Be A Sport

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!”

Be a sport - nurturing kid's natural talent - children's career

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?!)

  • Hi Roshni… We as a country have started taking sports a bit seriously as long as it is Cricket, which has become the big banyan not allowing anything else to grow in its shadow. Even traditional sports where we were champions ( hockey) are now forgotten.

    • Roshni

      Exactly what I observed too! We have such cricket madness but somehow it does not extend to other sports, especially hockey, in which we were the champions!

  • Absolutely true, Roshni. very few dare to send their children to train in sports school. All the extra curricular encouragement ends when the exam starts.

    Even the few successful upcoming ones we have like prajakta are caught in politics. Perhaps this uncertainity is what is making many parents take a step back.

    Definitely these mindsets have to be broken by us parents of this gen to make way for these kids to give a head start in sports career. A thought provoking post.

    • Roshni

      Thanks, Asha! I admit, if I don’t see a future in the career for my child, I too would be hesitant to put him or her in it! I admire the parents of the Olympics Indian team, especially since it was largely because of their own time, effort and money that their kids were able to reach the to that stage!

  • Roshni

    Thanks so much for commenting!

  • Jas

    Good one Rosh. It is usually us who propagate that and it will be us only who will break this stereotype.

    • Roshni

      Thanks so much, Jas!

  • chattywren

    Sports as a career – no idea how it could pan out. Since it depends on a lot more factors than the individual’s ability and talent. So I guess most parents are cautious about letting kids do only this. And without focus, one can’t excel at any sport. A very difficult call to take, but it is also true of so many other talents which kids have like singing, dance, drawing. Very few are encouraged to make a career from it, relegated to hobby status only.

    • Roshni

      That’s what I mean! If sports had great prospects in our country, we would not mind our children trying it out. It would be similar to software engineering or dance or whatever! It would only be the kid’s talent that would be the hurdle!

  • I was never really good at sports and nor did I want to be, but my girls seem to be interested in soccer. My husband and I have this debate though on it. They couldn’t do it this year, because it would conflict with dance, but I think eventually try it, but have to admit I hope they don’t take to it, because I truly am not a sports person. But if they do (good or not), I will probably the first one cheering them on.

    • Roshni

      It is true that parents’ interest in the sport is a factor to shaping the child’s interest! I’ve tried to show a neutral stance, but I definitely don’t want either of my sons to play American football!! Just a recipe for future brain concussion, in my opinion!

  • I’m glad to see that it is changing a bit here, Roshini, but we have a long way to go!

    • Roshni

      We do; I’m just disappointed that we could not capitalize on our progress at the Beijing games!

  • TAM

    I personally see some stereotypes everyday. Being a women and working in the IT field there are a lot of gender stereotypes. Whether it be gender, ethnicity or anything else stereotypes do exist. I try my best to view people as individuals and not by what I perceive them to be. Sometimes, that is easier said than done.

    • Roshni

      I agree, TAM! I know it is easier said than done and I have been guilty of assuming something about someone just because of their ethnicity!

  • Hi Rohni Professional sports is a full time commitmemt. Unless one can see great talent parents prefer to take the easy way out by concentrating on what they know. You can see that in families of movie stars they don’t care for education.

    • Roshni

      It is sad when we cannot have more than option at once. I appreciate the undergraduate programs here that let you choose 2-3 diverse subjects and then specialize in one later. I also wish we had athletic or arts scholarships as another way of encouragement!

  • Sports still plays a crucial role in India or USA. Having a good knack towards it will land up the kid in a good university, scholarships etc.

    However, India is overboard with it, and gotta apply some brakes there!

    Great read, Roshini

    • Roshni

      Thanks so much, Ruchira!

  • Agree with you, Roshni. But in India, you have to be either extremely talented or not play at all. Because practically, if we let the kids choose a career in sports, how many will go to the top and set their life as sports people? Many of them will end up in neither making a career in sports or other industries. That is why many parents don’t encourage kids in sports. My brother used to play tennis very well. His parents encouraged him a lot but as he was growing up, it was not possible to focus on both studies and sports..so eventually, he had to give up tennis..:( Now, he just plays it for exercise. And the stigma of labeling, “You are Asian, you’re a genius” we should come out of it.

    • Roshni

      That is true in any country, Latha! Only the top 1% can truly make a career out of it. But what I meant to say is that even if you are extraordinarily talented in a sport, say, like boxing, you don’t get the funding, you don’t get the encouragement and you don’t get the media recognition needed as motivation! It’s not possible for many to do everything on their own steam…so we may be missing out on serious talent because of this, and the truth is, that we don’t seem to care!

  • Hi Roshni! I hadn’t thought about how what some would consider “positive” stereotypes can be stifling to someone’s creativity and talent.

    • Roshni

      I’ve encountered it myself where I find people assuming that I know a lot of about software programming because I’m Indian lol!! I guess next I may be asked if I have good telephone conversation skills given my obvious call-center background!! 😀

  • Being from a different part of the world (also not originally from North America) this is very interesting to me, as I’ve never really thought about this particular stereotype. I did read a book last year I think it was titled “On the outside looking Indian” by a Canadian of Indian descent, Rupinder Gill, where she briefly discusses her own, not very athletic, upbringing in Canada. Your post was an interesting read, thank you!

    Katia (bloppy)

    • Roshni

      I haven’t heard of that book! Thanks for letting me know…I’ll definitely look it up!

  • Julia’s Math

    Gosh life would be easier if we approached it as kids- let’s do what we love and makes us feel good and accomplished (within limits of course). And a great reminder what our jobs as parents actually are- to support our children and to facilitate their grow in all aspects of life…

    • Roshni

      Thanks, Julia! I sympathize with parents though who try to steer their kids away from careers that are largely perceived as hopeless. I wish that the whole nation could change their mindset!

  • Roshni. Thank you for sharing this. It’s a challenge not to steer our children when we are looking out for them and their future. But the conversations like this help balance me.

    • Roshni

      Thanks so much, Lucy! I agree that it is something that I would heavily debate about for myself, especially if I don’t see any future in it!!