Not all of us think this way but I am utterly convinced of the need for each of us to indulge in at least one outdoor sport, irrespective of age or girth. Someone who sleeps early in order to play soccer with his mates in the wee hours of the next morning has my vote for sure! What’s more, he or she indubitably spends the rest of the day high on energy and enthusiasm. A regular player will rue the morning when he has to miss a game due to rain or exigency. He will just not feel ‘right’ that day.
A popular social media quote goes like this- ‘No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everybody on the couch!’ Nothing could be truer. What matters is that we play or run or walk or whatever- no one expects us to become as brilliant as Bolt or Brathwaite! We can perform badly or lamely or ridiculously, the point is that we have to go out and play.
Golfers are aplenty these days, and they have the best of both worlds. They don’t have to run at all and thus their knees do not get tested or testy. Yet they play a sport which entails hours of outdoor entertainment and fitness. It is another matter that a golfer will tell a tennis player that tennis is supposedly not good for the knees of the forty-plus brigade!
Tennis and badminton aficionados do not let such banter affect them though. I have played with seventy-somethings who cock-a-snook at those who tell them to slow down. They are often more alacritous and agile than several thirty-somethings. And the joie de vivre that they ooze in oodles is just amazing to behold.
As a nation we are not known to be sporty types, even though we have produced some great sportspersons and a majority of Indians are fitter than the peoples of many other countries. What we need to do in order to inculcate a habit of sports in the populace is to provide basic facilities to kids and allow them to play in school sports grounds after schools close for the day.
Mr SD Bhambri, a former administrator, plays squash even today and he is ninety years of age! Whenever I ask him the secret of his fitness he says it is all in the mind and the body follows orders. Some of my friends had never participated in any sport but took up running in their middle years and they now run half-marathons.
Those who have never stepped on to a sporting arena, small or big, and have not smelt the grass after diving to stop a ball or something like that, have really missed something in their lives. Whatever the reason may be, a frail constitution or just a cultural aversion to sports, a human being has not savoured enough of life if he or she has not had the opportunity or inclination to be on a sports field.
The Chandigarh region is a prime example of how sports infrastructure can be created and preserved even in India. From hosting a Davis Cup semi final to a couple of Cricket World Cup semis, to providing soccer, hockey, cricket, tennis, badminton, swimming and athletics facilities in abundance, the city and the vicinity have what it takes to support a gentry that loves its sport.
Sport instils a sense of balance in youngsters and they learn that winning and losing are a part of life. There is also a need to inspire the younger generations to idolise those who bring out the goose pimples in them. There is no zing to life without a dose of inspiration, and no better way to spur our youth on than by sharing tales of sporting greats with them.
Thus it is not a bad idea to reminisce from time to time about heroes of yesteryears like Borg-McEnroe, Graf-Navratilova, Botham-Kapil-Imran-Hadlee, or modern day greats like Messi, Ronaldo, De Villiers, Phelps, Sania-Hingis, Saina Nehwal, Djokovic and the rest.
If their feats do not instil in our kids an urge to play outdoors, then nothing else will!