Practising any sport is a human right. No sports is restricted to any gender so who are we to discriminate against any person who enjoys playing any kind of sport? Sports not only demands fair play but fair representation and solidarity. Besides, it should be the last basis on which society discriminates; yet discrimation happens.
When it comes to women’s representation and participation in sports loudest protests are heard. Society tends to label some sports not being “girly”. Sometimes, they even call the girls playing certain sports ‘manly’. Especially in India, where they consider playing outside will darken the girls’ skin tone.
While most of us will immediately jump onto our high horses and make all the politically right noises. We have got to look deeper and understand that this simply exposes the plethora of misunderstanding that sports in India lives under. Especially for girls. Shockingly, in urban, metropolitan India!
Yes, especially urban, metropolitan India! You doubt us? Then simply name some top female athletes and sportswomen in India and find out how many of them are from the tier-1 cities. Get the point.
OK, we may not want sports as a career option for our kids. That’s ok! Especially because not everyone can be a Tendulkar or Neymar or Sania or Saina. But as a lifetstyle? Yes, for girls as well!
Well, just look at it this way – where have boys, traditionally, learned about teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviours? Playing some form of sport or the other, right? Isn’t it proven that these are the very, critical skills necessary for success in a corporate setup too? We are into an economic environment where the quality of any family life will be dependent on two-income families. In such a scenario, do we really want our daughters to be any less prepared than our sons, especially when they are the ones who will need to break that legendary glass ceiling? In fact, market research abroad has shown that almost 80% of the female executive at Fortune 500 companies from across the world identifies themselves as former ‘tomboys’ or rather manly who used to play sports.
And then, let us talk about the non-tomboy factor. Lately, more than ever before, the trend seems to be moving towards girls becoming ‘young ladies’ earlier and earlier. Blame it on Bollywood or cultural upbringing or just plain, simple fact that consumerism survives on the very insecurities of these little girls. We do see a lot of girls struggling with body-image and unhealthy eating issues. This starts from 7 years and up, leading to serious physical and psychological issues in their adult lives.
It has been observed, over the years, and through various market studies in India and abroad, that girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being, have higher levels of confidence, self-esteem and lower levels of depression than girls and women who do not play sports.
Then, one might say, what about academics? Because, we Indians lay a lot of emphasis on them; our world revolves around the performance in exams. Then just remember that playing sport is an exercise; and exercise ALWAYS improves learning memory, concentration and widens the logical thinking capacity. Where pressure is a big part of our daily routine today, playing sports can only help one deal with it. Exercise is a natural mood lifter and a great way to relieve stress and fight depression. In urban, metropolitan India, where one or two children are the ‘kings of the castle’, working with coaches, trainers and teammates to win games and meet goals is a great practice for success. Being a team player can make it easier to work with others and solve problems, whether on field or workplace.
Girls involved in athletics feel better about themselves, physically and socially. It helps build confidence when they see their skills improving and goals becoming a reality. Then of course, as they grow up, they get in shape, maintaining healthy weight.
If all that is not enough, let us women simply look around us. Haven’t we encountered and dealt with older women in our families suffering from osteoporosis and its side-effects? Aren’t we, as we get older, being told constantly by our doctors to add ‘regular walks and sugar-free diets and calcium supplement’ to our lifestyle? Why do we want our daughters to suffer the same? Playing sport leads them to stay fit, build muscle and as a result get stronger bones. They will reap the rewards in their middle-age.
Besides this, we also need to consider that despite various tries we as a society fail to keep women involved in the sports, which needs to be addressed. Women’s voices from field and even from outside field are not being heard. Let us establish a pathway for the next generation of female sportspersons so that they can gain the crucial experience required to develop into this men dominated world. It will take a considerable amount of time to achieve this, but let us make an effort. Let sporting bodies work together and get the best out of the sport and the best for the country out of sport too. This will bring real culture change and a shift on what the ‘norm’ is, that is to understand that sport needs to be played by all. Also, the more the gender neutral sports there are the better it is for all.
With all the pros favoring girls, or kids in general playing sports in the larger cities, we arrive at the crux of the matter. Why do we not see enough participation? Simple! Because we live in cities with large distances and very few open spaces. Parents face a lot of problems trying to find a good coaching option or a nice academy that is close by or at a convenient time. And this is the precise problem that KheloMore addresses. An app based aggregator of various sport facilities and coaches, KheloMore is now available in 10 cities with 6 sports; growing the city and sport database as we speak. All you got to do is choose your preferred sport, locality and time slots and you will get a suitable coach or academy.
Girls go on, give it a try and have a sport that is gender-free!