Recently Little Po and Ms. Papaya went for a toddlers’ event.
The air was festive and the competition healthy. The message sent out to the little ones was that all that mattered was that they be there. Everyone would get a chocolate medal at the end of it all.
In fact, the common refrain I’ve heard from my grandchildren is that ‘it doesn’t matter ‘.
For them, they’ve been brought up to believe that winning or losing doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you just do it.
A dismal introduction to sports
I must admit that I was a lousy ‘athlete’. The nearest I came to regular exercise was using my mandibles to chew and exercising my vocal chords to scream. PE ( Physical Education) or PT ( Physical Training) as it was called in the various schools that I attended was plain boring.
Changing out of our regular uniforms and getting into PE clothes was a large part of the class. The PE uniform was made of regular cotton: thick and serviceable. The tops were made of casement while the shorts or culottes were made of drill (which the teacher often insisted had to be starched). Our socks had to be white and the white canvas shoes that we wore were so thin soled that we could easily feel every pebble. To top it all, the shoes had to be polished white with a thin liquid made from some kind of chalk. At least I think it was chalk because it would always become rock hard once the bottle was opened.
The class itself consisted of running round the hall or playground, then lining up one behind the other for various drills that involved rotating our arms and legs, doing back and forward bends, jumps, squats and to the count shouted out by the teacher.
Sometimes this was livened up with gymnastics where we had to tumble on to smelly, lumpy mattresses that we had to lug into position, do high jumps and long jumps, vault on the horse, hang from Roman Rings and do monkey tricks on parallel bars. Seeing the competence of our gym teacher, I used to dread these classes even more than the drill as I genuinely feared for my life.
So whatever desire I had to excel in sports was completely killed by this outdated equipped and lack lustre style of teaching.
Even when we played games like Net Ball, Kho kho, tennis, hockey or Throw Ball, what really mattered was Winning.
Of course form was important too . It mattered that you did it just right. It mattered that your clothes were just right . It mattered that you displayed sportsmanship in its truest sense with fair play and consideration for your opponents and partners.
But today when I attend the Toddlers’ sports days, there is scant regard for any of these things. Firstly, PE clothes are worn from home itself – so there is no question of spending half the period in changing clothes.
Then the clothes themselves are made of knitted fabric which makes movements much easier.
As for sports shoes – they come in any colour but white. They can also be washed in the washing machine.
And as far as the games are concerned – winning doesn’t matter. All that you need to do is show up. So everyone gets a medal irrespective.
Now while this is ok in a democracy, it doesn’t work in real life where meritocracy decides one’s success.
A child who doesn’t know how to face defeat doesn’t know how to handle such a situation. Similarly, a child whose effort isn’t rewarded will soon lose motivation to excel and differentiate himself from others.
So to all those who say that ” it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, ” all I can say that it does.
Tomorrow once more SoBo will play host to thousands of runners participating in the Mumbai Marathon. Now here is a race which is arduous. So this is one event where I would say that winning doesn’t really matter finishing it is more important.
So to all those participating, I wish you good luck. May you have a good race day!