AGE CHEATING MUST BE DEALT IN PAR WITH DRUG ABUSE IN SPORTS

 

A very recent column in TOI spoke of the Age verification exercise taken up by the Badminton Association of India. These tests were subsequently held at the All India Institute of Medical sciences at New Delhi on September 16.

This move was to remove age fraud cases from the national camps ahead of the Junior World and Asian Badminton meets. A set of shuttlers were asked to appear and clear the requirements of the test as stipulated by sports authority of India.

This news bit took me back in time to the year 2004-2005: when my son Akhil, a table tennis player representing Karnataka, was participating in National sub junior & junior championships in Chennai.

In the sub-junior singles event he entered the pre-quarter finals and eventually lost to a West-Bengal player: who looked taller, stronger and more mature for this age-category. Most people looked at this boy in suspicion wondering if he legally belonged to the sub-junior age category or whether he was cheating with his age.

It so happened that the TTFI authorities in co-operation with the TNTTA subjected number of players to a surprise age test at a local hospital. The results were not declared till late in the night.

Since it was Akhil’s last event of the tournament and also, since an epidemic was feared- post the tsunami that had ravaged many parts of south India including Chennai: we [including Akhil] hurriedly left to Bangalore the same night.

After having reached Bangalore the next morning I received a phone call from my team manager stating that the boy against whom Akhil lost was debarred from further participation due to over- age and Akhil was promoted and slated to play the quarter-finals at 10.00 am in the morning.

To his utter dismay, he had to concede a walk-over since we hardly had the time to reach Chennai before 10 am. There was gloom in our family and we were plunged in grief to see on the TV screen the announcement of- Akhil conceding a walk-over in the quarter finals. Experiences have a larger bearing on you and this personal experience of age fraud can never be erased from my memory.

Cheating in sports is age-old with drug abuse and age-fraud being the favourite methods adopted by the unethical community: to derive advantages of sporting success. In India the date-of- birth certificate and the school leaving certificate [S.S.L.C or 10th] are considered as the valid age proof for school children. It is a customary practice by this fraud group [present everywhere] to obtain manipulated/ fraudulent/ bogus birth certificates from the state owned Department Registration of Birth and deaths, to be submitted to the schools and in many instances the school records have been changed as per the wishes of the members of this group in collusion with the school authorities.

When the child comes out of the school after 10 Th class or 12 Th class his passing out certificate becomes the authentic legal age proof document which could be boldly presented on demand. Who can dare question this document?

The reason why people resort to this unethical practice is to give the child [player] an unfair advantage over the others in the same age group category. An additional year or two can mean a lot to the growing children physically.

A year or two more means that additional year/two of more practice to hone the skills plus the advantage of physical attributes like the gain in height, stamina and strength. This practice is genuinely unfair as it denies opportunity to the correct age player to compete fairly in the competition.

It is sheer injustice to the honest player [like Akhil] who sacrifices and compromises on a lot of things and works hard with big goals and dreams. When will this stop? In this context the stand taken by Badminton India is a welcome move. I hope many associations follow suit to curb the menace of this scourge group.

It is not just the case of India: the African countries and may be many others, have also been accused of this unfair practice. Nigeria the winners of the U-17 football world cup in three of the last five editions find themselves not qualified for the U-17 soccer WC to be staged in India in October 2017. Reason: A staggering 26 members of the U-17 team failed the age-test carried out ahead of the African Cup of Nations qualifier.

With rapid advancements in science & technology: research related tests to determine the age of an individual have been put forth and it is now up to the sports fraternity across the world to use these facilities and take up the matter earnestly to see injustice does not happen to the just and the ethical community.

My suggestion is to treat this issue in par with drug abuse and create laws suitably.

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STREET SMARTNESS ON THE SPORTS FIELD

You may not be the most intelligent with multiple degrees to boast, but people call you smart because you have lots of common sense: you know your way around with things: you communicate well; your social skills are great and you have the ability to solve life problems.

People say you are shrewd. You possess the mental alertness to take quick practical decisions. You are the GO-TO  man: the kind- of- person who people trust to get the trickiest job done. They very well know you will somehow get the job finished. Guys, if you are one of the kind then- you definitely are street smart.

