Interview

“We need to prepare our children to face tough situations”

In an interview with Dipta Joshi, former India cricketer Sameer Dighe expounds on life-lessons learnt on the field and parenting a teen

           

Mumbai-based Sameer Dighe is a former wicketkeeper batsman who played over 58 Ranji Trophy matches for Mumbai and made his international debut in the India-Australia test series of 2001. After retiring from international cricket shortly thereafter, he donned the cap of coach to the Hong Kong & Tripura cricket teams and served as a selector for the Mumbai cricket team (2009). Sameer & his entrepreneur wife, Tejal, are parenting their 13-year-old-daughter Saachi in Mumbai. 

What is your parenting philosophy? 

We haven’t followed a particular philosophy to raise our daughter Saachi and this has worked for us. In cricket, a batsman needs to focus on every ball and judge which one needs to be left alone and which one needs to be struck. Much the same way, children experience different emotional phases, each of which needs to be handled accordingly. While parents need to be firm, most conflict situations can be sorted through a friendly chat, especially with teenagers who are under tremendous pressure to keep pace with academics and social expectations. Since Saachi is in class IX, she has begun preparations for board examinations. But Tejal and I have taken a conscious decision not to pressurise and impose any expectations on her. Of course we want her to do well but we also want her to enjoy the last few years of her school life.   

Most Indian parents and schools are focused on academics and don’t encourage children to play games and sports. Your comment? 

The problem is in our education system which accords too much importance to academics, and too little to sports and the performing arts. It has failed to recognise that each child is unique and blessed with varied talents. All children are expected and forced to succeed on the single parameter of academics regardless of their individual capabilities. Unfortunately parents are also part of this system and prioritise academics over sports. 

Thankfully, of late a rising number of schools are encouraging children to do both — learn and explore sports options. I believe it is the responsibility of schools and government to make sports education popular among children and youth. Parents will follow.

Why and how can sports be integrated into education and daily life of children? 

Parents must take the lead in encouraging children to play at least one sport. It does more for their overall personality development than it is given credit for. Apart from health and fitness benefits, it develops teamwork and the sporting spirit that will see them through difficult life situations. It also helps in developing an open outlook and courage to deal with failure.

While parents are instrumental in encouraging children to play sports, I believe schools also have a big role. They can begin by providing sports options and awarding extra marks and incentives for greater participation in sports and games. On a national level, the Central and state governments need to make more open spaces and sporting arenas countrywide available for children to play. 

What’s your take on the heavy involvement of children with gadgets and social media these days?

Apart from her school work, Saachi is into athletics training so she doesn’t have too much time to waste. However like all teenagers she loves to spend time on social media. I believe, social media can be a great way to connect with friends but too much of it can become an addiction. Fortunately, Saachi is focussed and balances her studies with sports and entertainment.
 
Most fathers in India don’t play an active role in day-to-day parenting. Do you see this changing? 

I believe these days dads are taking active interest in parenting their children and that’s a positive change. In the metro cities, as the number of double-income families rises, it has become necessary for fathers to share household chores and child caring responsibilities. The good news is with every generation, there is a shift in male attitudes. I believe my generation doesn’t believe it’s demeaning to help in the kitchen or change nappies. 
Personally for me, playing cricket for India, and the several coaching and mentoring assignments thereafter, meant that I had to spend a lot of time away from home and family. But throughout I have made conscious efforts to spend quality time with my daughter. I believe teenage years are crucial and children need both parents to provide moral support and encouragement. 

Given your own wide experience as a coach and mentor to U-19 cricketers, what advice do you want to give today’s children and youth?  

The current generation is smart and ambitious. However, it lacks discipline and is easily distracted by the Internet and social media. Also a major cause of concern is the rise in the number of children falling prey to depression and committing suicide. Gennext needs to get its priorities right and remain focused. They also need to play sports and games and exercise regularly. 

What is your final message to parents? 

I believe our children have great potential but are bogged down by direct and indirect pressure from parents, schools and peers. While striving to excel academically is important, we need to allow our children to pursue their extra-curricular passions. As parents, we need to prepare and enable them to face tough situations. Our generation can be blamed for spoon-feeding children simply because we love them. But as parents it’s also our duty to help them survive outside their comfort zones. This generation is tremendously talented and if they apply themselves, they can make their parents and India proud.