Updated: Apr 14
6 June 2020
Women’s sports will have a perfect comeback after the things settle down sooner or later. The only concern here is of investors, buyers of leagues and investment in the women’s sports promotion itself.
More often, success comes after a struggle against society and the system. Senior journalists Abhishek Dubey and Sanjeeb Mukherjea in their book, She Dared: Women in Indian Sports, tries to tell, irrespective of the achievements,
“The history of women in Indian sports still remains a rather sketchy account”.
If the records and reportage are instead a few, uninterested, how to know the current development in this field? Looking beyond gender labels in the sports, what is much required to do for unbiased and accurate reporting, is proper representation.
Keeping in view the lockdown and women who are generalised as homemakers and caretakers in India,
“Especially with the women athletes, there is a dilemma and a worry about future because, as the role changes their job changes”
says Dr. Shivjot Gill. She is a Senior Research Fellow at Jindal Institute of Behavioural Sciences, O. P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana. (40km north of New Delhi)
Dr. Gill completed her Ph.D. with expertise in the field of sports and positive psychology. Her research area is sports psychology. Her previous accomplishments are majorly in sports as she represented India in shotgun shooting.
Dr. Shivjot Gill
This role change is the primary reason why as to covid-19 impact is critical on the women’s practice and performance because they take care of the family. Unlike women, men’s issues are more concerned and related to that of financial stability. Another significant thing here is about the shutdown of training academies and institutions.
“With the families playing a major role in women’s lives, it is challenging to find a pre-planned schedule for training. Especially with equipment scarcity in the middle-income groups and for amateur athletes as well,” says Dr. Gill.
No matter how good an athlete one is, with challenges like financial concerns, the situation is not only hard but scary. One ultimately thinks about understanding and supporting the family’s financial or socio-economic position.
Put another way, sport’s economy is a by-product of sport’s culture as The Guardian puts it. As also mentioned, culture does not change overnight. With the systemic exclusion, women’s sport had a hard time fighting for opportunities, let alone the fight for equal pay-checks. That does not mean the times will not change.
“There is always hope”, says Anshu Taravath, a national level kettlebell athlete and the founder of The Future You an innovative fitness studio in Gurgaon, Haryana.
Ms. Anshu Taravath. (Image Source: thefutureyou.co.in)
As a fitness trainer, covid-19 made her shift from offline to the online mode of training. She is a Reebok Certified Aerobics/Step, Aerobics/Core, Pilates, Pre and Postnatal workout and Zumba trainer. She says,
“Maybe this is the time to realise the importance of both physical and mental health for any sportsperson to succeed. Coronavirus outbreak is part and parcel of the struggles an athlete faces daily. This lockdown’s break will sure make athletes mentally stronger, and the comeback is always powerful.”
Everybody is different. One fitness regime cannot work for everyone. As all the players are stuck at home, they cannot train properly. When asked will this affect their skill level? Both Dr. Gill and Taravath had almost the same answer. Both of them do not know each other. However, what is important is their experience as athletes.
According to both of them, the skill level going down has nothing to do with covid-19. Self-training, endurance, mental hygiene is what matters for female as well as male athletes. This women’s sports perspective is coming because of the family commitments during the lockdown. This leads to hindered self-training regime as mentioned several times before.
Taravath goes on to tell about how to an extent the post- covid-19, the push maybe is to men’s sports. Nevertheless, at the same time, to prove women’s strength and resilience, “People who support women’s teams should at least give them a moral support” she added.
Over the decades, recognition and respect have been hard to come by for most of the extraordinary women athletes. In front of all that struggle, covid-19 is nothing. For example, Mary D’Souza, who won the first two medals by an Indian woman at the 1951 Asian Games, received only an autographed picture of India’s first Prime Minister Nehru, with no other recognition. It took government 62 years to recognise Mary’s accomplishments and choose her for the Dhyan Chand Award. It is India’s highest award given for lifetime achievement in sports and games. Not only her, but others like Karnam Malleswari are either forgotten or not given any performance- related recognition.
“Covid-19 has not happened to create havoc in women’s sports. It is a natural process. Research and articles out there are making this situation look that way. Sport is a process and not merely a one-day event” says, Dr. Gill.
The impact is on everybody. But the impact is more on the under-represented and marginal sections. Many articles like Why sports will never be the same after Coronavirus pandemic are mostly focusing on what is the sport’s future and what is the further impact aspect. Primarily the concern should be more of how to help juniors and under-represented athletes which is the most severe concern right now.
As a psychologist, researching in the area of sports psychology, Dr. Gill mentions the importance of off-season and periodic breaks from training. She says,
“I feel it is the best time covid-19 happened because Indian athletes do not take breaks. Because of this constant training, there is burnout and fatigue, which ultimately leads to mental health issues."
Women’s sports will have a perfect comeback after the things settle down sooner or later. The only concern here is of investors, buyers of leagues and investment in the women’s sports promotion itself. These external factors dealt with empathy is what is required. Otherwise, everything is back at square one and struggling for opportunities.
Finally, professional sports as a whole, the aim should be the resumption of practice and academies sooner or later with the right precautions taken. Sports fans around the world are eagerly waiting to root for their favourite players again. The players need this boost more than ever before to give their best performance post-covid-19.
(All the names, quotes and photographs used in the article are used with due permission, and the individuals are okay with it if it's published.)