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All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Sports is an integral part of a child’s overall education and development as it helps in improving their social skills, physical and mental health.

Brand stories Updated: Aug 24, 2016 12:11 IST
Playing and engaging in outdoor activities or sports are indispensable to a child’s development and growth.
Playing and engaging in outdoor activities or sports are indispensable to a child’s development and growth.(Pexels)

“Finish your homework first, and then go out to play.” Does that sound all too familiar? Most parents in India are only too risk averse when it comes to their children. And while it may seem like a logical option at first to keep sports as the last activity on the list, most do not realise the potential long-term harm they are causing their kids.

“Sports as a career is still a question mark in India, but there is no doubt that it has to be a mandatory part of the curriculum,” says Vasundhra Singh Thakur, counsellor and inclusive educator. Vasundhara has consulted for several Delhi schools and is currently settled in Mumbai.

She added that sports have often been used as therapy to improve language and maths. “Sports improves thinking skills, even simple things like a ball game. Hopscotch has been used for maths, since the child learns a lot faster this way.”

Sports should not be seen as an end in itself, say experts, but as a means to improve social skills, physical and mental health for children. Team sports such as football help children develop leadership skills and understand the dynamics of teams, while individual sports such as tennis and badminton help young kids in learning how to control extreme emotions such as wins and losses.

“Playing a sport channelizes the extra energy in children and helps in concentration. Any activity that helps kids exert and focus is very good for concentration. It helps a child understand various commands and build a respect for leadership,” says Vasundhra.

Several key life skills such as patience, resilience and self-confidence can also be easily taught to young children through the subtle and engaging medium of sports. However, the choice of sports should be complementary and carefully identified by parents. For example, experts say that children training in tennis should not be playing badminton or table tennis. Instead, such children should go for swimming and athletics, which helps build stamina, and supports cardio-vascular growth.

“Interaction with their own age group is very important to build social skills and understand perspectives of other children – like sharing etc. This includes issues like sibling rivalry. The problem is especially acute with single parents,” another child expert said.

In fact, experts feel that children who continue playing certain sports at a competitive level through their adolescence and teens, also manage better in academics. The trick, however, is to keep a balance where parents have a key role. Sports helps children organise complex thoughts and develop a healthy competitive spirit. The sense of discipline that one needs to play competitive sports at a higher level goes a long way in developing a certain attitude of dedication in academics.

“Play area activity in most major cities is shrinking. Sports is not considered lucrative as a career, so parents focus less on it. Parents feel it can be done without. But there is a regional perspective, the focus on sports in Mumbai is more as compared to Delhi. The city is better at accepting different career options,” Vasundhra said.

Sports has received a major boost in the country in the past few years with many corporates increasing funding that has helped create infrastructure and formal support systems for budding athletes. Besides cricket, several other sports such as hockey, football, badminton and kabaddi are now breaking out with the formation of new local clubs and league competitions.

To encourage a healthy outdoor lifestyle, HT Media has launched the Season 3 of the Great Indian Football Action (GIFA) in the Delhi NCR region. With over 2,000 teams already registered for GIFA this year, the country’s largest football tournament is open to kids in two categories - junior and senior. To know more about HT GIFA, visit