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A few days ago, I googled for the definition of “good sportsmanship”. The search engine came up with loads of information on this subject.

“Good sportsmanship may seem hard to define, but its hallmarks include being able to win without gloating, respecting one’s opponents, and being able to lose gracefully.”

Being able to lose gracefully… A wide grin lit up my face. I read on…

“A “sore loser” refers to one who does not take defeat well, whereas a “good sport” means being a “good winner” as well as being a “good loser” (someone who shows courtesy towards another in a sports game).”

This time I felt like laughing. Oh boy, oh boy…

If you’re wondering where this topic is leading to… I have a very interesting personal experience to share with you.

This happened ten days ago, on Thursday, the 26th of September at Kris Gethin Gym in Chembur, Mumbai. I have been a member of this gym since January 2018, a little more than 3 months after the gym opened in September 2017.

As part of the gym’s second anniversary celebrations week, a fun event was held each day from 23rd to 29th of September. On the 26th, a Tug of War event for women and men took place in the evening after 7PM.

There were perhaps 20-30 male participants, but merely 8 female participants including me. So just two female teams playing two matches to decide the winner. If the second match was a tie, a third match would be played to decide the winner. This was the organiser’s decision, final and binding on both teams.

The first match was played with 4 players on my side and 3 players on the other side. That’s because the organizers decided to go by players’ weight. The other side had the gym’s heavyweight champion and the gym’s only female trainer, who’s a heavyweight champion too. With this advantage, that team was expected to win. On the other hand, my team comprised of lightweights, so there was a shortfall of 10 KG, which we didn’t mind since it was a fun event.

My team won the match. We were told that the team that wins the second match will be declared the winning team.

In the second match, the other side got one more female making the number of players equal on both sides, four each. My team won once again and we were declared winners of the womens’ Tug of War event. This was an unexpected win for us. It made me realize that it’s not physical strength that counts but mental tenacity. Mind over matter!

The mens’ Tug of War event went on for two hours or so. My team mates and I were looking forward to participate in a fun mixed team match. So we waited till the mens’ Tug of War event got over. After the mens’ winning team was declared, we were told that there would be a rematch of womens’ Tug of War. The female trainer called Madhuri from the other team wanted another match. Two of her team mates had already left, but there were one or maybe two new females around. My teammates and I couldn’t believe our ears. I mean, such gross attitude! This is called poor sportsmanship.

So, what causes poor sportsmanship?

Unrealistic expectations. High performance expectations which put too much pressure on the player.

A wise man has rightly said this: “No true competitor likes to lose, but there is a certain way to lose and that’s with class! You can lose a ton of respect being a classless individual.”

Obviously, the female trainer couldn’t digest her loss especially since my team was considered a weak side. Her team had a heavyweight champion and she herself was strong enough. Her excuse for another match was that people around told them to leave the rope, so they left it. That their side were obstructed by machines when the rope went diagonal. Seriously, this coming from a trainer! My side also had to struggle when the rope went diagonal. They could have moved away like we did. I have two videos, one of each match. If she had any problems, she could have mentioned it then and there itself. Why two hours later? My team was protesting against this rematch because it was unfair. Unbecoming of a trainer, she was rude. She had the audacity to say “SHUT UP” to me. Such insolence! The gym’s head, Dhotre was standing right next to her when she said that and he didn’t even reprimand her!

I had already made a complaint against that female trainer 5-6 days ago about which I will tell you when you read further. So when she threw me that contemptuous “SHUT UP”, I was naturally angered. One member pulled me outside the room to calm me down. Two of my teammates and two other members followed us out of the room. While the gym’s head proved to be incompetent and the male trainers and members around watched on quietly, my third teammate was the only person in the room to have the guts to reprimand the female trainer for her insolent behaviour.

That same night, I emailed Kris Gethin Gym’s co-founder Jag Chima, a British citizen of Indian origin. He was travelling in India during that week. He immediately replied that his team would review the complaint and that his Operations In-charge, Sanjay would get in touch with me as soon as possible. Three days passed but that didn’t happen. So on 30th September, I emailed to Jag Chima again mentioning that the inaction shows that I’m not valued in the gym. My gym membership was going to get over after two weeks so I told him that my decision to renew it would depend upon the action taken against the female trainer who remained unapologetic. Jag once again assured me that his team would investigate my complaint and take the required steps and inform me when they have any updates.

Later in the evening, the prize distribution ceremony took place. The winning team of mens’ Tug of War were awarded but not the winning team of womens’ Tug of War. My teammates and I, we were shocked. Someone told one of my teammates that it was noticed in a video that my teammate at the far end of the rope had pressed against a machine. It was a foul and hence my team was disqualified. That video wasn’t shown to us. I was right at the front facing the opposing team in both matches. Hence unaware of the movements of my teammates behind. But I have two videos with me, one each of both matches. In the second video, it can be clearly seen that the opposing player at the far end of the rope extended her hand out and grabbed the rod of a machine to support herself. So, doesn’t all this reek of unfair treatment and injustice?

Is sportsmanship more important than winning?

Winning and losing are both very temporary things. My team never gloated over our victory. On the other hand, the female trainer was sulking over her team’s loss. Whether you win or lose, the most important thing is how you deal with the result and move forward. My team decided to let go of the matter of non-receipt of our deserving winners’ award.

So you see, good sportsmanship was a highly underrated virtue in this personal experience of mine. The losing team displayed poor sportsmanship. The insolent behaviour of the female trainer and the unprofessional attitude of the gym’s head and the trainers in not asking the female trainer to apologise to me shows how good sportsmanship is lacking at fitness centres, the very place where bodies are strengthened and prepared for sports. Sadly, they skip the part of mental strength and preparation which is of upmost importance. Mind over matter! Never underestimate the strength of a powerful mind!

