I was asked to speak at a seminar at COD, Madhapur by Magic Bus, an NGO that promotes sports for development. Magic Bus and NGO has already done much good work by creating models that are low cost and easy to do where they work with children in the age group of 7-15 and use sports to bring a change. They also train young volunteer 'coaches' in the ages of 17+ who become role models for the younger ones. Their initiatives are in the areas of formal education, gender sensitivity, health and nutrition, livelihood, leadership and right to play. Magic Bus works in urban, rural and interior areas and gives organised training to children deprived of games and sports working through its five pillars of fun, participation, experiential learning, safety and mentoring. Magic Bus hopes to develop qualities such as self-esteem, respect and hopes to make its work self sustaining.
Yesterday Magic Bus organised a conference titled 'Sports as a catalyst for social change' and I was asked to moderate the first session named after the same topic. The inaugural was presided by Chief Guest Amala Akkineni (who looked almost exactly as she did 20 years ago when she acted in 'Shiva' and 'Pushpak'), Guests of honour Dr. Chellappa, I.A.S., Ms. Vasudha Mishra, I.A.S., Special guests Ravikanth Reddy, former Indian volleball captain, Mr. Vivek Ramchandani, Coordinator India, Australian Sports Outreach Programme and Ms. Anuradha Prasad of Dr. Reddy's Foundation. ASOP and DRF were the chief sponsors of the program.
After the inaugural speeches, we got into the session on social change and i was joined by a panel that consisted of Pratik Kumar, CEO Magic Bus, Jerome, MRF, Vijay, Deccan Chronicle and Venkat Rao, TGV. It was a shortened session owing to the length of the previous one and the panelists spoke of their experiences and views in using sports as a catalyst.
Let me add the gist of my thought on the subject. "I have always felt quite strongly that sports should not merely be treated as an optional extra curricular activity – that it must be an integral part of a child’s education. Sports puts into practice all values and beliefs that we try to shape through theory. To me sport, is a true representation, a microcosm of life, that teaches through its unforgiving and uncompromising manner, much more than education, more than degrees. To me education gave me only doubt, when at twenty, I was really not equipped to handle the world - something that sport did. In fact sport taught me all that is sustaining me today, shaped my world view. Honesty and excellence, winning and losing, discipline and compassion, diligence and sacrifice, faith and belief, trust and empowerment, resilience and equanimity - were all learned from the sports arena. Reasons good enough why a child should be given a choice to play organised sport. And mostly because one learns through experience and not theory.
Some reasons why I consider sports a better way to impact the child/youth is that the results are immediate (you compete and you know), results are not subjective and are measurable and quantifiable (the only truth is whether you have crossed the line or not), winning and losing become a reality (one learns to accept that).
I feel that our main purpose in life is to express ourselves the best and sports to me is the most natural way of expression – of all forms of intelligence - to a child or youth. Give an open space and see how their energy explodes.
Typically the space to express is denied to children once they start going to school. Sadly the time when they need to express themselves the most, the are completely suppressed. Children and adolescents are torn between the either / or situation created by parents where sports and games are looked down upon. They start feeling guilty about expression (and then parents crib about not being able to communicate with children). The young ones make hard choices and either give on on the family or on sport. Children lose a wonderful form of teaching because of this guilt. All they need is space. All parents need is an understanding that playing is good for their child.
For those sportsmen who rise rise through this system unfortunately their knowledge, their understanding of human dynamics, of human pursuit to excellence goes waste. Society treats their knowledge as almost useless. Most become sports quota people, the has beens. The experience and the learning they bring from the grounds is wasted. (I hid my sporting credentials when I started looking for jobs because recruiters seemed rather disapproving of my long list under cricket). They bring more to the table.
Corporate world, our society needs leaders, managers, people who understand human dynamics, teams, leadership . Sadly most of our leaders come with theory. Sport teaches human dynamics best. Naturally. It makes people work together, get the best out of them, in real situations that demand immediate answers. It rises over caste, creed, colour. Empowerment, trust, teamwork, leadership is all experienced really - not in classrooms and workshops. Even the best managers from the best management institutions are not good at handling people because they never have.
In the end sports is about self esteem more than anything else. If we can give a child a healthy self esteem, we have more than done more our job."
We limited our discussion to creating a level playing field for every individual to access sports through a change in mindset about sport, creating opportunity for children to play in by creating spaces, self sustaining models, use of sportsmen and providing recognition through competitions thus helping in building of self-esteem through alternate means.
Magic bus is doing wonderful work as we could see from their young and enthusiastic coaches and I am sure they will do a wonderful job in the future as well. The conference was of course to sensitise the CSR departments of some corporates to support Magic Bus and there were quite a few who showed up. If anyone wants to chip in, please do contact Magic Bus.