Updated: Jan 15
Growing up in India with allegiance for any sport, especially as a woman, is considered an anomaly. Well, I grew up beamingly as an anomaly- I loved sports!
I remember a small incident at the age of six or so, when my father was coaching my brother (11 at the time) in the game of badminton, right in our backyard. While I wasn’t invited to this training session, that is all I could think about. I started howling to have a chance at swinging the racquet as I preferred to release my toxins another way.
Since then, it was sports day races, tournaments and coaching sessions, in every sport I could set my eyes on. While Athletics, Tennis and Table-Tennis were the most popular ones, one sport grew particularly close to me- The game of Basketball.
I was selected for my first national camp at the age of 11 for an U-14 level tournament. Little did I know, this moment I’d worked hard for and that had almost fallen into my lap, could cause such a havoc.
I was initially stopped from going for national camps, for sports were not seen as leading to any “future.” Alas, the “Indian dream” came to its uncalled rescue, even though all I wanted as a school going kid was to play the sport I loved.
From the few camps I managed to attend, a constant pressure lured. Pressure to avoid playing, causes of safety and coaching standards, all mounted up considerably.
Due to the lack of courts and trainers around, YouTube Basketball Tutorials became my best friend and my favorite players became my coaches.
The tipping point was when this sport I’d been stirred away from, helped me enter one of India’s best ranked colleges- The Shri Ram College of Commerce, to pursue a degree of my choice. That day, I decided to respect sports even more and promised to use my position to encourage other girls and women to take up the same.
Today, my discipline and work ethic, all arrive from sports. Some of the most cherished memories are those made at tournaments, team dinners and celebrations. The bond of playing and competing together created a different aura.
In my final year, I was handed over the captaincy of my college team. We were competing in what is considered the highest level of tournaments for colleges across all of Delhi University- The Inter College Championships.
We had reached the finals before but had not managed to clinch the trophy. In my final year, I was determined to win. This was the year I was also preparing for my Masters abroad, studying for my final year exams, managing and captaining an entire team. This included organizing away-from-home games, nutritional needs, attendance, practice matches and travel facilitation, all while training and aiming to win a championship.
In the academic year of 2016-2017, the SRCC Women’s Basketball Team won the coveted inter-college championship after 22 years in the college’s history. This has been one of the most fulfilling feelings, created and curated on a basketball court.
At 5’4, I’ve had to prove my game every day. Judgements for a relatively short player are paramount and I’ve felt the need to write a new story every time I’ve stepped on court.
All of my achievements or laurels at an individual or team level often went unnoticed as my height did not seem to match up to textbook standards.
More than the physical, the mental pressures of always being on the receiving end of connotations that come with playing sports as a woman, the constant need to be on a lookout for safety during travel, the need to convince teachers to comprehend our schedules at school, balancing of studies in an environment that doesn’t support athletes or balancing of administrative and financial tasks as a student-athlete, were all challenges that today, I’m proud to have successfully tackled.
This is my story and nobody else’s but I hope that this acts as an encouragement to other girls and their families to foresee the value of sports.
~Ananya Sachdev, Founder at Mabrij
Ananya Sachdev is a former national level basketball player with global experience in sales, marketing strategy and event management. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the Shri Ram College of Commerce and Master of Science in Sports Management from Columbia University, New York, she runs her own content and consultancy platform, Mabrij and works in the field of sports business, globally.