The Hidden Pillar – Life Skills by Jay Laddha

By Volunteer Jay Laddha, FHI Ahmedabad

The day was 3rd February 2018. India had defeated Australia in the finals and won the Under-19 cricket world cup under the impressive captaincy of Prithvi Shaw. Incidentally, a lot of attention was gravitated towards the coach of their team and former Indian captain, Rahul Dravid. Being a country where cricket is no less than a religion, it would be a misnomer to say that the team’s victory was extraordinary. However, aside from victory, something else was intriguing about their journey and coaching of Dravid. What fascinates many, including yours truly, about Dravid, is his erudition and ability to see and understand the game beyond the boundary line.

Among scores of interviews and sports articles published post-victory, there was one common thread that strikes among all is how he invariably imbibed imperative life skills in the young team. Life skills, he believes, are absolutely necessary to deal with the intense pressures of the modern game. As against following the old didactic pedagogy, he accompanied them as a friend and kept the responsibility of a coach in his mind as well. Among other things, he guided them on how to be patient and persevere through the ups and downs of the game and further not to be subdued by media and glamour.

Moreover, Dravid has been involved with junior cricket in the country for quite some time. What is remarkable is that he understands a child’s mind and thinks from their perspective before making decisions. He recommends counselling sessions for all Under-16 state cricketers about the life options ahead of them along with cricket. On a particular instance, when called on to deliver a lecture, in thoughtful but measured words, Dravid expressed his thoughts and made several pointed observations:

(On education)
“It is important to know the game. But aside from that, it is important to stay connected to school and college because it will mean they have friends outside cricket, conversations outside cricket and life experiences that are not connected to cricket. It will give them the perspective needed to become well-rounded adults.”

(On life skills)
“What do we play sports for? Not merely exercise – then we could run forever or get onto a cross trainer or an exercise bike. We play sport for the all-round lessons it teaches us, for its ability to improve not merely our physical skills but to expand our minds as well. To learn life skills – about discipline, honesty, ethics, fair play, teamwork.”

Surely, these are insightful pointers for all of us. And not just sports, life skills are relevant and pervasive to almost every aspect of life. In a fast pacing world, with very young children going to nurseries, schools, or entering professional sports, we need to have patience and expertise to handle them. We need to make sure that their first engagement with learning starts with having a good time (with loving what they do). Nowadays, there’s a lot of pressure on children and also increased expectations from parents. While they can climb up the ladder, there is every chance, with complete emotional investment in their career, the child may struggle to handle the pressure at the top. Even some modicum of life skills will enhance their mental and emotional well-being.

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