Sports Psychology - A South Asian Take

Brown culture - Is it full of wealth heaped with a millennia of traditions and history or just an abyss of toxicity? 

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South Asia is a region where sports are nothing short of a festival! Be it the World Cups or domestic leagues, we enjoy it to the fullest. However, our mindset is also that sports can only be celebrated and enjoyed, not pursued. The older generation in South Asian countries struggles to accept their children in any occupation, except that of prestigious positions (Doctor/engineer/etc.) This problem has been repressed for so long that it’s starting to take a significant toll on South Asian childrens’ mental health and hence must be addressed.

In other parts of the world, like the United States, people have more freedom to choose their hobbies and career paths. Meanwhile, in Asian countries, kids are presented with very limited career choices, as our parents only allow certain fields. Unfortunately, sports does not fall in that exclusive list of suitable careers and, as a result, anyone who is naturally talented in sports or wants to pursue it has to fight against social resistance. This in turn requires them to have a strong enough mentality to be able to play even after that. 

In the case of sports, just as in most things, it is an imperfect blend of both. While we are the home of sports like ‘kabaddi’ and are one of the most passionate fans and players of sports like cricket and football (soccer), we also have a habit of both overtly and covertly undermining and discouraging sports.

Parenting plays an integral part in this discouragement because even though watching and discussing sports brings everyone in the family together; parents are quick to diminish any interest their child may have in sports. This thought is ingrained in the fact that most parents believe the only path to success is to study the sciences and go off to a first-world country with a high-paying job. Parents are all for their children going off to play in the afternoons, however, they snark at the very thought of a child wanting to develop themselves further in a career of sports. Hence, through such stark discouragement, children are pressured into studying and are taken away from an activity they may have been genuinely talented at. This has an adverse effect on the child’s mental health and bears the risk of them becoming neurotic study freaks. Hence they ultimately get less than average results in academics and suffer from worsening mental health due to careers they aren’t passionate about. 

A major drawback to our sports scenario is the under-participation of girls. Most parents still rely on the backward mentality that the only way to progress in life for a girl is via marriage, and simultaneously they hold on to an extremely shallow and superficial definition of beauty. Therefore, for many girls, it is a hindrance as they are stopped from playing outdoors due to fears of them becoming too manly by growing muscles. The older generation believes that it will be harder to marry off a muscular girl, and as a result puts a stop to girls engaging in sports. This issue is not just confined to the views of parents or relatives; even coaches discriminate against girls. This leads them to eventually stop playing altogether, resulting in them becoming mentally weakened. 

However, all hope is not lost.

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While the situation is riddled with problems, we have made many advances. To promote the participation of girls and differently-abled children, many steps have been taken. More and more girls teams are being invited—not only from urban areas but also from villages—to participate in official and high-end tournaments. At national inter-school tournaments, girls teams from remote rural areas are invited. This helps boost their self-esteem and confidence. This is further bolstered when they do well in the competitions. Events like this help them improve themselves, not only in competitive spirit or skill, but also by gaining mental strength. This results in a stronger psyche. Furthermore, children with intellectual disabilities are being included in sports. Even though the change is slow, it shows signs of being major progress. It is said that children with learning disabilities must always be kept engaged in activities to keep their mental balance and state healthy. Pushing them to pursue sports is a very good way to do so. They will become stronger mentally and be able to boast a robust psyche along with a fit physique.

Another crucial positive point is that South Asian countries have dedicated sports programs and institutes. For example, in Bangladesh, there is BKSP, a school that offers a counter path through higher education by giving extra emphasis on sports. Most of the athletes that represent Bangladesh on the international front are graduates from BKSP. So having such institutes become encouraging for the youth and also sometimes work in changing the attitudes of parents towards sports thus helping the young generation to pursue sports and keep their mental state healthy. 

All information and images utilized were from Faiyaz Hasan directly.


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