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SPORTS CHANGES LIVES

Sports changed my life and perspective greatly. All my school life, I struggled to get into the school team. It’s not that I wasn’t athletic or lacked skills, but my physical education (PE) teacher thought I wasn’t worthy of representing my school.

One day, however, the sun did shine on me. I was wandering on the sports field when my teacher called me and asked if I knew how to play softball; without any clue about the game, I said, “Yes ma’am, I do.” I had to hit a ball with a bat that looked more like a thick stick. Thanks to my experience of playing with the neighbourhood boys, I managed to hit the ball to the end of the ground. At last, I was selected in the school team.

Soon, morning practices began and being a part of a team enhanced my confidence. This team had soon become my core set of friends. As the tournament approached, I was both excited and anxious, as it was the first time I’d travel on my own to another school. The thrill of stepping out of my school bus wearing my school jersey and representing my team made me feel proud; being able to skip class was an additional bonus. To our amazement, we won the first match. Throughout the tournament, my performance was consistent, and to my surprise, I was selected for the national trials.

With sheer dedication and hard work, I turned my luck around. Being able to participate in the national trials was prestigious, and my parents were supportive and extremely happy. So in my formative years, I played multiple sports and was a part of numerous teams. My family understood what I excelled at and didn’t burden me with the pressure of academics. Being in the national trials, I could achieve what no one else in the family had ever attempted.

The first day of camp was held in a stadium and my excitement knew no bounds. My dad accompanied me on the first day to help me understand the route to the stadium and the bus schedule and frequency. From the second day, I travelled on my own. The camp was a whole new world to me, but my happiness was short-lived when reality hit hard. I was the champ in school but felt more like an amateur amongst seasoned players. Being selected in the 16-member team started to seem like a distant dream, but I knew that if I worked harder and gave it my everything, I would conquer. My coach made me run extra laps while the rest of the team practised and would ask me to pick up balls that had fallen all over the field. One day I was late by 5 minutes and was punished by having to run extra. Every day I’d come home exhausted and wanting to quit, but my mother would calm me down and ask me to think about my decision practically and not emotionally. My hard work paid off and I was selected to represent my state–  Delhi–at the nationals. I was picked from over 60 girls and was given a new kit bag. When I broke the news to my family, everyone was happy. My parents were proud of my achievement and informed my extended family.

On the day of the tournament, my parents and sister dropped me at the railway station. My coach met my parents and told them that he was testing me all through the camp to see if I had the spirit to continue or break down and quit. And because I did not quit, I got selected. The national tournament was held in Indore, MP.  Soon I realised that I had to live with 15 other people I barely knew. I discovered that most of these girls were studying in government schools and could hardly converse in English, so I started to talk to them in Hindi. I also understood their financial situation was different from mine and that money cannot replace true talent and hard work.

In sports, there’s a huge difference between seniors and juniors. I was a junior who had the job to pick up all team equipment and kit bags when required. This whole experience humbled me. In many ways, it burst the bubble I lived in. I had to respect people for what they were not for where they came from or how they spoke or what they wore.

I strongly believe that everyone should have such experiences in life where you have to make the decisions for yourself and are pushed to your limits, but have to fight back. It is always easy to quit, but there is always another way to stand up for yourself. Sports did change my life in so many ways!

—Sugandh–

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