The great English poet, Joseph Rudyard Kipling, better known for his famous piece of fiction, The Jungle Book also happened to be the author of the poem ‘If’. A masterpiece that has been passed down from generation to generation as the strongest bulwark against anything that is anti-humane or anti-integrity. His eloquent lines on victory and defeat, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same” adorn the hallowed walls at Wimbledon
It is safe to presume, that he meant to say, there is nothing known as Victory and there is absolutely nothing known as Defeat. There is only a journey that is characterized by relentless striving towards excellence, learning and maintaining one’s character and integrity while doing so.
It is strange but one’s personal character and integrity are always best judged by their performance and conduct in a sporting arena far more than they are in a board room. Since time immemorial, sports and such associated competitive activities have proven the best litmus tests to judge a Man and his true core. Sports is possibly the only environment where a person doesn’t get time to calculate his or her reaction and what remains to be seen is only the purest of the human spirit.
This brings us to the core of this article. It is my strongest of beliefs that the greatest gift a parent can give their child, is to introduce them to the magical and glorious world of Competitive Sport. Be it anything, but it must encourage you to compete against your peers and sometimes a rival who is way beyond your league. It brings with it so many life lessons that even the most formidable Harvard MBA will not be able to teach you. The ability to show humility in victory and grace in defeat can only be acquired through Sport and only those who have experienced it can truly put their hands on their heart and say they have lived a life worth living.
Sports teaches you that there no shame in failing as long as know in your heart that you worked hard to prepare and gave your best performance when it mattered the most. Hence it is not surprising that some of the wealthiest people in the world are sportsmen and women. MS Dhoni, Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, Sachin Tendulkar, Roger Federer were not paid because they were great at their sport, but they were also paid because they were great sportsmen. They were all as gracious in defeat as they were in Victory and that is the only thing that sets the Men apart from the Boys.
Western countries have created a strong culture for creating sportspeople even before they are born. Their parents envisage the kind of upbringing and value system they would instill in their wards before they are even conceived. Playing a sport in school, college and university is not something of choice but a way of living. Hence the sheer superior physical ability and hence the superior sporting results. If Olympic medal tallies are a yardstick to go by then we as Indians can certain take a page or maybe the whole book from the Australian’s playbook. Our citizens are now fortunate to have access to more dispensable incomes and more sporting facilities than my parents did when I began playing golf 28 years ago. But they had the foresight to encourage us to play sports rather than engaging in other pantomime activities. They were of course fortunate and aided in their task that the arch enemies of Sports were non-existent then. Back then, the Laptop, the PlayStation, the iPad, the iPhone, The Various Galaxies of Samsung, PVR, Netflix, Malls and Big Boss were not in the Indian orbit and hence we enjoyed an unencumbered sporting life.
The number of stories of parents asking talented children to sacrifice promising sporting careers are in abundance. We are governed by an innate fear that if my son or daughter doesn’t make it big then hopefully his basic degree will get him a job that feeds and shelters him. This destroys the persons self-esteem and confidence in themselves. I ask, why can’t he or she do both. Everywhere in the world people do it. Anil Kumble is an engineer for heavens sake!
If words are what matter…then these words are worth their weight in gold. Because these are they words that sports and only sports can give you:
SPIRIT, CAMARADRIE, HUMILITY, INTEGRITY, GRACE, PASSION, SURVIVAL, TENACITY, BELIEF, WHOLSESOME and eventually the feeling of being One with YOURSELF!