New Delhi, May 7: Top tennis player Sania Mirza who has always been outspoken about the barriers a woman athlete faces takes prides that many of India’s sporting stars, outside cricket, are women. However, she also said that it will take a few more generations for a woman to pick sports that should be seen as a natural career choice in the country.
The six Grand Slam titles winner spoke issues how the parents and coaches towards women players play a vital in shaping the career of a woman during a webinar organized by the All India Tennis Association and the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
“I take huge pride in the fact that outside cricket, the biggest sports stars are women athletes. If you see magazines, billboards, you find women sports stars. That is a huge step, I know how difficult it is to pursue a sport being a woman,” Sania said.
Further, she added, “This is a signal that things have changed but we have miles to go before we reach the point where when a girl picks up boxing gloves, or a badminton racquet or says ‘I want to be a wrestler’, it’s not out of ordinary, it should become natural progression.”
Speaking on why the girls tend to quit the tennis at an early age she said, “Sport in this side of the world does not come naturally to parents. They want their daughters to be doctors, lawyers, teachers but not an athlete. Things have changed in the last 20-25 years since I started playing tennis but still there is long way to go."
Though several athletes like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom have brought glory for the country, Sania highlighted many challenges women athletes face.
“Certain norms are outlined for girls. Even after I had achieved everything, I was being asked when I am going to have a child as if until I have a child, my life will not be complete. There are deeper cultural issues embedded in us and it will take a few more generations to get rid of those issues.”
Responding to Suresh Sonchalam, the director of AITA’s coach education program, Sania said she faced a lot of hurdles in her career but strong support from her parents proved to be the key in her successful journey.
“What we were doing was against the norm. I started playing at age of six and at that time a girl picking up the racquet and dreaming of playing Wimbledon was laughed at. Log kya kahenge (what will people say) has killed more dreams than anything else. I was lucky to be born to parents, who did not care about it.”
The 33-year-old even spoke about the role of coaching staff towards women athletes and suggested that coaches need to be more sensible when they train girl players. “Coaching the girls is more trickier. At the age of 13-14 they are still discovering who they are. There are changes happening in the body. There are hormonal changes which happen throughout their lives.”