Promoting sports in education

Promoting sports  in education

ALL WORK, NO PLAY  With academics getting more and more competitive, and children getting isolated from nature, physical activity and team work, it is time to promote sports as an education, says Ali Khwaja

Basappa in Kadirahalli village has no dearth of playgrounds or choice of games.  A couple of wooden sticks and he is on to “gilli-danda”, a discarded tyre with a stick to push it and he is off in his make-belief vehicle; one battered ball, a rope tied to two trees and his friends are enjoying a volleyball tournament.  Aditya in Bangalore, on the other hand, is perpetually pestering his parents to take him to some Sports Academy or the other, invest lakhs of rupees in fees and equipment, and yet gets bored very easily.

It is a shame that while we give crores of rupees to individual medal winners, crores of children in villages do not have even a ball, bat, net or shoes to play any game.  In large cities children have equipment but do not have open spaces to use them.  Barring selected few upper-end schools or International schools, many of the newly established educational institutions do not have playgrounds.  

At college level the scenario is sometimes worse – innumerable colleges in big cities are huge concrete structures with no breathing space, leave alone playgrounds. The disparity has many reasons. Lack of space in urban areas, children being shut up in four walls, anxiety of parents about their kids’ security, desire of parents that their child should become an ‘ award winning sportsperson’ rather than just enjoy physical activity.  Added to that has been the glamour that some games have acquired, noticeably cricket, where the stardom, publicity, money, gambling and corruption have overtaken the very concept of “sporting spirit.”

Games and sports have been part of the growing up process since time immemorial.  Formal schooling introduced the concept of “Physical Education” period or Games time – and these have been more popular among students than most other classroom periods.  Extensive research has shown that a sound mind and sound body go hand in hand. Hence no one can dispute the fact that they are essential parts of the education of every boy and girl.

Sport and games have innumerable benefits: physical fitness, mind-body coordination, team spirit, improving concentration, communication skills, to name just a few.  But slowly and surely of late championships and glamour have taken over the basic purpose of playing the game. 

It is high time that all stake-holders who genuinely wish to produce a good set of future citizens, join together and ensure that not only children are given ample opportunities and facilities to indulge in outdoor activities and sports, but also devise ways and means of ensuring that the prime objective of physical education is not hijacked into the rat race of medals and awards.

Physical education should be designed to serve the following purpose:Sound body and sound mind go hand in hand, hence every child who is shut up in classrooms for hours, should be given periodic activities to stretch out, activate his muscles and get a break from academics.

Children who are hyper-active or who disturb the class will find their energies being expended in games and sports, and will be more likely to pay attention to studies when they get back.The concept of team spirit should be inculcated to enable growing young people to understand and deal with the ‘teams’ they will need to work in when they join the corporate or working world.

Games should be designed in such a way that many children get opportunities to excel in some activity or the other, thus taking away the focus from the few “champions” who become proud and are always in the limelight.

Trained sports psychologists (or physical education directors who have been given inputs into this vital area) should constantly make create awareness and acceptance of the proven concept of “it is not important whether you win or lose, it is how you played the game ….” This will also teach children how to tackle failure, setbacks, inability to achieve up to their dreams even after best efforts.

In many occasions when my team of counsellors encouraged students facing Board exams to just punch pillows, their exam stress came down markedly.  Interestingly, some girls preferred to hug the pillow rather than to punch it, and that gave them more stress relief !

Children should also be encouraged to make-do with games that require minimum equipment, so that even the poorest can participate, and the activities can be taken up any time without much preparation.  It is sad to see children lugging huge cricket ‘Kits’ along with their bags of books sometimes.

Bigger children should be encouraged to become coaches and mentors to the smaller ones, and teach them whichever physical activity they are good at.  This can eventually be extended to children from well-off schools visiting the poorer schools to train those children.  Self-confidence and self-esteem can be enhanced greatly if they are given such opportunities.
Wherever possible, physical activities should be correlated to academics.

So many subjects can be taught outdoors, making the children run around, organize or build up some small structures, and do ‘practical’ exploration of what is taught in the text books. This is possible if the Physical Education Director and subject teachers are paired up to devise joint activities. This will also reduce the unnecessary rivalry of the academic teachers who feel that the sports coaches are taking too much time of their students, and hence they are unable to “complete the portions.”

Even NCC and Scouting can be incorporated into the curriculum since they impart patriotism, good values, respect for others, and a sense of direction to the youngsters.Though not too many, there are definitely some excellent institutions in our country that provide expertise and inputs to develop and integrate physical education. The Netaji National Institute of Sports at Patiala, Ramchandra University at Chennai, and National University of Physical Education at Gwalior (www.lnipe.nic.in) are just a few outstanding institutions.

PRS University, Chhatisgarh, formed in 1964, is one of the many institutions that has made a name for itself in unusual branches of study.  In sports they offer degree and/or post graduate studies in sports chrono-biology, cybernetics, sports psychology, adapted physical education, sports injuries rehabilitation, sports nutrition, and sports anthropometry.  Most young people who wish to make a career in sports have not even heard of many of the above fields, leave alone exploring what they are all about.

True sporting spirit needs to be revived in the young generation, leading to healthy minds and bodies.  It does not require too much of funding, but it certainly requires genuine interest and active involvement of parents, teachers and educational managers.  The children do, and will always love to pitch in, since sports are their great getaway from mundane classrooms.  Taught in the proper way, we will be able to see its long term benefits of a healthier and more positive society in the years to come.

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