School or Sports Career: A Parent’s dilemma

15-year-old, reasonably good but now studying in Std 10. Alarm bells ringing in the heads of Indian parents everywhere. Shah Rukh Khan has said that “Indian parents don’t see sports as a profession.”  Most parents can live with their child missing a few days of primary school. But when faced with the board exams, a crucial juncture in their playing careers as well, most parents have a dilemma School or Sports Career?

School or Sports Career

Parents opt for the safer option: studies. Why?

  • The short span of a sports career
  • Parents feel sports cannot pay them handsomely in life the way a regular job can.
  • The job security that a regular job has to offer is not there in a sports career.
  • You need spectacular talent and luck to make it in sports in India although there are allied professions

As parents they want their children to have a safe and secure future and perhaps that is the main reason why they put their foot down when it comes to a career in sports. And job insecurity is there everywhere even in bank jobs or IT.

From Adarsh Kumar on IndiaStudyChannel 

Let me share you my personal experience of being an Indian teenage sportsman.I am a national athlete and 2 times state level champion in athletics.I have also made a National record in the marathon.But you see there are hardly few people who make a career in sports because every sport welcomes only the best players.In a country like India which has a population of about 1.2 billion the competition level among sportsman is unimaginable.It does not matter whether you practised since your childhood or have many achievements, what matters is whether you are able to defeat your opponents in that game.

I was lucky that I concentrated on my academics also and cracked IIT or else I might have destroyed my career behind athletics.You know I started training for athletics at the age of 10 itself and still did not find career scope in it.

Yes, attitudes are changing. But parents are cautious when it comes to the question of deciding between sports and school. In India education and work have been the recommended ways to make money and live somewhat happily ever after. The sport has never been the horse an average Indian would want to bet his money on. Only the very poor or the very well off in India feel motivated enough (for entirely different reasons) to focus on competitive sports apart from cricket and studiesIndians crave security. Our success as an academically-oriented people proves that we are excellent at pursuing something that pays well or, at least, regularly; to a lesser extent.  For many hardship and poverty makes them desperate to escape it by seeking, more than anything else, a source of income for life.  If you look at the Olympic medal winners

  • Leander Paes hails from a prosperous family.
  • Abhinav Bindra, too, belongs to an affluent Sikh family.
  • But Sushil Kumar Tehlan’s and Vijender Singh’s fathers were both bus drivers.
  • Karnam Malleswari, however, took to the hard grind of weightlifting as a means to give herself and her kin a better life.
  • Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was an Army man with access to world-class training and nurturing from an early age.

None of these medal winners is part of the ‘Great Indian middle class.’  No more than a very small percentage of the population is willing to devote its life to athletics, shooting, judo, table tennis, gymnastics, fencing and the like. That is why a country with so many people has so little to show by way of Olympic medals

What advice would you give parents to encourage sports? Former cricketer VVS Laxman believes taking up a sport teaches values like team spirit and determination. Ref: Times of India


We Indians are very hardworking. But sports will be a source of entertainment [for us]. Children have to be allowed to pursue the sport they have potential in. There are heroes like [PV] Sindhu, Saina [Nehwal], Sania [Mirza], Abhinav [Bindra] and all the footballers — every child should be allowed to be like them. As a kid, I loved watching Australia play… I learnt so much by listening to Bill Laurie, Ian Chappell, Tony Greig and Richie Benaud.

As parents, we need to put aside our dilemma of security and job satisfaction. Sports can also be a career and give satisfaction. It’s also about values like team spirit, determination and also physical skills like balance, speed and agility. Only if we allow our children can they become the next big sports champ.”

A Good Support System in Sports

Chasing school project deadlines, finishing homework and keeping up with studies is what the child has to do if he is interested in sports. A player needs a big support system. Poor performance and injury can break the morale of a child. From Rahul Dravid speech at MAK Pataudi Memorial Lecture 2015-16

Sachin had a great support system. His family were supportive and caring, his elder brother was always there to guide him, his coach Ramakant Achrekar was more than a coach, a mentor – in life and on the pitch, teaching him how to hold the bat, driving him to games. Sachin was lucky that he had this vast umbrella of support and I dare say and he would agree, he wouldn’t have survived and prospered if not for it. Not every young talent is lucky enough to have that kind of support. The history of Indian cricket is littered with stories of young exciting talent falling by the wayside due to a lack of support and guidance.

Choosing to let your child explore a sports career is one of the most important decisions a parent can make.

  • As the parent of a child seeking to establish a career in sports, your biggest contribution lies in the support you can give to the budding sportsperson in them. Encouraging your child to purse their passion brings out in them the drive to over-perform and excel in that field as a professional endeavor
  • Allow them to try out as many different sports as possible before they land on the activity that suits them best
  • Once they find their niche, the ultimate task is to lead them onto the path of discipline, even if it means waking up before them to prepare for the 5 am practice grind
  • While moral support is key, it’s best to not smother them with it. Try not to bring sports conversations to the dinner table every night. You can check in to see how their routine is going but nit-picking into each aspect will leave them frustrated, especially after a hard day’s fitness regimen
  • Training intensity is an aspect that requires parents’ attention. There has to be a relative balance between their age and the intensity of the training modules they are following

In a nutshell, extending unwavering support, setting realistic expectations regarding performance and being vigilant of their progress are a few key tasks that sports parents need to execute on a regular basis.

Rahul Dravid on good academic career

Since sports as a career is still on the growth curve, few parents put academics completely on the back burner. Open school plans in the pre-board stage and correspondence courses for graduation don’t require regular attendance and are often the favoured choices. This decision is in infact indicative of the seriousness with which parents pursue a child’s sporting dreams.

Shikhar Dhawan says he had his father’s business to fall back on. I wish I hadn’t taken studies so lightly, in fact, I’ll advise all aspiring cricketers especially those who don’t have business to fall back on to focus on their studies. A good academic career always helps. From Rahul Dravid speech at MAK Pataudi Memorial Lecture 2015-16

15-year-old, reasonably good but now studying in Std 10. Alarm bells ringing in the heads of Indian parents everywhere. At an age when the only decision that boys should stress about is whether to start shaving or not, we expect them to decide what they want to do with their lives. What usually happens in such a scenario is that one set of players – those who haven’t made the U-16 state team – decide that cricket is not for them. Then others decide to give up on studies altogether because they are dead sure they can make it in cricket.

It is important for our young cricketers to continue their education – even if all the time away from schools makes it hard for them to finish their graduation. It will be something they can go back to in case the cricket dream doesn’t come true for some reason. But aside from all 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.

Unforeseen setbacks and off-the-field options

On the flipside, unforeseen setbacks like serious injury or drop in form may turn into roadblocks for their physical and professional development in sports. While these can sometimes threaten the future of a young athlete, it is important to not be demotivated by the mishap.

With a myriad of career options available today, as a player or on the back-end support side, sports is now becoming a high-potential alternative to the customary pursuit of academic excellence. Sports offers a myriad of opportunities off-the-field as well:

  • Apart from just playing the sport, there are an increasing number of departments and specialisations within the domain of that sport which one can choose to establish their career in
  • Sports is also emerging as a cross-functional area of expertise where students can study subjects such as Medicine, Law, Finance and Journalism, while specialising in the field of sports under each of these subject areas
Parents Support for Children in Sports career
Parents Support for Children in Sports career

What do you feel about it? Did your parents choose study over sports? For your child what are you doing?

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