Raksha Joshi: Inspire Lessons Through Sport

Progress Reports

Mid-Year Public Progress Report

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Raksha Joshi grew up in Louisiana and graduated with degrees in education and psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.  For her fellowship, she is partnered with Ahmedabad Ultimate and hopes to use the medium of sport to help educate children on the value of sportsmanship, team building, and leadership.

NGO and Community Background

Ahmedabad Ultimate has been bringing together young players from across the city of Ahmedabad since 2004.  We are engaged with players, both boys and girls, from low to middle class family backgrounds ranging in age from 11 to 16.

The idea of Ahmedabad Ultimate initially resulted from the riots in 2002.  In response to the communal divide, Ahmedabad Ultimate aimed to use Ultimate Frisbee (Ultimate) as a medium to encourage young people from different backgrounds to interact freely with one another.  Through shared experiences of playing together and being a part of a new sport, the idea is that a diverse community would be created.  As a result, a new generation of young people would begin to see past the religious divides.  In addition, in Ultimate there is no referee, all fouls and disputes must be negotiated and agreed on by the players themselves, thus teaching young people conflict resolution.

Another focus is to give young players the opportunity to learn and experience sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership, and balance.  The heavy emphasis on education through school, tuition, and homework can often frustrate students as they memorize facts and information for testing purposes.  Ultimate was initially seen as a way to engage students and help them focus for long periods of time on something that genuinely interested them and hopefully helped them become refreshed to study in a more productive manner.

Ultimate is an ideal sport to address the aforementioned concerns because players start at a relatively even playing level and because the cost incurred for equipment is minimal.

My project is to come up with a holistic curriculum that would help players learn life skills and relevant lessons that they may not learn in school.  Ultimate Frisbee practice is seen as a way to reinforce and supplement larger lessons that students learned in school.

The first few months I focused on creating a larger awareness of Ultimate Frisbee through creating pamphlets, fliers, and holding monthly tournaments.  At the end of December we hosted a national tournament in which teams from Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Chennai participated.

One instance that stands out in my mind is from the December youth tournament.  We had planned to have small groups do puzzles.  Since several teams showed up early, we took out the tangrams (puzzles) and mixed up some of the teams.  It was a glimpse of an ideal situation, players were thinking critically and problem solving with players from other teams before they spent half a day of friendly, yet competitive games.

Some attempts at that included doing different puzzles to help their visual-spatial skills, discussions on building team identities (team names and cheers), and conversations about patience, anger, and other emotions experienced while playing.  I feel somewhat of a lack of accomplishment at this point in my fellowship.  The project description is to connect on the field learnings to situations off the field, which is a process that takes time and reflection.  In my experience when I played soccer, I didn’t realize the impact it had on me until after I stopped playing.  So, instead of trying to overtly create conversations, maybe a stronger emphasis of working with coaches to make it happen naturally as they share their experiences with players would be a better approach.  From my end I want to focus more on opening up a dialogue between coaches and players.

In early December, we had the opportunity to work with Kaivalya Education Foundation by using  Ultimate Frisbee with municipal school headmasters.  The emphasis was to use sports to create a fun and lively environment which would excite the headmasters and make them more open to new learnings.  KEF’s rationale for using frisbee to remind the headmasters what it is like to be a kid and to play once again.  In addition, they encourage the headmasters to play with the students, so that the students will slowly learn to not fear the headmasters. I want to use this momentum to see how the schools can support learnings from experiences in the game and how we can support schools teach more effectively through the use of sport.  One example is that a headmaster that attended one of KEF’s workshops has begun playing frisbee with students before school begins.  Students make it a point to come early so they have a chance to play and as a result, the headmaster has seen an increase in attendance.  I hope to continue working with KEF headmasters to see what else we can do together.

In an attempt to provide players support as they prepare for final exams in early April, I am currently preparing a study skills unit that helps students identify and focus on relevant material as well as test taking strategies.

Personal Growth

I chose to be an Indicorps Fellow because I wanted to learn more about myself especially when put in new and challenging situations.  I came straight from college into the fellowship and thus my experience in teams on long-terms projects is quite limited.  I’ve had various opportunities to learn about how different group dynamics play out.

I have seen how big the world really is through this experience.  No number of news stories or documentaries can begin to explain how different people live.  The opportunity to see how farmers live in rural Rajasthan and the capacity to share and welcome complete strangers in their homes is humbling.  I am more grateful for all I have.

I have also realized how complicated life is.  I have been quite fortunate in that I personally have not had too many obstacles growing up.  I was financially supported, emotionally loved, spiritually nurtured.  During the course of this year I have had the privilege of hearing people’s stories and I am grateful for their trust and sharing of experience, but more importantly I am awed at the strength and courage with which people grow.

This year has definitely been full of learning experiences especially. There are many internal struggles that I’m continually facing due to lack of experience and expectations that I have for myself that are unmet.  However, I find that I am able to find support from fellow Fellows, Fellowship Support, the larger Indicorps family, and the faith that every experience comes with something to learn.

At the end of this year I’m not certain what I will be doing, but I see myself more aware of how thoughts shape my world and the necessity of creating a loving, nurturing, and supportive environment for myself through the people with whom I choose to interact.  In five years I’m not exactly sure where I see myself, but most likely teaching at a school.  Although I am occasionally uneasy, this year has definitely helped me be more comfortable and accept not knowing.  Overall, I see myself becoming more whole and seeing the interconnectedness between thoughts, words, and action more clearly.

Raksha Joshi, August 2009 Indicorps Fellow

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