Street smartness is not restricted to daily life: it has its say in the Sports arena too. Every sport warrants certain skills and techniques that need to be executed in a certain way. More often that is the way your teacher teaches you to perform and these are the fundamentals or the basics over which you game are built.

When your style is confined to these basics- then you are an orthodox player. But, there are many who exhibit their own style which generally is unorthodox. The point here is, though these guys are unorthodox- they are effective and successful. The purists and the connoisseurs may scorn at their style but, that’s the way the Virender Sehwag’s and M.S.Dhoni’s play. Aren’t they successful?

I know of professional golfers whose backswing and downswing may not be according to the coaching manuals: but as the club come down to the point of contact it is in the right position and speed for the ball to fly and go the distance.

Indian wicketkeeper M.S Dhoni’s style of wicket keeping may not be prescribed to the budding wicketkeepers but his records speak for itself-he is effective behind the stumps isn’t he? These guys are smart: they know what it takes to succeed and they have- adapted well.

Brad Gilbert is a former U.S tennis player. He is an Olympic gold medal winner, a Davis cupper. A world number 4 in the year 1990.He wasn’t highly rated and didn’t exhibit great talent but he made his presence felt by troubling the best in business.

His secret lay in playing smartly studying each opponent, his style, strengths and weaknesses. He never played a stereo typed game against everyone. He was known for his pre-game mental preparation. When asked he said ` I don’t over power people, I don’t have flashy shots: I win because I have the ability to implement my game strategy successfully I maximise my strengths and minimise my weaknesses.

I want them to be hitting shots that they don’t like form positions they don’t want.’  [From the book: Winning ugly]. People didn’t admire his style: someone made a comment- `How in the hell does this guy win? He hits like a caveman how found a tennis racquet.’  Isn’t Brad Gilbert Street smart?

You can find Street Smart athletes everywhere. How to look for them and what are the attributes they carry?

Street smart athletes are those:-

  • Who know their strengths and weaknesses and know how to maximise the strengths.
  • Who know their game style: what works for them and what do not.
  • Who are self-aware and learn from the previous mistakes.
  • Who do not repeat the mistakes that gave them grave consequences.
  • Who are percentage players who play within themselves and don’t overdo things.
  • Who learn quickly, know to survive and adapt to the requirements of the of the modern day competitive world.
  • Who are alert, creative and quick at the out-of-the-box
  • Who are cunning and calculative and are quick to seize opportunities.
  • Who don’t overanalyse things and keep it simple. This keeps them in emotional control.
  • Who are not slaves to technique and know what it takes to be effective than perfect.
  • Who are hard workers but they don’t slog aimlessly: they know what it takes holistically to succeed and are not shy for efforts. In short: They work hard but smart.

Street smartness applies to coaches and captains too, they  are aware of how to communicate in different ways to be understood. They know how to be effective and get the work done smartly from their troops.

The legendary footballer PELE a genius by himself once said-` I don’t repeat the same mistake again.’ That’s a SMART footballer for you.

DON’T LET YOUR LACK OF ENTHUSIASM FLOG YOUR RESILIENCY

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Heard of Marvan Atapattu-the Sri Lankan cricketer: if you are a cricket enthusiast then you must have. His story is one of perseverance, resilience and a never-give- up- attitude.

Making his debut in test cricket for Sri Lanka he was out to 0 in both innings. As a result he was dropped for the next test. He went back to domestic cricket made lots of runs and got a recall after 21 months.

This time around he made 0 & 1- failure. Same result- dropped from the test squad. He had to prove himself all over again. He went back to the grind and finally after a gap of 17 months gets another chance to prove his prowess.

The duck luck didn’t seem to have deserted him: he was out to 0 in both innings. Oh! No! Not again- dropped from the team instantly.

Many thought he wouldn’t play for Sri Lanka gain- but Marvan was not willing to give up: he was patient and perseverant, worked hard, made runs and after 3 years won a recall to the test team.

This time he came good and scored. He became a permanent feature of the Sri Lankan side from then on and scored more than 5000 runs with 16 centuries and 6 double centuries. He even captained his country.

What I admire about Marvan Atapattu is his resilience- the ability to bounce back from setbacks, mistakes and adversity.

You see that players are dropped from their team owing to poor performance and it is often the case to see them disappointed, devastated, and de-motivated. It is a common feature with sports persons to be haunted by defeats, setbacks, injuries and adversities in their careers.

