The English expression “Are you game?” simply means, “Are you ready for life?” Playing a game or a sport is an essential ingredient to build a healthy life—physically, mentally, and spiritually. In many ways, sports also sets the rhythm for every human being to become a leader in his or her own right.
Leadership and sports are very directly connected. All the fundamental qualities that are necessary for a leader are naturally brought forth when one learns to play a game. An essential part of playing a sport is absolute involvement. This is why a football game happening somewhere in another part of the world can make a billion people stand up and scream in their homes. Just the tremendous involvement the players are showing is what brings this simple sport alive. The moment you get into a game, knowingly or unknowingly you become a 100% participant. This is an absolute requirement for a leader. A leader does not hold himself back in anything. He learns to give himself absolutely.
Another important aspect that is naturally inculcated by playing a game is the desire to win. Without this, there is no sport. At the same time, sports also sets the condition that if you lose, it is all right with you. This is most essential for a leader: you go out to achieve things. However, if things do not happen the way you want, you do not become a bundle of frustrations. This is a significant quality to bring into one’s life—handling both your victory and your failure gracefully.
It is important that sport is brought into every human being’s life. Particularly in our country, a big movement of sports is essential. If sport is used as an entry point, social transformation, economic revitalization and spiritual development of the human being can be very easily introduced into societies.
India is a country which had a festival for every day of the year. The whole culture was constantly in a state of celebration. If today was the day to plough the land, it was one kind of celebration. The day to plant was another kind of celebration. The day to weed was a different celebration. The harvest, of course, was an elaborate celebration. People were truly “game for life” and celebrated every aspect of it.
Slowly, this celebratory culture has moved into a state of depression. A large part of the Indian population, which is in the rural areas of the country, has lost this celebratory mood completely. A few generations of abject poverty has taken all this out. Just introducing sport into the culture can do miracles because sport is a simple a way of making a human being function beyond his limitations, with a certain exuberance of life. At Isha, we have effectively used sport as an entry activity to revitalize rural societies through our Action for Rural Rejuvenation project.
Initially, when we tried to go into the rural community with our programmes and projects, there was resistance because people would not come together beyond caste and creed distinctions. We decided to bring sport in—and this made a world of difference. Now, whoever played the game well became the important person in the village. No one was concerned about his caste, creed or parentage anymore.
This is the significance of sports, that once you are into it, who you are and what you are doing right now becomes most important—not who your father was. Every man is valued for his worth, not for what he has been. You don’t see anyone in the country asking, “Which caste does Mahendra Singh Dhoni belong to?” because no one is bothered about it. What he does on the field is all that matters to us.
The kind of involvement that sport has brought about in the rural communities in Tamil Nadu, irrespective of gender and age, is remarkable. Particularly, many older women have never played a game in their life after they were six or seven years of age. Now, at the age of 70, they come and participate in the Isha Gramotsavam tournaments! There is such joy and pleasure in watching these inter-village tournaments, where the older women actually play with the youth and win the games. This is the miracle of sport.
This is an incredible movement that has started in Tamil Nadu, and we want to see that this happens to the whole country. The idea is not necessarily about developing a competitive sport, but to bring the spirit of sport into everyone’s life—to make everyone “game for life”.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is the founder of Isha Foundation.