A couple of months ago, I was witness to a bunch of parents helping their children cheat in an exam.
Yep, you heard me right. They stood at the venue and shouted verbal instructions to their kids – pointing out the problems, indicating solutions, asking them to look around, hurry, and even lean on and take from other kids.
The exam was a football match at an international tournament, and the parents were soccer moms and dads, shouting instructions from the sidelines; As if the lakhs of rupees they spent on the kids over the years to learn football under skilled coaches, was of zero value; As if their kids didn’t have a mind of their own, or any skills to help them play a decent game.
When I voiced the fact that this was disturbing the kids’ concentration and game (my son was playing too), most of the parents looked at me as if I committed some kind of religious blasphemy – and retorted “what nonsense! we’re only cheering them on!”
And in an instant, I became the bad guy, the grouchy parent of the group.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against loud cheering and even competitive jeering. But there’s a difference between encouraging your team and discouraging it.
Screams of “Aagey dekh”, “bhaag yaar, kya kar raha hai…”, “so raha hain kya”, “pass kyon nahin karta??!”, and “too much style beta…” is not cheering.
Worse, you shout and don’t let the kids play their game, which is really good as they’re a talented bunch. You’re their parent, and they’re just 10-11 years old. Your voice is going to overrule their instinct, training, and coach’s instructions. So don’t blame them if their teamwork falls apart, basis your armchair instructions.
The funny part is, the same parents who shouted from the sidelines how badly the kids were playing, or how unfocussed they were in the game, come running to pamper the kids after the match with “Good game guys, very well played… Chal ab juice pee ley!” and promptly take them away for distracting shopping in a mall, just like they did before the start of the match.
So neither do the kids get to think about their game, nor do they know if they did good or bad.
That’s the problem with sports in India. It’s seen more as entertainment for the audiences, and surrogate sports for the armchair critic. The players themselves are puppets in the hands of their masters (and in this case, parents), who raise you up on their shoulders like heroes in a jiffy, then knock you down in an instant. And we all go home happy that we played a role in encouraging sport in our youth and the country.
If we want to make a change in sports, and see our kids excel in truly great sporting events and positions of life, we have to force ourselves to stop at giving them the right training, encouragement, and opportunities. And then let them play their game, without interference.
It’s only then will they realize that their game isn’t as good, or perhaps is even better, than what their doting parents think it is.
Because when it comes to real life, they’re not going to have you on the sidelines helping them cheat for success. Are you..?