Studies & Sports
I teach at the Sacred Heart Degree College for Women in Bengaluru. The college is attached
to the Bengaluru North University which ensures that pedagogy and all academic obligations
are scrupulously adhered to. The University prescribes a regimen for athletics and sports
which the college observes. But herein lies an inbuilt conflict, whether to spend time on studies or on sports. A conflict that dominates discourse in most colleges in India and perhaps in Sri Lanka as well. There is always the limitation of time and should this limited time be spent on studies or on sports ?
Universities do prescribe “Physical Training Hours” ( called PT Hours) dedicated to physical
activity – but how many PT Hours get actually assigned by the colleges ? In the final year of a
degree course for example, one hour is allotted per week, when there are 33 hours a week
devoted to studying various subjects as prescribed by the syllabus. This automatically implies a very minuscule percentage of the total hours available at the college is actually spent on sports! Herein lies the rub. Sports are essential for all round development of students. Physical activity ensures a good balance of physical and mental growth, which helps tone muscles and makes bones strong.
It inculcates in students the importance of a healthy lifestyle, while movement of limbs and blood circulation ensures a strong and healthy body. Sports teaches discipline,
develops a student’s social skills while interacting with opponents and teammates, besides
teaching individuals to accept both defeat and victory with equanimity, gives opportunities to meet people, helps control life style diseases like diabetes, manage weight, enhances blood
circulation, and helps manage stress levels. Athletics, yoga and exercises go towards
managing anxiety besides ensuring relaxation, flexibility, muscle strength and body tone.
When everybody is aware of this important role in the overall development of an individual why
this scant attention towards sports ? A very obvious reason seems to be the student’s future if
she were to concentrate on sports alone, unless of course she is an exceptional sportswoman
qualifying at the state or national level. Excellence in studies, on the other hand, makes most
women employable after graduation duly opening up several different career options.
Parents sense this early on and as Sumaiya Al Anasee , an articulate student puts it , they do not wholeheartedly support sports recognizing that only a woman with prodigious sports talent can have a future. It is this lack of perceived benefits in pursuing sports that is making book worms out of the students at the college. Given a choice the girls either hesitate or shy away from participating in a sporting activity. With no parental encouragement either, students rarely participate due to sheer laziness or worse choose an indoor activity like chess or carom, avoiding outdoor sports altogether, despite university regulations requiring them to opt for a sport during the prescribed “PT – Hour”. Why single out parents, teachers as well are equally to blame, most of them, when close to the end term examinations, with trouble completing their syllabus, will want the PT - Hour to be sacrificed to complete their portions. Another vocal student Chaithanya, although active in the sports field, laments not having any incentives for the students to indulge in sports. In the academic field , the toppers get a fee concession for the subsequent term.
A concession that would continue year after year as long as they continue to top in academics, but there is no similar inducement for those who top insports. In fact sports women need nutritious food which necessitates an additional expense,
so there actually is a greater need for monetary support. It is also difficult to declare meaningful criteria or even to measure performance in sports.
In academics, the examination system enables colleges to determine who qualifies for a scholarship, but how is this to be eplicated in sports?
Making students run a 100 meter race to declare a winner is an inane
exercise.Eventually it boils down to lack of time. While six hours are stipulated for studies, Monday through Friday( and three hours on Saturday), why one hour for physical activity ? The bias against sports is visible right here. Incidentally, the University prescribes 2 PT – Hours in the first and second year of the Bachelor’s Degree program which is reduced to 1 hour in the third and final year of study, a reduction ostensibly to give students more time to study. Obviously an example of tokenism where officialdom pays lip service to sports activity but accomplishes little in reality. So what should be done ? How does one ensure that youngsters will get sufficient opportunities for both physical and mental growth? How can colleges get their students to take sports a little more seriously. Earlier at the school level, a practice of having a written examination on sports was compulsory where the students had to get the requisite pass mark.
The questions would be exclusively on sports, the rules of cricket for instance, but this was
again pointless as unless the students perform a physical activity, the sports test was akin to a test of General Knowledge. However under the extant guidelines, 40 marks are prescribed for performing yoga. Students do get evaluated and may be debarred from promotion to the next class if they do not secure the minimum mark.
Another way out would be to devote an extra hour each day after the regular school hours
and allocate this time to sports, but I don’t think the vast majority of students would be really
interested. They do not perceive any benefit in pursuing sports after all, feeling the time
actually spent takes away from the focus that would otherwise go towards studies. Other
factors include fatigue due to a whole day spent studying in the classroom. Most students in
Bengaluru stay at a distance from the college and commute long distances every day, making the journey itself time consuming and fatiguing !
No one underestimates the importance and the benefits of sports but how does one reconcile the constraints of time and energy required to be devoted equitably to both studies and sports? The University is certainly doing its best by juggling around the PT- hours and prescribing an award of marks for yoga. The requirement of a fully qualified Physical Director on the rolls of each college is another obligation that must be strictly adhered to. At the Sacred Heart College we have Titus Rupesh, the Physical Director, diligently implementing various sports requirements prescribed by the university, prodding students to indulge themselves in physical activity despite an all round climate of indifference. Going forward, the periodical tweaking of sports-related rules and regulations by the university is bound to shake students out of their nonchalance and drive them towards a balanced mix of studies and sports.