A Dearth of Role Models

We live in a social media driven world where reels and trolls are given top billing and more undivided attention than anything else. We are at the cusp of a stage where AI- artificial intelligence if used deceptively and surreptitiously could disrupt and destroy the lives of many. It is a scary and an unfortunate situation. Yet most of us are in search of role models. Someone whom we can look up to and who can usher us to a more fulfilling and a meaningful life. A role model is defined as a person whose behaviour, example or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. Here the words, “younger people” are important because they are the most impressionable both for the positive impact a role model can have on them as well as their ability to lead them astray. At this stage, I would like to share a blog, I had written in June last year on a similar subject. https://nudgesports.in/re-setting-our-role-models/

Sadly, we are suddenly surrounded by icons of our beloved sport who for whatever reason have started promoting undesirable products like gutkha or pan masala in the guise of elaichi. Then there is the ex-India captain and the country’s premier batsman getting into a verbal spat and an uglier bust up in front of millions on the television and thousands at the stadium. These are the sporting role models who have millions of followers on social media because of their stupendous achievements on the field of play. It is also sad to see many other female athletes and foreign cricketers who are seen endorsing betting APPs along with our film stars from whom we can’t expect anything better for they always seem to be in need of money, values and humility. However, I would like to give the benefit of doubt to the female athletes for being blissfully unaware of the addictive nature of the APP and what it can do to the social fabric of our society. All this leaves a very bad taste in one’s mouth (and I am no fan of elaichi) and creates a worrisome environment especially when the world today is dominated by a smorgasbord of war, hatred, rage, deception, greed, arrogance, and indiscipline. 

Within this somewhat dystopian world, comes along a Neeraj Chopra, a strapping handsome boy with an endearing smile from a small village called Khandra near Panipat in Haryana. He was born in a simple farming family and seems to be carrying the dreams and aspirations of the billion plus Indians. In a recent article written by G Rajaraman, a Sports Communication Professional after Neeraj won gold at the Doha Diamond League, the author who seems to have been present at the venue mentions, “Even when the 10 throwers were sizing up the conditions, Neeraj noticed that one of his competitors tripped during a warm-up throw and he went up to him to check if he was alright. It is this quality that endears Neeraj Chopra to everyone who did not blink all evening when he unfurled his craft and his personality for everyone to see.” He goes on to say that when Neeraj was on his way out of the stadium after winning the gold medal, he did not disappoint anyone who thrust a mobile phone in his hands and pleaded him to click selfies. No other athlete faced as many requests as Neeraj Chopra.Within this somewhat dystopian world, comes along a Neeraj Chopra, a strapping handsome boy with an endearing smile from a small village called Khandra near Panipat in Haryana. He was born in a simple farming family and seems to be carrying the dreams and aspirations of the billion plus Indians. In a recent article written by G Rajaraman, a Sports Communication Professional after Neeraj won gold at the Doha Diamond League, the author who seems to have been present at the venue mentions, “Even when the 10 throwers were sizing up the conditions, Neeraj noticed that one of his competitors tripped during a warm-up throw and he went up to him to check if he was alright. It is this quality that endears Neeraj Chopra to everyone who did not blink all evening when he unfurled his craft and his personality for everyone to see.” He goes on to say that when Neeraj was on his way out of the stadium after winning the gold medal, he did not disappoint anyone who thrust a mobile phone in his hands and pleaded him to click selfies. No other athlete faced as many requests as Neeraj Chopra.

So is Neeraj Chopra the new age Roger Federer when it comes to humility, remaining gentle, remaining genuinely concerned for his fellow competitors and in showing respect to his peers and seniors? Roger Federer is undoubtedly the most loved athlete ever across all sports and all over the world, the way our own diminutive Gundappa Vishwanath was to us Indians. These men stayed true to their upbringing and profession and were the same even when they had reached the pinnacle of their career and beyond and in Federer’s case made millions of dollars. It is this trait that has helped them earn the much coveted title of “The Most Loved,” a moniker that is not dished out easily.

Today, we need more Neeraj Chopras. Sadly, a Neeraj Chopra will always be an exception than a rule when it comes to behaviour off the field even if India as a nation starts producing multiple Neeraj Chopras on the field of play. They will bring us sporting laurels, win us international competitions, win us world cups – something I am confident about because sport in India is finally accorded the importance and support it deserves. But will it also create outstanding role models who with their demeanour and conduct do not throw tantrums while performing and then post-retirement, do not promote addictive products even if badly in need of money or do not indulge in behaviour that creates a poor impression? Perhaps no. But we must work towards that with a strong and able mentorship program for all young athletes. “Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.” Anonymous.

The author is the Founder and Director of Nudge Sports (www.nudgesports.in) where we strive to build a strong sporting community by nudging the athlete to become not just a better player but a stronger and a socially conscious individual using our mental conditioning and mentoring programs. All our programs are developed by qualified and experienced sport and performance psychologists.

Neeraj Chopra acknowledging his fans and then touching the feet of an elderly fan


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