Idol-worship, the worst enemy of sports

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Sep 2017 09:09:29

TheRE used to be an old Sports Instructor in our school more than fifty-five years ago. He was a straight-forward, simple person totally dedicated to promoting sports among children. He played many games very well, and had won medals when he was young. Whenever he heard any one of us in the school’s hockey team talk of the hockey legends such as the world’s best centre forward Harbinder Singh or the world’s best goal-keeper Laxman or the world’s best flanker Bandu Patil, our ‘Sports Sir’ used to blast him: “I don’t want you to talk about those men. They are special, and you may not be able to match their capabilities. And that would frustrate you. That may reduce your passion. So, never think of those icons. First concentrate on what you are at this point and train well. Never, never copy the icons. That will not serve you well”.

That advice remained etched in the mind, helping us when we pursued various sporting disciplines subsequently during college years with reasonable success. The philosophy of our ‘Sports Sir’ worked wonders for most of us. As we grew older, we did develop role models in the sporting legends of the day. Yet, internally, we often told ourselves that we had to evolve as decent players by focusing on our own game and skill rather than looking at this or that icon.

Today, thanks to the excessive media coverage, every child has seen every legend in action. Every sports instructor or coach, too, gives ample examples of sporting icons to be emulated by kids. Our dear ‘Sports Sir’ often told us, “Never allow your focus to be altered just by looking at the icons. Remember, at one point, that iconic player, too, was a kid like you and worked hard to achieve a high level of excellence”.

How true!
Today, as kids talk of Sachin Tendulkar as a household name, they tend to see only the records broken or created by the great maestro. Most kids, however, do not remember the back-breaking work by the youngster whose name happened to be Sachin Tendulkar. Their outlook is clouded by Sachin’s tremendous popularity and his fantastic records and mind-boggling statistics. Their first tendency, therefore, is to copy Sachin so that they would traverse the same path as Sachin did.

Fundamentally, this militates against the principle of excellence as the most individual of planned action. The glitz and glamour that surround the name of Sachin Tendulkar often afflict the kid’s way of looking at things. So, by way of effort, what remains is only the style with little substance.

It was because of this reason that our ‘Sports Sir’ did not appreciate our mad followership of sporting icons. He often insisted that in sports the child has to evolve his or her own method of coping with the demand of the discipline. It is perfectly fine to seek inspiration from icons, but such an inspiration is more influenced by the glamour attached to
the icon’s fame. What matters most, our ‘Sports Sir’ said, was how the child copes with the demand of the moment out in the middle -- in any discipline.

Sunil Gavaskar had once told me, “Vijay, when a Malcolm Marshal bowls at you at 125 km an hour, you do not remember even your father’s name. It is only Malcolm versus Sunil. That’s all. Nothing else helps.”

This observation based on a legend’s own experience makes the right case with the right pitch. If we want our kids to do well in sports, do encourage them to seek inspiration from icons but without their glitz, without their records. Encourage the child to evolve his or her own system of self-inspiration. For, it is in that zone that icons are made.
All the best!