Sports, character and emotional intelligence

April 14, 2019

The best way of inculcating good character traits is to build the capacity of teachers in general and physical education teachers and sports coaches in particular

Sports, character and emotional intelligence

Over the decades the moral fibre of our society has deteriorated. Our education system has produced high achievers scoring over 90 percent marks in exams, but we have failed to produce a tolerant, physically fit and emotionally intelligent society with a high EQ and growth mindset.

The responsibility of this fiasco lies on our outdated education system which has little to offer in developing life skills. Obesity, diabetes, and communicable deceases are at increase and the modern lifestyle has glued our youth to social media with little room for physical activity.

Unfortunately our entire education system, public or private, doesn’t offer any kind of social and character building process to our youth who have to take the reins of the nation in near future.

Dr Thomas Lickona, a psychologist from the State University of New York, says in his famous book "Character Matters" (2004) that children are 25 percent of the population but 100 percent of the future.  If we wish to renew the society, we must raise up a generation of children who have strong moral character and if we wish so, then we have only two possibilities: first, to model good character in our own lives and, second, to intentionally foster character development in our youth.

During my thirty years of experience in sports, media and corporate world, I have come across many wonderful professionals full of energy and ideas. However, these wonderfully intelligent people lacked emotional intelligence and had hardly experienced any programmed Character Education except what they learned at home. A few lucky got exposed to such education at selected schools and academies.

Societies are built not through infrastructure development but through characters and emotional intelligence of the young generation. Research has proved that there is no better environment for nurturing emotional intelligence and character traits in students than sports and physical education. Themes such as team work, goal setting, problem solving and perseverance are natural ingredients in sports. They also form the pillars of success in life.

Martin Luther King Jr once said intelligence plus character is the goal of true education. While the West integrated character building in its education system through successful character education curriculum like "Human Giraffers" offered by Ann Medlock and other educationists, we totally ignored this most important aspect of education. Aristotle says that to develop positive character traits, repetition and practice is required. And sports is the best way to inculcate and maintain these traits.

A glance at history tells us that civilisations do not flourish forever. They rise and they fall. They fall when the moral core deteriorates and when a society fails to pass on its core virtues, its strength of character, to the next generation.

Historian Arnold Toynbee says that out of twenty-one notable civilizations, nineteen perished not by conquest from outside but by moral decay from within.

Pakistan is facing multiple challenges, including economic crisis and belligerence on neighbouring states. Let me assure you that our armed forces have the capacity to thwart any aggression. And over the next few years, we will surely come out of the economic mess. What I fear most is the internal threat: our inability to co-exist with others’ point of view and our poor emotional intelligence.

Character education and emotional intelligence go hand in hand. The goals of character education are trustworthiness, respectfulness, sense of responsibility, fairness, empathy and disciplined citizenship.

Emotional intelligence involves being aware of how emotions drive one’s own behaviour and those of others. Our reactions to others’ emotions determines how emotionally intelligent we are.

Our education system offers nothing to develop the emotional intelligence of our students. They cheat openly in exams and don’t hesitate in abusing and threatening fellow students who may not agree with a particular or popular point of view.

If we want to emerge as a successful nation, we need to invest in emotional and character education of our youth.

Abraham Lincoln once said a child is a person who is going to carry on what we have started. He is going to sit where you are sitting when you are gone. You may adopt all the policies you pleased, but how they are carried out depends on him.  He will assume control of your cities, states and nations. He is going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities and corporations. The fate of humanity is in his hand.

Alas, we paid very little attention to this aspect of nation building. The result is obvious, from the national cricket team to the highest level, we are struggling to find truly great leaders. Sports and student unions, the two primary sources of producing leaders, have been choked.

Physical education and sports result in development of emotional intelligence.  The sportsman accepts his mistake and learns from it rather than quit when frustration sets in.

Physical education and sports offer a wonderful platform for creatively integrating life skills, in a way that promotes healthy living, both socially and emotionally.

The best way of inculcating good character traits is to build the capacity of teachers in general and physical education teachers and sports coaches in particular so that they can help students learn how to cope with difficult situations.

Heywood Broun, an American sports journalist and founder of American Newspaper Guild, says sports don’t build character, they reveal it.

Our policy makers must apply these modern concepts in the education policy to take Pakistan forward.

Sports, character and emotional intelligence