Category Archives: Sports

4 Activities for Spring

Here is Maya writing a post about spring activities.

Yes, I say it again – ditch the games to be played inside the house, spring is here. March 21st was the Spring Equinox. For humans the Sun plays an important role, without which we would have no food and therefore we would not exist. The equinoxes signify those days when we celebrate equal day and night. These dates hold cultural significance because they were tied in with our harvests. Even today the seasons are important and the sun’s role has not changed, but the celebrations have been toned down.

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Finding_Sweet_Leaves_5283 by James Emery

Spring brings warmth, color and happiness. Here are four activities for spring:

  • Homemade dough for playing

When kids are young, they like putting stuff in their mouths. If it is the store bought Playdoh, we worry about what goes into making it. It is simple and easy to make a dough for playing at home. In fact the making of the dough is one activity even as the dough can be used to make other stuff. One of my favorite recipes is making a herbal playdough. Apart from being a good way to explore materials and consistency, it it completely safe even if a child pops some into her mouth.

  • Spending time with real pets

Time to throw out the pet games and spend time with real pets. If you are considering the idea of getting a pet, this is a good time to get one home. In case you would rather spend time with animals, but would rather not bring any pets home just schedule a visit to a pet shelter. Kids can spend time with animals and parents need not have the responsibility. Exposure to animals is comforting to most kids. They learn empathy and a lot about sharing the planet with other creatures.

  • Learning to grow 

Spring is all about new life. It is a good time for kids to learn to grow stuff, be it in a pot or in the garden. If kids have gone fruit picking, this is a sort of complimentary activity. Kids can start little gardens in a pot or just a plastic tub if need be. Many schools introduce kids to growing stuff as a part of the gardening class. Growing things establishes a connect with nature.

  • Playing under the sun

Humans are designed to spend time outdoors. We get our fix of Vitamin D from sun exposure. This is not the hot afternoon sun we are talking of, but the sunlight during other parts of the day when it is comfortable. It is great for metabolism, getting out of bad moods, good health and growth. In fact we must encourage kids to play outdoors irrespective of the cold.

It’s spring! Come on, get out of the house with the kids. Play, walk and just enjoy a gentle meander around a green patch. Ready for more? Well kick a ball around, read under the warm sun, fix things in the yard, water your garden, grow your own herbs, play outside with your pet or just sit out and sun. Be careful and don’t burn. Feel the connect with nature!

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4 Great Sporting Role Models

With the 2015 NFL Kickoff Game on Sep 10 at Gillette Stadium between the New England Patriots and the Steelers, we had a lot of talk about football and its importance at home. The kids were playing Heroes and Rivals while we were vociferously talking about sports and our favorite sporting heroes.

No one will argue about the fact that sports are important for kids. It contributes to the development of the child’s mental and physical wellbeing. Role models are also very important, especially in these times when society’s structures are changing rapidly. When kids are young they naturally look up to the parents and caregivers as role models. As they grow, teachers become important influencers. All these influences help shape a child’s behaviour, how she or he handles relationships, and it also helps them make decisions. Ironically people also use online games to get kids interested in sports!

Over time children who need these early influences look outside the obvious circles to characters from books, TV personalities, sports personalities and sometimes even video games, for suitable role models. Sporting role models are some of the best for kids. This keeps them interested in sport, which is great to keep them healthy and fit. Sports teaches kids, fair play, losing gracefully, to get up and go after a fall, to build unexpected friendships, improves self-esteem among many other things.

Here’s a list of four great sporting role models for kids(even my wife might have a different list!):

Mia Hamm

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“Mia Hamm signing an autograph” by momovieman – mia hamm and nomar garciaparra. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mia_Hamm_signing_an_autograph.jpg#/media/File:Mia_Hamm_signing_an_autograph.jpg

She is the most famous woman footballer(soccer for us). She is one of the two female footballers in the FIFA 100, commemorating the 125 greatest living soccer players.

Her first coach and father took a long time to let in to play. Until then she was a ball girl for her older brother and sister. Once she was let in, there was no holding her back.

Pele

Pelé_jump_1958

“Pelé jump 1958” by Scanpix – svt.se. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pel%C3%A9_jump_1958.jpg#/media/File:Pel%C3%A9_jump_1958.jpg

He is just plain O Rei do Futebol, in Brazil his home country. It means The King of Football. Named after Edison, he got called Pele sometime in his career and the name stuck. He retired 1977 and ever since has been a worldwide ambassador for football.

John Urschel 

John Urschel

Image Credit:

http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/featured-news/alumnus-john-urschel-caps-off-banner-year-with-campbell-trophy

This 6-foot-3, 308-pound top notch offensive guard who plays for the Baltimore Ravens, absolutely loves math. In fact he published a very difficult to understand paper in mathematics.

He might not make it to the list of a top tier role model yet, but I like the fact that he is the great mathlete of football. He is young, tenacious, committed, patient enough to visit schools, and understands how important it is to share all this with younger folk.

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay

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“StangoAli” by John Stango. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StangoAli.jpg#/media/File:StangoAli.jpg

He is one of the world’s greatest boxers. Nicknamed ‘The Greatest’ he is one of the most recognized sports figures in the last 100 years. Crowned ‘Sportsman of the Century’ by Sports Illustrated, he became the World Heavyweight Champion at the young age of 22.

Who do you think are great sporting heroes who would make great role models?

Endorse guts, not meanness

I like Mark Edmundson for two reasons – he writes great essays and he has written a book about Why Football Matters. Football is big in America. Little kids play football. Big burly kids play football. It’s a way out of poverty for many kids, thanks to college scholarships, which support footballers, but push them to keep up their grades if they want to continue playing football.

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Dsc_0198 by Brian J McDermott

Building Character

Playing football is a great way to build character. Camps like NFL Play 60 Character Camp help kids learn football, understand healthier lifestyles and get doses of character lessons that equip them with important life skills. Football can toughen kids. It teaches kids to get up after every fall. Resilience becomes a way of life. Humiliation might be a part of this toughening, but for most kids, the goal is to get back up on their feet.

The Dark Side

While building courage in football, it is easy for kids to go over to the dark side. In the process of toughening up, a mean streak might develop. That is where coaches step in. A good coach watches over his wards with a hawk’s eye. Team spirit is good, but the team must not swallow the individual. Courage must not darken into brutality. Team spirit must not deteriorate into a rowdy act. Coaches draw lines, and by that teach kids to draw lines. Lessons learnt on the field, help kids do the right thing both on and off the field.

Getting kids to Play

The summer is when a lot of kids start their football days. Parents want their kids to play for fun, character building and many other reason. Belts on helmets are tightened and eyeball to eyeball tough looks are given. Hurts are soothed and encouragement is shouted. But then there are many kids who don’t start off with an interest in football. They would much rather play pet games or spend time on virtual games. In such a situation, it is for the parents to start playing with the kids. Making play a habit, encourages kids to get outside the house. It could start with family, and then include friends. Once kids have a taste for play, it is hard for parents to get them back in. Then football, is just the next step!

This summer, get into the habit of playing.

Can the sportive spirit be taught?

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Soccer – Army Youth Sports and Fitness – CYSS – Camp Humphreys, South Korea – 111001 by USAG-Humphreys

The spirit of sport is a celebration of the human spirit, body and mind. It embodies all that is positive and good in sport. Sport has been played since Roman times. The intrinsic value of sport is the spirit of sport. Hard to define and even harder to teach, I strongly believe it cannot be taught. It is imbibed by seeing it in play and being among people who believe in it.

George Orwell once wrote an essay about The Sporting Spirit in which he pointed out how sport had been turned into a contest thanks to rising nationalism. In certain heavily financed sports, politics and group hatred have raised their ugly heads. Doping too has taken its toll on the spirit of sports in the modern era.

To bring back clean sports with its spirit intact, is a multifaceted challenge. A passion for clean sport has to sweep right through the sport, it’s supporters, players, rule makers, watchers and all involved however far away they stand. Kids must be brought up among people who believe in ethics, fair play, honesty, excellence in performance, strong character, education, joy, teamwork, respect for rules, self and the others, courage and a commitment to play one’s best, without worrying about the result. By playing among such people, kids learn by example. They don’t have to be taught these things, they will naturally learn it as they will know of no other way.

Croquet – what’s that?

We recently watched the movie ‘The Theory of Everything’. The movie was a great way to understand how one man’s life had played out against all odds. My parents had come along and on the way back we could not stop my father from talking about croquet, a game he had played while in England.

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Croquet shots: “Wired.” A palpable “catch.” by UBC Library Digitization C

A lot of people might ask ‘what’s that’? It’s a game, albeit an old one. It was super popular in England around the 1860s and then spread, so far in fact, that we have it even in America. It’s origins are obscure – maybe from an old ball and mallet game from France called pall-mall  or from Ireland’s crookey.

Wherever the game came from it was so popular that it spread to many of the Anglophone countries, with slight variations in rules.