You have seen the Yuvraj’s, Raina’s, Dinesh karthik’s, Nehra’s, Harbajan’s staging comeback’s in to the Indian cricket team.  It is even common to see players bounce back in to the match when they are staring at defeat.

To start over all again prove yourself back to reckoning is daunting task but sports persons do it all the time as it is the case of: a chosen career, an unfulfilled ambition or the unwillingness to give up all the glitz, glamour, name, fame and money that is associated with their sport.

You have also seen many athletes return from injuries to be highly successful then on. For all those who have made successful comebacks there have been thousands of athletes who have failed to bounce back.

It is in this in-between period that players go through a lot of turmoil- they think negatively, they doubt themselves, they lose their hope and above all they are not ENTHUSIASTIC enough to work hard, set goals, renew their hope and give their best shot. When your drive [motivation] is on the wane it is very difficult to push yourself to push hard and go through the GRIND all over again.

All you have to do is to be ENTHISIASTIC about your prospects of staging a successful comeback. Your enthusiasm fuels THE DRIVE to set goals, work hard, to be determined and achieve the desired objective.

Your enthusiasm will set up a sense of heightened feeling that would provide the interest to work towards your goals. You will feel the need to get up each morning and slog it out before the sun rises. Be ENTHUSIASTIC with regard to your future endeavours: let it provide the fuel for your legs, fire in the belly and a dash of hope for your brain.

If you are not enthusiastic at your age what would you say of Charles Eugster who started running at 95 years of age? Watch this video-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juLRQf3Na8o

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PRESENT MOMENT AND THE PROCESS

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Shikhar Dhawan, the Indian cricket team’s opening batsmen is going through a purple patch in the middle part of 2017. When asked about the happy zone he is in at the moment [TOI 21/08/17] he said he wanted to enjoy the moment and not lose sleep over the law of averages that would catch up in the future.

He remarked- I am embracing the successful period now. When I was not doing well I was focusing on my processes. When I am doing well I am still focused on my processes.

What does Shikhar mean by being in the process? According to Dictionary.com PROCESS is referred to as a continuous action, operation or series of changes taking place in a definite manner [to bring about a specific result].

Sports persons have to perform series of movements or actions based on the opponent moves or respond to a moving ball or a shuttle or even a stationary ball or a target. And, for this process to happen successfully the conscious mind has to be brought to a focus to the now and what needs to be done next. This is what is commonly referred to as present moment awareness.

The saga of most sports persons is that they are lost in the past or thinking about the future instead of being in the present moment- the here and now. They are still thinking about the set they just lost or the previous mistake they committed OR they may be thinking far ahead about the victory celebrations or worry about the shame they would have to experience if they lost.

When a person is lost in thoughts [internal distractors] he is bound to lose concentration and lapses in concentration lead to performance errors and improper decision making. The resultant effect could be in the decrements of performance.

More often than not, sportsperson carry bagful of painful memories, thoughts of setbacks or future insecurities which could haunt them during performance thus robbing them of the power of now.

The wise men have said- the past is history, future is mystery and the present is the PRESENT. We can’t change the past and the future is yet to descend but we can ruin a perfect present by worrying about them-both. One must remember that it is in the present that all the challenges have to be fought.

It is not entirely wrong to look in to the past or think about the future. If so, when is the right time to look in to them? The right time would be the practice sessions. We have to approach the practice sessions with the TRIPOD CAMERA in mind.

The idea of the tripod camera was suggested by Mr Spencer Johnson in his bestselling book- THE PRESENT He say’s – the camera is the person- THE FOCUS. The first leg represents the PAST and what we have learnt from them, the second leg represents FUTURE– what plans we have for the future. The third leg represents the PRESENT.

So, folks when you are in a performance 1] be in the present moment 2] do not do conscious thinking 3] be aware of what is happening around you 4] trust your natural instincts and let go 5] things will happen on their own.

Methods that could teach a person to be in the present:-

By Meditation- focusing on the breath.

By Centering – by taking a deep breath during moments of distraction.

By focusing on each of your senses for about 10 seconds.

By focusing on an object like the tree, your racquet, or the net, or looking at a particular colour: green / blue – just to take your mind away from thoughts & distractions.

By Trataka [gazing] – gazing at a flame or a point on the wall.