by Tia Majumdar
Recently, The Rolling Paper (TRP) posted an article titled ‘The What, How, When And Who Of The Girls’ Sports Campaign: A Reality Check’.
The author feels that a more accurate representation of the ground reality is in order.
At the very outset, “The players of our college have graciously given 45 minutes of their precious playtime to the girls to take over the multi-purpose basketball court” implies a sense of entitlement these “players of our college” have over the basketball court – to which each and every student of the college is equally entitled, regardless of their gender.
“After overcoming all of these hurdles in internal debates, the ‘campaign’ was launched and the girls informed. What we did not expect was the lukewarm response by the girls.”
While the author truly appreciates the pains taken by TRP in resolving anticipated concerns, the question remains that is it perhaps possible that the lukewarm response was a result of concerns that went unanticipated? There is a plethora of reasons because of which people don’t come down to play – and this is not restricted to those who are not well acquainted with the sport. Ashok Kumar, please realize that although the correspondent of TRP may not have a problem playing with boys, she also speaks from a position of privilege – having played with boys throughout her years at the university, being the first girl to have scored a goal (kudos to you, by the way), and other such aspects that go unnoticed. There are plenty of girls who come from backgrounds where playing sports is seen to be antithetical to femininity; where the fragility of girls is constantly reinforced as a factor that ought to keep them from playing sports. So no, rephrasing the term “coaching” is of little help when the motivation of this initiative is to encourage girls on campus to shed their inhibitions, albeit gradually, and at a pace which is agreeable to them, in that they may reach a point where they are comfortable enough to play with people with whom they haven’t previously interacted.
The author respects each and every concern which has been brought up by the TRP correspondent. However, she dissents with the way in which each of them have been addressed.
Concern 1: Too violent to play with the guys.
Admittedly, being whacked right in the face does rid one of one’s fears of the ball along with all sensation in the facial muscles (hey, at least you don’t feel pain). However, this compulsion to “get over one’s fears” needn’t be enforced at a stage where one is only learning how to kick the ball around. Such an expectation is perhaps required once the initial reservations have faded to the background – lest that black eye drive all potential players away.
Concern 2: What if I’m awkward and everyone makes fun of me?
That the boys are encouraging is indubitable. However, this is also a fact, which the TRP Correspondent realized only after having played with them. Are we in our earnest attempts to encourage girl participation on campus forgetting those who are yet to experience the support and encouragement? While the author maintains that the only way to realize that they mean well is to come down and engage, the author is also of the view that dismissing such a commonplace concern does little to placate it.
Concern 3: I don’t know any of the players on the field / None of the players are my friends.
A familiar face on the field hasn’t ever harmed a girl who would, otherwise, feel out of place. A second year girl has come out and admitted that although she was familiar with the sport, the thought of coming down and playing with people she had never met before, whose prowess and standard of the game she was unaware of, kept her off the field for the better part of the first year until the rules of Balls to Justice demanded that there be a minimum of 1 girl in each team. Having been assured of the definite presence of others like her on the court, she felt she could finally go down and do something she’d been wanting to for the past month or two. It doesn’t hurt to have a friend in your teammate. Rather, it might encourage those who are reserved to come out and try new things, in the process of which new bonds may be forged.
Lastly, the author has but one thing to point out – the notion that a 45 minute slot on the basketball court is in some twisted way an act of philanthropy towards the girls, is disappointing, to say the least; this “silver platter” is not anyone’s to give away, nor anyone else’s to claim.