The American version

The game is governed by the United States Croquet Association. Two sides play this game. One side plays the blue and black balls while the other side plays red and yellow. One can play a singles or a doubles game. The lawn (dimensions as well as the grass length is fixed) has six wickets and a stake. The teams compete to move the heavy plastic balls through the wickets in a particular order and into the stake at the center. A 3 foot tall mallet is used to strike the ball. The entire set of rules can be looked up here.

Increasing popularity

To increase the popularity of this game which has no gender and age bias, new rules have been introduced. It is also being promoted as a game which helps people stay fit in a gentle way.

Good resolutions and the New Year

Long resolution lists don’t work for me. I inevitably get lost thinking about the list and all the things I have not done – leaves me stressed and unhappy. Instead in the last two years, I take up a simple thing that I can change in my life.

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Young men playing in the Park by alobos Life

Over the years the time I spend on play has decreased. Last year I made two resolutions – to play more and to start a blog. Both were open ended resolutions, which I could achieve. This year I am going to extend my resolution – play more with my kids and spend more time on the blog.

The resolution translates to playing more games appealing to kids. Kids play fewer organized sports and more of free play which is great for their development. Via games they learn sharing, integrity and a good sportsmanlike spirit. These things are great to build a good attitude which help kids through their lives.

5 great things kids learn from play:

  1. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Different players bring in different strengths into a team which all together help a team to win.
  3. A hard fought game, even if the team loses gives the players a great sense of achievement.
  4. Practice does make perfect – repeated play improves skill.
  5. It teaches kids that some can be better than others at certain skills.

Play has a very important role in the lives of kids. Let’s see if I can stay true to my resolution and play with my kids!

Polo – an ancient team sport

Say ‘Polo’ and it brings to mind different things for different people. Some visualize the car, others the US Polo logo and yet others might think of designer Ralph Lauren’s ‘Polo Ralph Lauren’ luxury line. There will be those whose tongues will go cool with the memory of ‘Polo’ mints (not available in the US, but very similar to Lifesavers)

I can bet not many would think of the sport polo.

Polo – some history

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“Polo game from poem Guy u Chawgan”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polo_game_from_poem_Guy_u_Chawgan.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Polo_game_from_poem_Guy_u_Chawgan.jpg

The image above is a Persian miniature from the poem Guy-o Chawgân (“the Ball and the Polo-mallet”) during Safavid dynasty of Persia, which shows Persian courtiers on horseback playing a game of polo, 1546 AD.

Sometimes it’s a great advantage to grow up in a household where people are well traveled. I grew up listening to my grandfather (whose namesake I am) speak of sports/games he had seen as he traveled the world on work. My grandfather had watched a polo match for the first time in Asia.

Polo has come from an old team sport called chovgan, whose origins are lost in the sands of time. Played by ancient kingdoms stretching from Constantinople to Japan, chovgan was an elite sport played by riders on specially trained horses. The sport was also very popular in the Mogul courts of India.  Stables belonging to Akbar the Great are still standing in Delhi, India. Today it is played in about 50 countries around the world. The dominant teams are from the US, Argentina, and the UK.

The game

Terrains_de_polo_et_de_football_US_compliant_

“Terrains de polo et de football (US compliant)” by Sébastien Santoro aka Dereckson – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Terrains_de_polo_et_de_football_(US_compliant).svg#mediaviewer/File:Terrains_de_polo_et_de_football_(US_compliant).svg

A polo ground is vast as the sport is played on horseback. The image above should give you an idea of how large. Two teams of 4 players in each play against each other. The riders use a long handled mallet(called a polo stick) to hit a ball into the opposing team’s goal. The team which scores the most, wins.

The game has multiple rounds of play called ‘chakkers’ of seven minutes each. The ‘chakkers’ and the breaks roughly add up to about 60-90 mins. This is a game where the rules ensure the safety of both the rider and the ‘pony’ (as the mount is traditionally called, in spite of the ‘pony’ being a full grown horse).

 Interesting trivia about Polo

The name ‘polo’ is supposed to come from the Tibetan word for ball ‘pulu’

In the Mameluke dynasty, playing cards features polo sticks.

The British picked up the game from Manipur in northeast India. From thereon it spread to the west. In the old game played in Manipur the teams were bigger and it was a much faster game.

Both Mogul kings and queens played this sport.

The rules of polo allow mixed teams of men and women.

All players have to hit the ball from their right side. Even the left-handers.

The Jodhpur breeches were introduced to the English in 1887 by Pratap Singh of the Jodhpur team who designed them.

Some variants of polo are ‘elephant polo’, ‘camel polo’, ‘segway polo’ and event eh ‘yak polo’!