Now coming to the complaint that I had made against the female trainer. I have always received negative vibes from her but I didn’t complain about it. My mistake!

There were three incidents of bad behaviour that I had complained about before the Tug of War incident:

  1. About three months ago or so, I was working on the abs machine and wanted to check a workout on Instagram. I had placed my phone on the floor. A young member was passing by and readily handed it to me and also returned it back to its place. Second time I needed to check the workout, the female trainer was standing close by. So I requested her to hand me my phone. She refused. The young member who had helped earlier happened to pass by. I repeated my request to him and he gladly obliged. Seeing this, the female trainer immediately chided him saying that I pick my nose and wipe the mucus on the tissue paper around my phone. Can you believe this? I kept quiet.
  2. A week later, I was doing side lunges in the corner used for doing floor workouts. I needed a bit more space to stretch, but the female trainer was in my way. I requested her to shift a bit. She refused and told me to shift instead, to the other side. She could have easily moved a bit but she refused! I still didn’t complain against her.
  3. The third incident happened just three days before the anniversary week. Due to shoulder problem, I had stopped doing upper body workout for quite a long time. I was going to do seated calf raises at the time of the incident. A 25 kg plate was loaded on the machine, which I didn’t require. So I lifted the heavy plate and fitted it onto the nearest vacant rod of the squat machine. Had I dropped it on the floor, it would have made a loud noise. Placing it on the floor would have strained my upper body. The next thing I know, the female trainer rushes towards me furiously, “I want to work out here!” As if I knew anyone was working out there! The place was empty till then. I gently told her that. A minute later, she returned with the member whom she was training. Obviously, she had thought that I would remove the plate. Again she repeated furiously, “I want to work out here.”  Now, if she’s a trainer she can as well lift a 25 kg plate and be of help to members, right? I kept quiet. She removed the plate and dropped it on the floor with a loud thud.

After the third incident, I went downstairs to write a complaint against her. Another male trainer, Rakesh said that he would handle the matter instead of my writing the complaint. The next evening, I saw the Operations In-charge Sanjay doing workouts. I recounted all the three incidents to him and demanded action against her. The gym’s head Dhotre happened to be nearby. He said that since she was the gym’s sole female trainer, it wouldn’t be possible to take action against her. Both of them assured me that they would look into the matter after the anniversary week got over. And told me to hold on till then. I agreed to the request as I didn’t want to cause any inconvenience during the celebrations’ week.

After the Tug of War incident, I expected the gym to take immediate strict action against the female trainer. They were unable to find a female trainer in the whole of Mumbai. Can you actually believe this?

Then, three days after the prize distribution ceremony, on the 3rd of October, I had to complain against another trainer Rakesh. He was the one who had told me that he would look into the matter when I had wanted to write my complaint in the feedback book. On this particular day, he behaved like a gunda (hooligan) with me. And he actually said this of me: “Woh pagal hain! Dimaag kharab hain uska!” (She’s crazy! She’s lost her mind!) Is this how a trainer behaves with a female member? Totally disgusted, I was seething with anger with no words to express my disgust. I left and narrated the entire incident to Sanjay whom I met downstairs. I even wrote to Jag that the male trainer had behaved like a hooligan with me. Sanjay assured me that he would take action the next day, but I was not convinced. When that female trainer told me “SHUT UP”, Dhotre was standing right next to her. How much more disgusting behaviour were they waiting for to throw out the two trainers?

Sanjay reverted to me the next day like he promised. He asked for dates and timings of the incidents to watch the CCTV footage. And that’s it! Nothing more, no further communication. I wanted to personally watch the CCTV footage with him, but he neither replied to my messages nor answered my calls.

That was my last day at gym, the 4th of October. My membership expires on the 15th of October. I could have stayed on till that day, but the foul and negative air produced by some of the trainers and staff put me off. On that last day, when I walked inside the gym’s reception hall, I heard the receptionist Jannat saying “Woh aa gayi” (She’s come!) to the female trainer. There was another trainer with them. This is how members are welcomed inside the gym!

Finally, I got the message loud and clear that my complaint wouldn’t get reviewed. Those who were aware of my complaints knew that too. Like I said before, the Tug of War prize wasn’t awarded to us and the gym’s head Dhotre was standing right next to that female trainer when she was insolent to me. Some even said that had anyone else complained, the gym would have taken immediate action. But since this happened with me, they wouldn’t take any action.

I have always been warm and friendly with the staff and trainers. I have taken a good deal of ribbing from them with the utmost good humour. So this is how they have taken me for granted. The gym thinks that I won’t be able to do anything about their inaction. But they have underestimated the power of my writing!

That some members and staff even support the female trainer is pathetic. I’m sure someday soon someone will treat them in the same disgusting manner that the female trainer showed towards me and there will be no one around to support them. Just one word…Karma. The heavyweight champion even made this sly remark. ”But you must also have said something to her.” Of course, I did. I called her “Bloody bitch!” They expected me to thank her after she told me “SHUT UP”? Why, earlier that same girl had this to say when I asked her what she would do if a trainer had told her “SHUT UP”. She replied, “I would slap that person!” So, please stop preaching to me…! What they all have conveniently chosen to overlook is that both guilty trainers remained unapologetic…unrepentant! Both of them are a disgrace to the wellness profession. And then, I had high regard for Jag Chima. But for all his inspiration messages on Instagram, he exhibited weakness in character by indirectly supporting insolent behaviour towards gym members.

Some members requested me not to leave the gym. But am I so stupid as to renew the membership by paying the annual membership fees of 40,000 rupees which goes towards the payment of salaries of those who misbehave with me and those who support such misbehaviour? Please, give me a break!

“You don’t inspire your teammates by showing them how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are.” – Robyn Benincasa