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Sporty and Mighty, the Trope of the Athletic Cool Kid in School

In schools, very often sports are a determinant of the ‘cool’ quotient for teens and tweens. Extracurriculars have always been activities that schools stress  upon as an important part in the development of a child. But the ECA( extracurricular activity) classes children get in schools is more often than not , structured on a premise of discrimination. Faced at the hands of both teachers and peers, every school goer has either faced or been complicit in this.

We find them IRL as much as in pop culture

We all must be familiar with the most famous pop culture trope of the sporty and famous high school kid. The star swimmer or basketball champion or the best footballer of the batch. Very often the same champion sportsperson might be the class prefect. The ‘coolest’ kid getting a lot of attention from the opposite gender. Kids who are clumsy or not very athletic are often the object of scorn among their peers. They are the unpopular ones of the batch with not much of a selling point for fame. The stereotype of the ‘nerd’, huddled up amidst books with thick framed spectacles, who throws the ball ‘like a girl’ is another well used trope that stands at the reverse end of the cool kid dribbling the ball past all odds straight into the net.

TV and movie screens churn the same culture as the school playgrounds.

All of us have grown up in schools where these tropes have been practised upon us so we know  how  true they are. We all must have had or perhaps ourselves been that one unlucky guy/ girl that loved sitting in a corner even during P. T classes or felt perpetually sick at the thought of being made to run about  the playground in the scorching heat of day. And the scorn and bullying reserved for the ‘boring’ ,’unfit’ or ‘uncool’ ones is another inevitable consequence dished out even at the hands of teachers. The often hostile physical training teacher, scoffing at the unfortunate lot of sports-fearing kids who are forever compromised finding a place during team selection rounds, is also a childhood terror several of us know pretty well.

Different playing grounds for boys and girls.

It is a universally acknowledged belief that if one is born a boy, climbing  trees and tanks and pipes ,always choosing the more precarious perch for oneself, (the higher above ground level, the better) ; are pre-given abilities that ought to come naturally. The opposite applies to young girls. Sports for girls in schools is a well focused area too, however, obviously not as much as for boys. Badminton, basketball, volleyball, khoko, these are the likely games girls get to try their hands at. But once again the trope of the non-athletic-hence-weak and sidelined student resurfaces. For boys, this problem is acute. Right from name calling to bullying to worse humiliations, boys who are predisposed to be more feminine in posture and bearing are severely  ridiculed in schools.

 It would be difficult to list even about ten all-girls schools in the city itself that have football or cricket teams comprising entirely of female students.

Are Sport Classes really Fun?

If play too is practised  in the form of work, as a compulsion, under instructions and the unempathising eyes of an instructor ;can sports really be fun? You will see the same students shying away from physical exercise classes run about the playground with unbridled mirth during the recess hours.

Perhaps if schools treated sports and physical training for what they really should be: playful fun and not a hostile environment for scrutiny and scorn, wouldn’t a lot of children be spared unnecessary psychological burnout?

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