When I was young, I never really thought of sport as being a potential career option. Being born to Indian parents it seemed apparent that I was only ever going to end up pursuing a career as a doctor, an engineer, or a businessman. As I grew older, I started developing a true admiration for a wide variety of sports. However, by the time I started seeing sport as a viable profession, I was already halfway through my degree and a bit too old to consider going down that path.
Today, I am an avid sports fan who spends hours on end following the world of sport. It’s an engrossing hobby; admiring great feats of athleticism that I could only dream of being able to accomplish myself. As I watch these sports however, something that always strikes me is the vast under-representation and poor performance of Indians in international sport. Sure, we perform reasonably well in cricket, but why aren’t we any good at all the other sports? Where are all the Indian soccer stars? What about track and field stars? What about ones in American sports? The under-representation becomes notably apparent when I watch international events such as the Summer Olympics, where it astonishes me that India’s best ever Olympic performance featured just 1 gold medal and 2 bronze medals (Beijing 2008). This performance ranked us lower on the medal table than the likes of Mongolia, Thailand, and even Azerbaijan.
So why can’t a country of 1.17 billion produce a respectable batch of global sportsmen? One aversion that Indians may have to choosing sport as a profession is the high risk high reward factor; either you make it big, or you live a life of mediocrity always thinking about what could have been. The Indian public generally prefers pursuing a career that will guarantee a good future. I respect this standpoint, but at the same time I feel that if Indians gave a career in sport a real go, we could well be at the forefront of most if not all sports.
What makes me think that Indians can get anywhere in sports? Well, I feel that we possess a few key attributes that, if used appropriately, can help us get to the top. Firstly, Indians are some of the hardest working and most perseverant people in the world; be it our jobs or our otherwise, we strive to ensure that we achieve whatever goals we have set for ourselves. We are also quite level headed; we can keep our cool in pressure situations. Most importantly however, we are an intelligent populace with the capacity to learn and apply a wide variety of concepts in our everyday lives.
How do these attributes apply to being good at sports? Well, hard work and perseverance are both quite self explanatory; sportsmen need to train day in and day out and overcome a great deal of physical and mental obstacles to reach their ultimate goals. Level-headedness is quite important for sportsmen, who need to keep their focus both on and off the field and not get flustered by external factors such as pressure from the media. The final attribute of intelligence is often overlooked. To be a successful sportsman, you need to maintain a good knowledge of the sport. You need analytical skills in order to evaluate your opposition, develop strategies to capitalize on their weaknesses, and improve your own game plan. In most sports today, strategy is just as important as skill. Though their impact may vary from sport to sport, all the listed attributes are still very crucial in order to achieve greatness in sports.
Is there really any benefit in India, as a nation, excelling at sports? There most certainly is. The whole world engages in watching and playing sports and, more recently, it has become a promising career option around the world. Be it coaching, physiotherapy, management, broadcasting, journalism, or actually playing the sport, the field offers a wide variety of career opportunities. At the moment, with the exception of cricket, these opportunities are not readily available in India. However, we all know that economies are driven by public demand. With increased public interest and enthusiasm in a wider variety of sports, the nation may well be able to embrace sport as a profession and develop world class athletes in multiple codes. Whether this will ever happen for India is entirely up to you, the Indian public.
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