When I joined the Indian Police Service training at the National Police Academy, my squad was infamous for ending up last in most outdoor competitions.
We were divided into 8 squads, which then competed in all outdoor activities. I was good at running but except for a Doon School guy among us, nobody had played any sport.
When we played hockey, the stick and the ball refused to connect. Even in other sports, we did no better. But since we were all equally bad, we did not mind being pathetic.
However, that was the first time I realized why sports and fitness matter. And the blame for our ineptitude partly goes to our schooling system.
Schools love grades and marks because they translate into better degrees and jobs. But sports is considered just a harmless distraction, at best. After all, how many people become professional athletes?
But while sports and fitness may not fetch you a better job, the goal of life is not a job but to just live well. And that is why we need fitness, not to qualify for IPL.
And I can personally vouch that nothing adds more punch to our life than fitness. If I don’t run for a few days, I start feeling horrible.
Today, many schools in Trivandrum put up big hoardings showcasing photos of little kids and their grades – A+ or ‘10’ or something like that. But I can guarantee that not one kid in a hundred gets appreciated for being athletic.
With due respect, I feel that our single-minded focus on grades is a bit misplaced. We need kids to play, run, and be fit. Just as we need them to write, paint, debate, and do creative work. Just as we need them to learn science, maths, and history.
We need balance.
The maniacal focus on grades is turning our kids into guinea pigs only for the schools to advertise their success rates and make insecure parents even more insecure.
I never played much sports. But I would like our children to grow up differently. Excellence in academics and sports is not an ‘either/or’ choice – both are possible. And both should happen.
We need holistic schools, not cram schools.