TFI Diaries 19: To play or not to play!

“Competitive sports are played mainly on a five-and-a-half inch court, the space between your ears.” –Bobby Jones, US Golfer

If you were/are a student in the Indian education setting, more often than not you would have heard the following statements. “You can play as much cricket as you want after your exams.”, “I don’t want you to play sport in the evenings anymore! Your exams are only a month away!”, “Why are you always playing? Why can’t you just read a book?”, “Don’t bother investing time in sports; It’s only for those who can’t perform in academics.”

Over the past month we had been debating at school whether to have a sports day or not. Especially since we already had an Annual day this year, and we were already well into the revision week before the final term exams! But despite the low enthusiasm and dilly dallying by the team, my co Teach for India fellow took it upon himself to make it happen! From the planning, team divisions, prelims, material gathering and ground markings to getting the kids pumped up about sports day, he did it all! And somehow we all got into the groove too!

What we saw unfold over the three days was the stuff of what cricket world cups in India and super bowls in the US are made of! We saw instinctive team spirit emerge among kids and we saw mutual pep talks by 10 year olds.  While we saw discipline, focus and sheer talented dark horses in individual games; we saw team work, insane cheering, collaboration and strategic planning in the team events. We saw kids internalizing the concept of “One team one mission” in their play. We saw kids follow score tallies and applying math to calculate the points they needed to win!  While teachers were exhausted, despite the heat, sweat, dust, dirt and fatigue, we saw sustained enthusiasm from kids all through out!

We noticed kids display skills and qualities that we don’t remember teaching in the classroom. And then it struck me, some things can’t ever be taught in a classroom! They are only learnt by “playing” on the playground. They are learnt by failing, falling, crying, getting hurt, bleeding and then getting up once more till you succeed!

I often wondered why I never picked up a sport seriously. Growing up, I excelled academically, read a lot, painted a lot, and goofed around a lot. But I never took up a sport seriously. I have no one to blame this on but me. To me the idea of curling up with a book always sounded more fun that sweating it out in the dirt and heat on the ground. But unknowingly there are a lot of things I never experienced when compared to my sporty friends. Emotions like unreasonable team spirit, skills like true collaboration and lessons in failing numerous times before succeeding. Of course I did learn them eventually. But I have never truly felt passionate about sport and maybe I never truly will, but watching these kids indulge in sport and learning from it whole-heartedly sure lets me relive my childhood in a way that I never did.

This is dedicated to the most disciplined and delightful sportsman and crazy sports aficionado that I have had the pleasure to know over my Teach for India fellowship – Vikas Plakkot, Training and expansion Manager, Just for Kicks 🙂 Vikas literally sleeps, breathes, eats and lives football and sport in general. When he is not teaching or organizing games, look for the smallest possible open space and you will find him there with the kids and a football. And that is all he has ever needed.

Don’t miss the photographs by another of our very talented and crazy sportsmen, Arnab Thodkar. Thanks for the fabulous clicks!

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