By Maj Gen Yash Mor (Retd)
Absence of Leadership Skills in Schools
One thing that is missing from our present education culture is total absence of any leadership skills at school level. I find that in the race to score marks the parents and the school teachers alike push young students into a daily grind that is not only boring and routine but also lacks any exciting adventures or misadventures which actually end up teaching great lessons for life. The school curriculum is packed with activities but most of them have little or no scope for leadership development. The day schools specially hold very little time and chance for the young minds to explore the world outside. After school there are endless hours of extra tuitions, which further restrict the time available for doing and learning any leadership skills. The present COVID pandemic has brought the culture of ‘online’ classes, further reducing play time and outdoor activities for the young minds.
This morning I was reflecting on an interesting anecdote from my school days, which brings about some wonderful lessons in leadership. I feel we were lucky to be in boarding school, which for many years had ‘Play the Game’ as its motto. The school was Rashtriya Military School, Bangalore, popularly known as the King George’s. The cadets of this institution have excelled not only in the defence forces of India but so also in all walks of life.
Indian Hockey Team- Gold Medal winners of Moscow Olympics
As you may be aware India managed to win its last Hockey Gold in Moscow Olympics in 1980, as many playing nations led by the US had boycotted the games due to Russian intervention in Afghanistan. India had a good team which beat Spain in the finals to win an Olympic gold after a long time, we last won the gold in 1964. The team after winning the medal were now preparing to take part in the Champions Trophy and was camping in Bangalore for its preparations. Dhananjai Dadwal (Retd as a Colonel from Army) and self were ardent sports enthusiasts from school days and never missed an opportunity to witness any sporting event being held in Bangalore. With little or no money in our pockets we managed to see many matches by making our way to the stadiums and many times literally begging the policeman on duty to let us in!
We started bunking the afternoon classes to walk all the way (good 8 to 10 km) to the Kanteerva Stadium to witness the hockey team practicing. The thrill of seeing the legends of the game in flesh and blood was worth all the risk that we were taking. For the first few days we would just watch the practice sessions and were happy to wave at famous players. In a few days the team management started taking note of the two young lads turning up every day to see the players in action. This gave us the required confidence and we started to hang around closer to the players and the coaching staff.
Initiative to Invite the Indian Team
One day we asked the Team coach late Mr Balkishan Singh, if it was possible for the Indian team to pay a visit to our school. We told him the school has a good team and we are champions in most games in the city. Hearing about the school and our enthusiasm he somehow agreed to bring his team to visit our school. We just could not believe our luck and rushed back to share this piece of information with the school Administrative Officer, Capt Rajpal Singh, a very dynamic and energetic leader himself. We were later told that the Principal has given his nod and we should now approach the team and plan for the big event.
Next day we went back to the Kanteerva stadium, this time officially in school blazer and tie, to coordinate the date and time for the visit. Those days no phones or letters of invite. It was just two of us, class XII standard students now negotiating the plan to get the Olympic champions to play a match with the school team. This was purely our own initiative and we were very excited about the whole thing.One major issue we did not plan was how will the team come to the school? The coach said you plan the transport for pick and drop after the event. The problem was the school had no suitable transport to ferry the team. We could not even suggest or think of hiring a proper bus. The Administrative Officer said I can only give you the permission to use the three-ton military truck, that was with the school.
Indian Team in Military truck
On the given day, we started from the school with the military truck to bring the team from the stadium. The players were ready as planned in their blue Team India Kit. The coach sat in the front but the entire Indian team very sportingly boarded in the military truck and with out any seating just held on to railings on the roof of the truck. Perhaps the only time the Indian National team moved through the city of Bangalore in a truck!
A grand welcome was given to the champion team and the entire school fraternity was at hand to witness a unique match. It was sheer joy to see the likes of Mohd Shahid, Jafar Iqbal, Bhaskaran (capt), Alan Schofield, Sommayastart the warm up and practice routine. The team had some very legendry players and it appeared so unreal to see them play in the school Hockey ground. Our Hockey field did not have any green turf and the playing surface was dusty but the team risking injuries agreed to play. Dhananjai and self were the two stars of the event since we were easily mixing up with the great players.
We played a short match in which the team just toyed with us and probably were too humble to give us a beating of our life time. Since it was an unequal match the coach decided to mix the teams up in order to get some match practice for all players. The sheer magic of seeing Mohd Shahid dribble was too good to be true.
The team stayed back for dinner with the Cadets in the school Dinning hall where they mixed up with all the boys, happily obliging for autographs, no one had any personnel camera those days.
Post dinner the two of us again took the team in the school military truck back to the stadium. It was wonderful to see off the players and the coach. We felt proud to have been catalysts in organizing such an event and to have the chance of a life time to meet the greats of Indian Hockey and play a match with them.
In times of COVID, the schools and parents need to think of some challenging activities to let the young students develop leadership skills. What ever we achieved in life was due to the environment in our school and the chance to take risks and learn from real life challenges. Looking back now after 40 years it fills my heart with pride and joy of having bunked frequently to witness many sporting greats of almost all games in action. Many a lesson in leadership were learnt in the sports fields of the school. Play The Game !!
-The writer is a PhD scholar (Nuclear Doctrine), and retired as Chief of Staff from a Corps in Desert sector. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda