When sports stars shoot from the hip and hit their own brand!

Learn to hold the gun before you shoot

Isn’t that really how it is? 

Shooting isn’t just about pressing the trigger. It also isn’t about how to hold it right before you press that trigger. It's primarily, about understanding, how to use the machine to shoot at the right target without endangering your own self. It’s a lethal machine and once it’s into the wrong hands you are just short of a massacre, though a large part of that depends upon the mental health of the person. 

‘WORDS’ mind you ‘WORDS’ is a similar lethal weapon, barring the only difference, the former kills you physically but the latter can dent you for life emotionally and in some cases financially as well. Isn’t it?

Before we delve deeper let's look at the power of a strong message and reckless communication. 

The LA Clippers incident and our very own football icon Sunil Chhetri 

The LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, in 2014 was embroiled in a controversy where he allegedly says: 'Don't bring black people to my games' – A conversation that apparently happened with the said person’s then-girlfriend over the phone which was eventually leaked and this transpired to a situation where he was banned by the NBA for life in 2014 and a fine worth  $ 2.5 Million was imposed on him. He is no more the owner of the team, and he had to step down from his position. 

Let's now cut back to India. In June earlier this year when India was playing the Hero Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai, the first game saw a very poor audience turn around. Our iconic national football captain Sunil Chhetri posted a video message on his own social media requesting football fans to come and support the team. The result – for all the other games for the next week the stadium was jam-packed.

Sports Icons are built not just with talent, but a large part of that icon status is because of the huge followers or fans that these sporting icons gather over a period of time. These fans are the ones who stand with you through your thick and thin and when one goes rogue with their words, even if in just the heat of the moment, these fans go berserk and the athlete is held on a gunpoint for his actions. 

But I have a simple question? Is it really the athlete’s fault when he goes rogue with his words or somewhere the system has failed in prepping up for learning to tackle similar situations?

And I speak here specifically for INDIA and the world of sports in INDIA.

Why athletes need public speaking training 

Soft Skills –Public speaking skills, Public Image and conduct are a few things that unfortunately in the sporting world in India limited to flamboyance related to clothing, accessories and lifestyle. And that is the root cause why no one really figures out the real interest or what actually is an iconic status for a sports star. Icons are the ones built when they are at the prime of their career and it’s their conduct in this course that decides on their life beyond their career. 

In the last few days we have seen a furor about a national icon going rogue with his words and his fans did not take any consideration to the fact that what he might have spoken wasn’t really the way he might have intended it to be, but again, the bullet was fired and there wasn’t a way that the injury could have been stopped. But was it his entire fault? Or was it also as much a fault of the system of professionalism he grew in? It’s important for associations and sports governing bodies to understand the implications of wrong words as a sum total of the dent that actually happens in situations like these. 

Look at it closely; a particular sports icon rashly abuses (not literally or even literally) a fan in a wrong situation or in the heat of the moment in person or anywhere in the public space – what does that imply. The sports character gets a dent somewhere because he/she is also one of the faces for the sport, the brands that he is associated with takes the hit for sure and, finally, it’s the fans who are hurt the most. Is this collateral damage really worth it? 

How important it is to prepare an athlete representing the country and the highest level the nuances of public conduct and speaking is something you only realize when these situations arise. Rather why not make it mandatory for every athlete to take specialized workshops on media and messaging training. These are the people who are the flag bearers of your sport as they are the ones who make the sport worth the money and the fan following and a well-spoken bunch of athletes only represents an organized back end in all spheres of public presentation.

Not that it’s a full proof way of dealing with all situations but it definitely minimizes a whole lot of damage in the regular course of life. The whole idea is to look at a view where an athlete learns the effective ways to express themselves without jeopardizing the people who have made him worthy enough to just concentrate on his career while his livelihood is taken care of.

Abhoy Chattopadhyay is co-founder, Sportscomm.

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