From a sport-loving nation, we must transform into a sport-playing nation: Sachin Tendulkar | Off the field News

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By Sachin Tendulkar
To Indians all over the world, today is a momentous day. We celebrate 75 years of Independence. This is the right time to think about freedom, and what it means to all of us. In the last two years, the very fabric of human existence has been impacted.
With Covid-19 forcing all of us to be cooped up inside our homes, we have all realized how we have taken smaller things for granted – the freedom to move around at will and breathe freely.
This is perhaps why, when professional sports resumed last year, or the Olympics finally happened in Tokyo this year, all of us felt a sense of liberation. Albeit on TV, it felt good to finally see humans being able to step out and express ourselves.

Unfortunately, the human tendency has been to realise the value of something only after losing it. Most of us take our health for granted. India is one of the youngest but not the fittest nation in the world. This also reflects in the lack of sporting culture.
While it was very heartening to see people wake up early and cheer for India during the Tokyo Olympics, what will be truly remarkable is to see people get inspired and pick up a sport to play. We have been a sport-loving nation, but we need to transform to a sport-playing nation.
How we see our children reflects how we envision our future. When pandemic forced our schools to shut, the poor were left without education. And the privileged few saw virtual mediums as a substitute for continuing education.

We haven’t however, substituted our children’s sports – because we don’t see that as education, or as essential. Sport isn’t just a physical activity, it builds character, inculcates leadership qualities, and helps us appreciate interpersonal relationships – these are the very elements that make us human.
The devastating impact of the pandemic on the mental health of everyone, children in particular, is coming out clear in various studies. We cannot afford to ignore our mental health – we cannot continue to ignore sports and the role they play in not just our physical health, but our mental health as well.
As schools start to reopen in a staggered manner, there is a worry that physical education (PE) periods will be ignored to make up for the lost academic sessions. We need to start taking sports seriously – perhaps this is the right time to ensure that we have PE classes everyday instead of once a week. Possibly beginning everyday with PE classes will improve how children perform in other academic subjects throughout the day.

While I hope the heroics of medal-winning Olympians inspires all our children to pick up any sport, what will be truly remarkable is when sport integrates into our daily lives. Several Olympians from other countries have successful parallel careers.
In fact, Jessica Morrison, a Tokyo 2021 gold medallist (part of the Australian rowing team), works with a leading consulting organisation.
In India, most people have to make a choice between career and sport. If our children can all pick up sports, not all of them may become sportspersons – but they will definitely grow up into healthy engineers, doctors, lawyers etc.

As all of us plan for reopening of schools, we all remain cognisant of the growing risk of Covid-19. While we adapt to remote learning in the eventuality of schools getting shut again, let us also have plans to ensure we and our children remain physically active.
While our dependency on mobiles has increased, let us keep reminding ourselves not to remain ‘immobile’. The ‘freedom to play’ is as important as the ‘right to education’. Let’s also be patient and empathetic towards all children as they return to schools – not everyone may have had access to remote learning.
On the occasion of our 75th Independence Day, let us all take a pledge – to transform India from a sport-loving nation to a sport playing nation. We all have a responsibility towards the health of our nation. Jai Hind!

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