Sikh Women and Sports

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Ashpal Kaur Bhogal

TLH has covered several promising athletes in the Sikh community. Basketball player Darsh Singh, Football player Nuvraj Bassi, and Boxer Andrew Singh Kooner. The list of Sikh athletes is fortunately growing, includingFauja Singh, Pardeep Nagra, andSubaig Singh- some of whom we have covered and others we haven’t had a chance to. Jodha recently updated us on the Bhullar Brothers, potential NBA-ers, Sim Bhullar and younger brother Tanveer Bhullar, both 7-foot-somethings.

The thing about this list, however, is that all of these athletes are men.

It begs the question, then, where is the representation of Kaurs in sports today? After watching news coverage of the growing number of women playing kabaddi in Punjab, and with the popularity of the Women’s World Cup finals this past weekend, it made me think about the importance of sports in the lives of young Sikh girls. Much has been written about why sports are critical for young girls.

A large body of research shows that sports are associated with all sorts of benefits, like lower teenage pregnancy rates, better grades and higher self-esteem… separate studies from two economists offer some answers, providing the strongest evidence yet that team sports can result in lifelong improvements to educational, work and health prospects… Using a complex analysis, Dr. Stevenson showed that increasing girls sports participation had a direct effect on womens education and employment. [link]

ashpal.jpgPerhaps the only competitive activity we have for women right now is giddha. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love doing giddha as much as the next Punjaban and think it plays an important purpose in developing a sense of community and support for women, but perhaps we also need to cultivate avenues for young Sikh girls – who are interested in sports – to be able to play on teams and even professionally ( laBend it like Beckham).

A quick google search results in little information about professional Sikh female athletes, particularly in the diaspora (there is some coverage of Sikh women and sports in India, see here and here). However, last year we did hear aboutAshpal Kaur Bhogal, who became the first Sikh female to represent England Women’s hockey. Ashpal, from Leeds, England (my neck of the woods!) started playing hockey at the age of six and was even awarded “Most Promising Female Athlete” by the Mayor of London. Of note, hockey was not the only sport that she participated in – she was also involved with tennis and running. Below you’ll see a clip from an interview with Ashpal – when asked what advice she would give to other young girls who have an interest in sports, she says “Get out there, fulfill your dream. Be the best you can. Get as much support as you can from friends and family… and improve from there.” Ashpal also speaks about her faith and the importance of being raised doing kirtan and paath. Perhaps one day Ashpal will be a source of inspiration for other young Kaurs aspiring to be athletes.

So i ask our readers, do you know of other professional Sikh female athletes? Do you know of any young women who aspire to be involved in sports? What’s helping or holding them back? Do share!

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25 Responses to “Sikh Women and Sports”

  1. KDS says:

    I find these type of articles surprising and full of ignorance by Sikhs living outside India.It looks to me that for them the only Sikhs live in UK,USA or Canada ,they totally forget that the largest population of Sikhs live in India and Many of them have acheived much more than NRI sikhs
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manjit_Kaur

    Manjit kaur one India's fastest Athlete and Gold medal winner in 400 metre relay in commonwealth games
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surinder_Kaur_(field

    Surinder kaur India's current women hockey captain

    Apart from these 2 India's commonwealth squad was full of kaurs representing India in various fields

  2. simran says:

    Here's a link to an article about Divneet Kaur, who played NCAA tennis for Whitman College: http://www.whitman.edu/whitman/index.cfm?objectid

  3. Mohinder Singh says:

    Sikh women are held back in sports mostly due to their cultural/religious constraints.Since most of the track and field events,and other disciplines require somewhat skimpy clothing,sikh girls competing in salwaar kammez cannot effectively traine hence no world class sikh women athletes.When was the last time any one heard or saw sikh women compete in swimming or beach volleyball?.Back in early 70's there was a girl named Sarabjit Sandhu who used to compete in 400 mts in asian games and she was very good at it.She married her german coach and left india.I still think about her and her fiery legs/thighs.So if the sikh women want to compete in world class sports shed off some of your inhibitions,pounds and fat and surely there will be no stopping them.

  4. rmsingh says:

    Sisters Jasjit and Amrit Kaur Bhinder – who competed in NCAA fencing:
    http://americanturban.com/2011/04/10/amrit-kaur-b

  5. M D K says:

    In reply to those comments above that are narrow-minded:
    Sikh women are and have always been strong and fierce competitors in sports. My mother is an ex-olympian. She represented india and no @blighty singh she was not on steroids or drugs. She is and has always been a role model for me. I have played sports throughout my education, nowhere near recognizable standards, but wearing the clothing was nothing my family or I were ever ashamed of. My childhood was split between canada and the US and in neither of these 2 countries (of the 3 earlier discussed) did I ever see a single Sikh woman hiding herself behind a salwar kameez during sports. Amritdhari Sikh women (girls in my high school) proudly wore their skirts and shorts on unshaved legs.

    More to the point of this article:
    Although I personally do not know any Sikh girls that are stellar athletes currently, the links provided by the well-versed Sikhs above are inspiring and enlightening – Thank you for sharing!!

  6. PSH says:

    I think a lot of people have made great points about sikh women participating in sports. And I dont think ignoring stories like a sikh olympian in hockey or track and field is smart simply because they are from India. Sikhs and Sikhs no matter where they are from, they are a minority group in every country including India. I am by no means a supporter of India (in fact I am quite the opposite), but I view the accomplishments of my brothers and sisters as equal regardless of where they are from and if we ignore the accomplishments of sikh athletes in India then we are doing them a great injustice

  7. zammaz says:

    Physical training instills in kids the significance of keeping up a sound body and shows then the significance of general wellness movement in every day schedule, which thus keeps them upbeat and stimulated. This offers the kids to keep up their wellness, some assistance with developing their solid quality and build their stamina.