Sanjeev Kotnala: Do you treat your High Performers like Olympic Athletes?

28 Jul,2021

Sanjeev KotnalaBy Sanjeev Kotnala


Finally, the Tokyo Olympics are underway. After starting with silver on Day One with Mirabai in the 49kg Weightlifting, India’s gameplan is not going as per the script. As expected, it has fuelled diverse and mostly polarised emotions. It is natural for a country supercharged with brand communications telling the followers, it’s our best chance, ‘Hum Hongey Kamyaabm’ and a cry of ‘Iss Baar Lana Hai Gold’. It was never about delivering the best performance or living up to the occasion- but all about the three podium positions? 


Celebrating success and achievement is one thing. Standing with your representative as they fail to reach the expected standards is another.


When the athlete fail in the eye of their fellow countrymen, the dreams and years of practice amount to nothing. They must seek solace in participation, regroup their energies, rebuild their dreams, and take the first step in the new journey, hopefully with a lot more resilience.


Good or bad, the Olympics performance will raise questions. And questions it must raise.  Some of these questions will be buried as rhetoric. Some of them will interest no one. And if we are fortunate, some questions may trigger a rethink. Maybe someone in the right place will take note, and something will change.


Maybe in future the situation will be different. The  participants will have their  personal coach and the seconds when it matters. We will see more of  athletes and less of officials. We will not have to be reminded there are star sportsperson beyond cricket.  A first time entrant in a sports that India was never represented in- did not have to say sorry at the end. Equipment malfunction is a reality and not an excuse. The world record holders too can fail to qualify crumpling the hope of a success-starved nation. Legendary performers will continue fuelling the hopes or announce the end of a chapter.


What may not change,  is the armchair criticism of the process, results and performers. And I do hope that does not change. It reflect the hopes, happiness, irritation, frustration, dreams, desire, and aspiration of a fan. Unfortunately, it is impulsive and reactive. Sometimes, it lasts only till the slightest subsequent success.


I wish the pain lingered, and the wounds never fill up so that someone reacts to it.


Brands celebrating potential of the high performers, fuel the national hunger for success. Why do they not have  the same stance of collectivism to face defeat and maybe a day of underachievement?


Till we do not learn to accept sports as a long-term process. Till we stop expecting every day to be great and every athlete a super person capable of delivering every day. We as a nation will remain a nation of possibilities and potential and of individual dreams and failure.


In the current era of hyper information sharing and social media, everyone wants to vent their feelings. Moreover, many just flow with the reaction and the pattern set up by someone else.


So, the responses will  always be polarised.


It is challenging for the athletes to shoulder the responsibilities and not feel let down on an odd day. When suddenly, the whole nation celebrating their potential and possibilities turns against them. Because nothing short of the best is acceptable to the nation that has hardly invested inadequately training and nurturing the athletes. Which has refused to appreciate the hard work and rarely celebration their minor milestones. Where recognition is not a gradual process but a switch that will be turned on- only when they succeed. And while they dedicate themselves to their passion, expect them to navigate the politics of their federations and associations, And outperform everyone in the field.


So, the only question to all the people is, are you doing the right thing.


Now flip it over. The Olympics is your organisation and the sports your department. How are you nurturing the high performers? What kind of environment are you creating for them. Are you seriously treating them the way you should, or they are like the Indian athletes at the Olympics?


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