Adventure sports: not just fun but learning for life!
Lt Col Satyendra Verma
School days are formative years for the mind and body of the student, making it the ideal stage to inculcate physical fitness and fearlessness towards attempting new physical and mental challenges and adventure sports go a long way in inculcating them.
Adventure sports are important for children as they are highly motivational and practical. They aim at increasing productivity, encourages students to work in different working environment, builds team spirit, build trust and more. These physical activities also help in maintaining the physical mental balance of a student. Here, Lt Col Satyendra Verma (Retd.)shares his views on the same.
TPS: As an icon in Adventure Sports in India, it is indeed a privilege to introduce you to the school community. Can you briefly recount your success stories in this field of Adventure Sports?
Lt Col Verma (Retd): In fact it is my privilege to get this opportunity to interact with your magazine and share my journey. I have been lucky to be able to pursue my dreams in various forms of aero adventure sports.
- I am a Skydiving Instructor, which means that after more than 2000 freefall jumps, I can still experience the excitement and fun of the First Jump through the eyes of my students. It is a humbling feeling when your student trusts his life in your hands during the jump.
- I am a professional Wingsuit Pilot (Advance Discipline in Skydiving) and represent India in World Championships. It is truly an honour to represent my country on the world stage and makes me push my own limits.
- I am a B.A.S.E Jumper, which means I jump of Static Objects fixed to Earth and open my parachute after jumping. This is a highly technical and dangerous sport, which challenges one’s concept of fear and mental focus and has made me a much stronger person.
- Although I have jumped in many parts of the world, some years back I started undertaking independent Wingsuit Flying & BASE Jumping projects in India with the aim of sharing my experiences with the future generations and helping the ones who wish to pursue their dreams. I also give talks to motivate junior & senior classes to overcome challenges in the face of fear and rejection.
TPS: What kind of challenges have you faced in developing the right attitude and skills to achieve these peaks of excellence?
Lt Col Verma (Retd): The foremost challenge is to overcome the basic human mindset that tells us not to take risks and follow the path already tried and tested.
The first reaction of the ecosystem, from your parents, teachers, colleagues & even employers, will push you to reconsider your decision to pursue adventure sports. It was particularly more difficult, when I was a student, but it got easier with age when I was responsible for my own decisions.
The other big challenge was access to knowledge and expertise. Since these sports are not very common in India, I had to mainly rely on magazines earlier and then later Internet helped a great deal.
The challenge to get the right coaching and training in these high risk sports. I was lucky to get the same from the Army instructors and from abroad but now it is my dream that I can provide this for the volunteers in India.
TPS: Can you identify any five important requirements to engage as an adventure sportsman and how does one nurture them?
Lt Col Verma (Retd):Pursuing Adventure Sports safely need a mindset which some of us are lucky to be born with but if one is truly motivated, it can also be developed. That mindset consists of 5 parts:
- Confidence to stand out among your peers and be able to chart your own path unfazed. As a society, safety is presumed to be linked with following a treaded path, hence it requires a special confidence in the person to break away towards his/her own journey.
- Perseverance to follow up on one’s dreams as obstacles will come in form of physical limitations and circumstantial support. One has to display grit in the face of these obstacles and keep moving ahead.
- Physical fitness is the key for any sport and more so for adventure sport where physical risks are heightened with this aspect. Apart from being over all fit, most adventure sports will also require certain muscles to be more developed that are used in that sport. For example, in Wingsuit Flying, one must present a very minimal area in the direction of flying which requires the Core Muscles to be highly developed and agile.
- The ability to focus on your actions when the body is pumped up with adrenaline and mind is telling you to quit. This is essentially the most important quality, and this must be developed over a period of time with practice.
- Hunger to learn more about the sport and its consequences will make one safe in the sport.
TPS: What kind of opportunities do you find in developing Adventure sports in India and what are the roadblocks in developing them?
Lt Col Verma (Retd): We are at the starting block for Adventure sports in India and while many crib about the situation, I see the positive side of it, such that opportunities are open to the entire ecosystem. Right from the organisers, sponsors and participants, we all are privileged that we do not have any legacy to follow and that we can build it from ground up with the best of methods and equipment tried and tested worldwide. While comparing the development of adventure sports in other countries, the roadblocks that we face today in India are no different. These include:
- Support from financial institutions (Insurance, Banks)
- Importing specialised equipment.
- Training of instructors.
However, one unique roadblock for India is inculcation of safety as a mindset, but I am sure in times to come, after good examples of best procedures are made mandatory, we will overcome this too.
TPS: How do you think adventure sports helps in developing an individual’s profile and make him a confident and contributive citizen of the country.
Lt Col Verma (Retd): As we can see that the five qualities mentioned above as essential to pursue adventure sports safely (Confidence to stand out among your peers, Perseverance to follow up on one’s dreams, Physical fitness, The ability to focus, Hunger to learn more) also happen to be the important qualities for character building for a student.
Great things are done by breaking the norm in a positive manner and adventure activities can help build these habits. Also, experiencing adventure activities pushes the boundaries of your mental strength and that confidence that, “I will be fine” & fearlessness is very infectious and invariably transcends into other life decisions also.
TPS: What is your message to the school community in nurturing adventure sports?
Lt Col Verma (Retd): School days are formative years for the mind and body of the student, making it the ideal stage to inculcate physical fitness and fearlessness towards attempting new physical and mental challenges.
Low level adventure activities like Para Sailing (to remove fear of heights), Scuba Diving (to remove fear of water), trekking into difficult terrain (to understand that we are one with nature) can easily be organised for all classes and not only limited for senior students.
No doubt that this will entail additional financial and organisational burden on the school and parents, but I assure you that in the long run it will pay back to the student, parents and the school also.
With the rising economy, these days a lot of corporates show keenness to partner and sponsor school activities and I feel that this sweet spot can well be used by the school administration to seek support and reduce the financial burden in organising adventure activities for children.
The only word of caution is Safety which can be ensured by very closely checking and verifying the antecedents of the operator organising the adventure sport for students.
If given an opportunity, I would be glad to be of any help to guide the schools in this regard or motivate the students to take on personal challenges, both physical and mental, because finally it is these qualities that will see him through rough patches or help achieve his/her potential.
Lt Col Satyendra Verma (Retd) was commissioned in Indian Army in 1991, but he took premature retirement in 2013. He is B Tech in Electronics and Telecommunications. He is also an expert in GIS with one patent. He is an Adventure Enthusiast — a Skydiver; B.A.S.E Jumper; Wingsuit Pilot; ParaglidingPilot and MicrolightPilot.
He has to his credit 2400+ Freefall jumps; 350+ Wingsuit Flights; 53 BASE Jumps. He conceptualized and raised the Army Skydiving Teamin 2006 and was the Team Captain, Army Sports Skydiving Teamfrom 2006 to 2012. He is an Instructor in all Skydiving training methods (AFF, Tandem, SL & IAD ) and Chief Instructor for Army Skydiving Training for 07 yrs, trained 200+ persons without a single incident. He represented India in two World Military Parachuting Championships at Ryazan, Russia in 2006 and Switzerland in 2010 and also represented India in Two World Wingsuit Championships (2015 &2016).
Lt Col (Retd) Verma is FAI Qualified Judge in Accuracy Skydiving. He won National Adventure Award 2015 (Equivalent to Arjuna Award) and three entries in Limca Book of Records.