Are rich kids not hungry for success in sports?

Over the years, I have been involved in many, many discussions around the state of sports in India. Invariably, it gets to the point about kids, nurturing talent, the issues with the sports system etc.

And then it gets to this one point: The future champions of sports in India will come from the semi-urban and rural India. And from kids who are from an economically lower strata.

“The rich kids are just not hungry enough”, many – including me – have asserted – and received many vigorous nods in agreement. Of late, I have been having second thoughts on this one.

I have seen some well-to-do kids pursuing sports seriously. Not as a career – yet. But extremely involved. Attending camps in the morning before school. Tournaments on weekends. Practice. Fitness. Skills.


Their life revolves around the game. I see them as hungry as I have seen anybody else.

Some of the best players India has produced – in cricket, squash, tennis, tabe tennis etc – have been from well-to-do families.

From the child’s perspective, s/he is making the most of what is available – coaching, equipment, apparel, shoes, tournaments etc.

The rich kids get more of it – and make the most of it.

The poor kids get less of it – and make the most of it.

The “chasm” for the rich kids comes at the point when the child reaches 8th/9th grade. Suddenly, the options start opening up on the academic side – coaching, books, online resources, quizzes, contests etc.

And the child is urged to make the most of what is available. It also makes sense for the child to evaluate sports v/s academics. Barring a few geniuses, most kids in 8th/9th don’t really know where they stand wrt the national/international circuits. Many of the dominant national junior or sub-junior champs burnout and do not really make it to the top senior nationals. So, a child in 8th grade doesn’t really have enough information to conclude whether he is good enough in the sport and therefore is it worth pursuing as a career. But, unlike the poor child, the rich child has few extremely well-configured choices.

It is, therefore, not the lack of hunger in the rich child that prevents him from making it big in sports. It is the presence of choice. Of alternate career paths. Of parents who can buy them a seat in a US university.

The rich child is as hungry for success in sport as the poor child. The poor child just has no choice. He has to succeed. Eliminating choice, not developing hunger, as a strategy for success. Interesting, what?

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