The fear of falling

All this while, in getting kids to play, I have been focussed on ensuring that kids get the right fitness and the right skills at the right age – and hence enjoy the playing experience – and hence play for life.

All very logical.

Recently, I realised that we have missed a critical component.

Realised this when my 6 year old son insisted on going to the branch of the SPT academy that was a 20 minute drive away from home. And in the mornings on the weekend.

Not the one that was just a 5 minute walk away from home – that was using a school’s ground on the weekend – and more conveniently, in the afternoon.

As a parent, it was very tempting to find a way to convince him to go to the place next door. Drop him off. Go home. Have some tea. Read a book. Pick him up.

So, I tried to convince him. But then he disarmingly told me: “Because the other place has grass”

And there it was. So clear for everybody to see. But I had missed it.


And then the penny dropped. He refuses to “dribble” in the apartment complex where we live. Fine with kicking the ball around. Prefers cricket to football in the apartment complex.

And I then realised that he was developing a fear of falling on the hard surface.

And I don’t blame him.

My palms still have marks from the injuries I got while playing football on the hard grounds of IIM Bangalore back in 1993-95. Nearly 20 years ago!

Remember the Indian cricket team not diving while fielding – till recently? No wonder – as the grounds they grew up on were hard, rough and full of gravel. One full-fledged dive would have put them out of contention for a few matches due to the injuries!

And I just can’t help wondering how much the fear of falling is impacting the way kids play. Making that extra effort, going for the less-than-half-chance and then making it happen is what you remember from a game. And in the process, you hurt yourself. I keep telling my son “Well done!” whenever he comes back with a bruise after a game.

For a 6 year-old, falling on a concrete surface or a rough ground can be quite an un-nerving experience.

So, if our kids have a fear of falling, are they really playing to their potential? Are they going after the half-chances? Will they really experience the “magic of sport”? or have such an antiseptic version that it is just not exciting enough?

Just helping them find a small spot of grass to play on can remove the fear of falling.

Now, how difficult can that be?

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