Benefits of Playing a Sport


Does playing a sport make you a better human being? Shreyashi DasGupta finds out


Sports Minister KPS Gill recently asked all schools to make sports a compulsory daily activity. For children who are preoccupied with their studies, tuitions, activity classes and other commitments, sports are usually on the back burner. Most children have less than an hour's free time on hand and often hate using that time to do any sort of physical exercise. They prefer to chill, watch television or play a video game instead.

The question that arises in many minds then is whether there is even a need for sports, especially since children are active almost all day long. Dr Kshitija Rao answers in the affirmative, "Definitely. Despite their hectic lives, it is important for children to play at least one sport. It builds up stamina and appetite and helps children deal with unforeseen situations. The sporting arena is a place where one has to deal with unexpected and unpredictable situations and this helps the child build team spirit and mental strength. It also helps a child deal with both success and failure."

Viren Rasquinha, former captain of the Indian hockey team and Chief Operating Officer, Olympic Gold Quest, recalls, "I was a very shy and quiet child. I had a natural flair for hockey, which actually is a physically demanding sport. Though I wasn't heavily built, I joined a team where I interacted with team members, designed a strategy for the game and so on. This boosted my confidence and my communication skills. Today, I can proudly say that hockey has taught me plenty of lessons in life."

He adds, "The importance of sports is slowly gaining ground in India. We need to create more role models and heroes in this field for parents to promote sports actively to their children. And only this will help children's overall development and also bring our country more medals and fame."

Another important factor that many ignore is the increase in sedentary diseases amongst today's youngsters. Dr Kshitija says, "Obesity, irritation, lack of stamina, poor bone development, anaemia and tiredness are some common complaints amongst children today and the reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, children consume a lot of packaged foods, which have absolutely no nutritional value. In fact, this food is converted into fat. When children avoid sports and activities, this fat accumulates in their bodies and leads to obesity. The other reason is the lack of activity. Children are being forced by their parents to excel in all that they do. Children need to remember that it is not important to excel in a sport, but it is important to be on the field working your body out."

A recent study by Nicole M La Voi, Associate Director of the Tucker Centre for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, USA shows that when boys and girls are physically active, they reap both developmental and health benefits and develop into better, more successful human beings.

Ulkaa Maji, a teacher at Lourdes Convent in Surat and a mother of a nine-year old says, "My son, Hriday, has been playing lawn tennis for the last three years. We have seen a vast improvement in his energy levels. I actively advise all my friends to encourage their children to take up a sport."

While everyone agrees that sports have health benefits, Sakina Ahmed, a 10-yearold from St Joseph's Convent, Bhopal says, "I love to play basketball because it improves my leadership qualities and helps me become a team player." Psychologist H’vovi Bhagwagar agrees, "The sports ground is one place where children learn the importance of team play and how everyone’s contribution leads to overall success. Games boost individual morals and leadership skills."

Sayunktha Anchan, a 13-year-old from Sardar Vallabhai Patel Vidyalaya also feels the same way. She says, "I joined a girls' cricket team to improve my concentration skills. The warm-up exercises and the lessons given by the coach were a big part of the process. Today, I can easily say that I would not have achieved all that I have without sports being a part of my life."