Big A was riding his scooter in the park with some of his school friends and practicing some of the ‘cool’ tricks he had seen some older kids do! As he tried to make his scooter jump in the air, he expressed frustration that he wasn’t able to do it! One of his friends responded, “You’re already good at Maths and English; you don’t need to be good at this!”
Of course, the statement could have several meanings. One cannot be that truly or one cannot be good at everything! However, as I sat and thought about what his friend has said, a statement from someone else in the past suddenly came to me and my trend of thought started moving in that direction; a statement made by a basketball coach criticising the underlying reason why basketball sensation, Jeremy Lin, was discovered so late in his career, “People who don’t think stereotypes exist are crazy”. If [Lin's] white, he’s either a good shooter or s heady. If he’s Asian, he’s [considered only] good at math. [So] We’re not taking him”. Lin himself mentioned that his ethnicity had seemed to come in the way of his talent being recognised, and that, he wished he could break the Asian stereotype!
It is true that in most countries, if you are an Asian, you are automatically labelled as ‘brainy’, ‘good at Math’, ‘piano player’, Spelling Bee champ‘, ‘software programmer’, etc! ‘Sports’ or ‘athletic’ scarcely comes to one’s minds! This type of stereotyping obviously makes it much more tough for any Asian trying to break through the competitive field of any sports and get noticed.
However, I also do wonder whether it is we who have perpetuated this stereotype for ourselves! How many parents truly want their children to be sportsmen or sportswomen? Only cricket players have so far been receiving media and social adulation, and the coveted funding moolah! Apart from that, a country of 1.2 billion failed to get even a single gold medal at the London Olympics. India’s only world-class competitor in the Winter Olympics could not compete due to lack of funding. Neither the government nor the private groups, has shown much interest in remedying the situation of our athletes, who are severely underfunded and under-featured. Does this not seem dismal to you?
One reason for this may be the stereotype we have formed for ourselves mentally! I have heard so many people saying that we cannot compete against whites or blacks because we don’t have their physical stature. To these people, I have only one word to say: China! Another concept firmly set in our psyche is that sports or athletics as a career is useless! How many of us have shouted at our kids for playing outside for long and wasting their time instead of sitting and studying? How many of us think that Chess is the only sports worth learning? How many of us know of people who have stopped their kids’ sports classes before they entered their 10th standard because ‘they should concentrate on building their careers now’?
Is it so very far-fetched to consider sports as a career and to encourage a child who shows talent?
How unfair it is to stop a child who loves to run, to swim, to kick a ball, to show his/her physical prowess. It is a vicious circle that parents stop their children from adopting a sports career because there is no future in it, and so, no one funds or hypes any sports in our country because the government obviously feels the same way! Parents in all countries, who are assured that their children can make a career in an athletics, should freely encourage their children to receive training and study simultaneously. In India, any aspiring athlete needs to take just the first step before being bogged down, by bureaucratic red tape, total disinterest by others in his passion and the ‘concerned’ looks and advice of his entire clan, to understand that he/she has to fight against more, than just those competitors of his/her chosen field.
I wonder when will we really change our mindset and understand that to take children away from their passion and true calling, and to chain them to a desk for a nine to five job is a real tragedy.
Roshni was born and brought up in Calcutta and is now living in California. Her two rambunctious boys, Big A, age 9, and Little a, age 5, are the main subjects of her blog (http://www.bigaandlittlea.com) and she can be found tweeting away (@RoshniAaMom) in her free time (you may well ask, what free time?!)