Published: 29th July 2019
Attention sports enthusiasts, check whether your body is made for your game
Dr Ajeet Jaiswal compares anthropology and sports in his recent book and suggests ways to put your body to its fullest use in order to excel in sports
Whether it’s cricket, football or basketball, most of us have had a favourite sport that we’ve been playing since childhood. But have we ever stopped to think about the reasons for choosing this particular sport? What if it could be scientifically proven that we're better suited for a particular sport over the sport that we actually like? That's what Dr Ajeet Jaiswal, an alumnus of the University of Delhi and current Assistant Professor at the Department of Anthropology, Pondicherry University, has tried to explain in his book Anthropology and Sports. Excerpts from the interview:
A unique idea: The cover page of Anthropology and Sports by Dr Ajeet Jaiswal
Could you tell us about this link between Anthropology and sports?
Anthropology is the study of human beings that contains all aspects like cultural, biological and societal developmental aspects. Within Anthropology, there is a field called Applied Anthropology. Here, we use Anthropology for the welfare of human beings and by welfare I mean improvement — improvement in health, position, growth and overall development. Sports is one of the areas where Anthropology can be applied. In India, we tend to choose a sport that is popular, without thinking about whether that particular sport will suit our body morphology or body structure. Similarly, most people in Europe play football without thinking about their body type — which might instead be suited for swimming, tennis or athletics. As a person working on anthropometry, which is the scientific study of the measurements and proportions of the human body, I decided to write this book through which I have tried to explain how body anthropology can help in the selection of sportspersons in our country.
Does that mean you believe that something is lagging in our present sports culture? If so, how can we overcome it with anthropological techniques?
In India, we never give importance to anthropological techniques and our selection process starts very late. If we start training children from an early age (before the age of 13) and if we find that a kid is good in a particular activity, we can give them the confidence to pursue it as a career. Then, sports will flourish in our country. So, anthropometric screening is very important in selection. In this book, I've talked about physical features, history, body composition, sports and their relationship with the human physiology. There is even a separate chapter regarding the betterment of Special Olympics, where the differently-abled can think, learn, understand and develop their skill in sports. There is a paragraph devoted to occupational hazards as well – for example, people these days have back pain from working at the desk for too long and as a remedy, simple stretching exercises are suggested.
What does the kinanthropometry method, mentioned in the book, refer to?
Kinanthropometry is an explanatory term for the anthropology of sports. It refers to the body size, body dimension and the overall system of anthropology in relation to sports, related equipment and activities. It is not confined to one sport, it includes every sport.
Being a book about sports and ideal body dimension, does it give suggestions for a healthy lifestyle?
If you want to be healthy, then you should maintain a proper diet, posture and physical activity. This is common knowledge. But specifically, some dos and don’ts on how to maintain the right lifestyle are mentioned in the book.
What sparked the idea behind the book in the first place?
It all started after I attended a Kho-Kho tournament in the university where girls from the four southern states participated. Some of them failed to perform properly in the game but they performed better when they were playing something else during their break. I realised then that it was all a matter of body morphology — people are physically equipped to do well in certain sports and not too well in certain others. From then on, I started reading and researching on this topic and after an in-depth study of six to seven years, this book is the final product.