were on these players to win. Be it on social media sites like Twitter where most of these players have been trending during their events, or at the venue, they had a strong fan support. It is this ‘pressure cooker situation’ that these players haven’t been exposed to ever during their career. Not only the young debutants but also the experienced folks fail to deliver at crucial times due to this ‘unseen’ pressure that they have to cope up with. Indian fans, even with nil knowledge of a particular sport, turn into critics in a matter of minutes of watching a game and soon into a coach !

Also the lack of experience is an area of concern. Most of the Indian teams have young legs but lack experience of playing at big occasions. Unfortunately, it’s that time when many experienced players are retiring from the sport leaving the team vulnerable and hence they tend to choke at crucial moments. Most of the teams are in the transition period – as it is called in sports – when young players join the team and senior pros hang up their boots. And frankly there’s not much we can do about this. It would be nice if coaches are always on the lookout for taking new players and giving them the opportunity to play. That way they will gain experience of playing at the world stage along with getting valuable insights from senior pros in the team. This will also ensure that the ‘transition period’ doesn’t last long and we have the perfect balance of agility and experience.

This post was originally published on the author’s personal blog.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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