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A Tryst with Sports
- Ramendra Kumar

If you want your child to grow into a healthy and well-adjusted individual, make sure he or she plays a sport.

"Hey, Ramen! You've started swimming with the same manic energy as always, I see?"

I turned around to face Ramesh, a colleague. My son Aniket and I were just leaving the club after an hour of swimming.

"Well, yes. You know I am diabetic, and swimming is one of the best exercises to keep this horror in check."

"So how many lengths did you manage today?"


"Wow, that's great. Don't tell me this little fellow swims one kilometre a day."

"He does. Why don't you and Rohan come along too? You will enjoy yourselves."

"I am too lazy, and Rohan, too busy."

"Is he into sports?"

"Yes - cricket, football, tennis - he is into most sports. Unfortunately his entire sporting gear comprises of the television remote. And the only part of the anatomy he moves is his hand to shove chips into his mouth to munch them," Ramesh said wryly and plodded on.

Ramesh's remarks set me thinking. Football, cricket, volleyball, table tennis, basketball and hockey - sports I used to play when I was a kid. Apart from these conventional games we often played hide and seek, seven stones and kabaddi, rather down-market, but nevertheless these games involved a lot of calisthenics, and fun!

Every evening, summer or winter, I would be out with my friends playing to my heart's content. During the monsoon when it would be pouring outside, Chess and Scrabble would keep us occupied indoors. Although I played all these games I never achieved notable success in any. Being in the cricket and table tennis school teams was achievement enough for me. The idea then was not to play a sport with the sole intention of achieving a target, but to play for the sake of getting physical exercise and enjoying the very act of participation.

If one compares my childhood with today's generation the contrast appears startling. A child today is overloaded with academics. In addition, the ultimate sorceress, the idiot box, holds Generation Next in its thrall. For many kids the only contact with sports is a vicarious one - watching Team India getting thrashed by the Aussies or mera Bharat mahaan's hopes biting the dust in the Olympics.

Added to the problem of time is the issue of logistics. In metros, and in smaller cities, children are cooped up in small houses, in cramped residential colonies with little scope to play. As a result the thrill of a drag flick, a bicycle kick, a classic cover drive or an ace serve is something many kids miss out on.

I am neither a psychologist nor a social researcher. I am merely a children's writer who feels that the lack of sporting activity has resulted in a number of ills in our society. In America one of the biggest health issues is that of obesity in children. Slowly this is becoming a problem among the affluent urban kids in India too. Exposure to violence on the television and in computer games, coupled with lack of participation in sports, is slowly making kids more angry and violent and less tuned to the virtues of teamwork. Their threshold of tolerance is coming down steadily and coping with failure is something they seem to be quite ignorant of. In terms of general health too kids of today are far less sturdy and resistant than we were.

Mens sana in corpore sano - in a sound body rests a sound mind. Sporting activity is a must for every child. How do we as parents ensure that our child is into sports?

Here are a few pointers:

Encourage your child to participate in sports from a young age itself.

Chose a sport that is in keeping with her age and her physical strength.

Make play time a part of her daily calendar by slotting in an hour everyday for sports. With a bit of planning and discipline, her studies will not suffer, and she can continue watching her favourite programmes on the television.

If you don't have facilities near your house take your child to the nearest field or park. Get her to meet other children. Soon they will get together and begin to enjoy themselves.

If even that is not possible then teach her yoga at home. Find out more about Yoga for Kids.

Talk to her PT teacher in school to make sure she participates in physical activity.

Encourage her to take part in the sports day at her school as well as any sporting activity conducted by your club. Even if she fails to win a prize, you could award her for participating.

Do try to take out time for a sporting activity in which your child too can participate. If logistics and equipment are a constraint try out jogging. Despite your busy schedule, you should be able to squeeze out thirty minutes for an activity that will bring untold benefits to you and your child.

As Robin Sharma says in 'Family Wisdom from the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari', "The person who doesn't make time for exercise eventually makes time for illness." If you want your child to grow up to be a healthy and well adjusted individual - one who can win with pride and lose with grace, one who knows the joys of sharing and caring - make sure she has a tryst with sports on a daily basis.

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