There is a lesson beyond sports in javelin superstar Neeraj Chopra’s Olympic gold. The lesson is for the youth of the country, for their parents, for policy makers and politicians. The 23-year-old Naik Subedar of the Rajputana Rifles has not just won a gold from the topmost competitive arena of the world, but has also brought back for the country a dream of a healthier, sturdier, more dedicated India, of a country that has the potential take children out of their homes and into playfields and of a country which can now dare to dream the impossible dream.
Frankly, it is not just Neeraj, but all the medal winners and even those who just missed medals, yet fought like lions and lionesses at the Tokyo Olympics. As we move towards our 75th Independence Day, such news bears for us good tidings and hope.
The Covid pandemic notwithstanding, the biggest aid to growth and a good life for our children today lies in their parents assuring them health, the biggest wealth of all. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi promises to bring and honour all Olympians at the Red Fort on August 15, he also promises to showcase sports as a way towards this healthy growth. This symbolism should be taken seriously.
How do sports intermingle with studies? As a parent myself, I would surely want my children to do well in studies, but not at the cost of their health. Sport allows commensurate growth of all faculties of the body, including the brain. The future of the country lies in the hands of a healthy youth, not just the educated youth. To this end it becomes essential for us to realise that there has to be a process through which our schools and colleges can incorporate sports into curricula.
So far, there has not been any approved sports curriculum appended with regular CBSE or ISCE syllabus. It is treated as an external activity that schools need to initiate, but the boards have no obligation in enforcing. Sports classes should be made mandatory in school curricula. In the exams, passing a sports discipline should be made mandatory before the overall exam performance of a student is adjudged. The final marks of sports may or may not be added to the total, but passing should be mandatory. In this, the sports curricula should also include those with physical disabilities. There are sporting disciplines that are adapted to these. The Paralympics start in Tokyo on August 24, and remember that there are Indians who have been world champions at these Games.
Schools in India are supposed to have their own playfields. In case of a school not having its own playfield, the instruction is that several schools can share and use a common playfield. However, the reality on the ground shows that a playfield is probably the last requirement in a school today. If the school authorities can set up another building on their playfield and increase the number of students, that is what will be done. This attitude must change.
While we celebrate the victories of Olympic heroes, we should not simply forget their contribution a few weeks from now. Their contributions to our world, to your world are permanent. Following them is imperative.
Last, but not the least is the issue of children getting addicted to screens. It was the television screen not too long back, now it is the smartphone. Actual physical activity cannot be replicated or substituted by apps that simulate them. Surely, smartphones are an essential commodity these days. But children must be allowed only limited time per day on these. This, of course, means that parents must spend a little more time with their children. And since even parents are busy, sports can be used to very successfully supplement for their absence. Character, that sports adds, will only benefit the family.
In this issue, we have highlighted Indian success at the Olympic Games. It is a reminder to us all that a rounded life includes discipline, discipline that a sportsperson has to imbibe to be successful. All are ingredients of a good society.