- The Edict
New Season, New Faces: Meet Ashoka’s Sports Captains
Dhruvan Nair, Undergraduate Batch of 2021 and Ashwin Menon, Undergraduate Batch of 2022
The end of the Spring semester saw Ashoka bid farewell to yet another batch of seniors. For the Ashokan Sports Community, it also flags the end of the tenures of captains of various sports teams. With Covid-19 causing an unprecedented situation across the globe, the new captains now face newer challenges, alongside the usual ones of leading their teams, by working to bring back normalcy to the Ashokan campus through sports. As Ashokans eagerly await a return to campus, the Edict spoke to four new faces who will be leading from the front when the return is made possible. The first part of two, this covers the captains of the Men’s Basketball and Women’s Football teams.
For Men’s Basketball, Vishwas Gulia has been appointed as captain while the Women’s Football squad will be led by Vrinda Iyer for the season 2020-21.
Excerpts from the interviews:
1. First of all, congratulations on being selected captain. How do you feel about it?
I’ve always given my best to this sport since school and it’s great to continue this journey at Ashoka. Being recognized as captain has boosted my confidence as a player and I’m glad to have my efforts appreciated in this way. As a final year student, it gives me great pleasure to represent the University in my capacity as captain.
2. How and when did you find your love for the sport and what prompted you to pursue it on a regular basis?
I was enrolled in a sports academy by my mother in the 7th grade. She signed me up for basketball in a bid to increase my height and reduce my weight. What started merely as physical exercise to get me into shape, slowly developed into a passion so intense that I started skipping exams and bunking school to go for basketball tournaments. I think the fact that basketball is a team sport played a huge hand in developing my love for the game.
3. Tell us about your experiences with your predecessor, watching them lead from the front and what is one quality you found inspiring in them as a leader?
Avneesh Garimella was a thoughtful and well-deserved captain. After the primary 3-point shooters of our team passed out from Ashoka, he took it on his shoulders to fill that void and became an excelled at this aspect of the game over the year. It’s a quality that I aspire to perfect as well during my stint as a captain. We had some good experiences together especially the one time where all of us went to a government school in Sonepat to play against their basketball team as a part of our weekend morning practice session.
4. How do you plan to balance the responsibilities of a captain along with an already packed schedule for both academics and sports at Ashoka and what challenges do you see a sportsperson at Ashoka trying to find this balance?
Basketball has always been my priority, perhaps even above academics. I used to go for practice sessions even a day before my final exams at Ashoka. I am not much of a high ranker, I manage to get decent marks with help of the lectures I attend and the ones that I miss as a result of tournaments, my friends help me out with those.
5. As a leader, what are the ways in which you think the following for Sports on campus can improve?
The rings and the board on the Dhaba court have become very weak and need to be replaced. Apart from that there should be a standardized policy on sharing the indoor basketball court between the badminton and basketball players. A lot of our away tournament matches take place on indoor courts and we end up losing them because of lack of practice on the wooden surface. The same policy should be practiced in the monsoon when our outdoor court gets wet. There is also a dire need for another basketball court adjacent to the Dhaba one. Since there is only one court, the boys and the girls team get divided time for practice which is not enough at the university level.
6. Any particular player we need to look out for this season?
It goes without mentioning that Elton Coelho will be the player to look out for this season. The growth charts for the rest of us have fluctuated in the past 2 years but his has only risen steadily. He has been the most important scorer of the team and I am confident that he’ll continue strong.
7. With the impact of Covid-19 hitting all aspects of life, how do you envision sports in a post-Covid world? What challenges do you expect to face as a captain to rekindle spirits in the camp?
I think Covid-19 has brought the team much closer and team bonding is a vital part of the game. Maybe once college resumes, we might face issues like fitness but we’ve all suffered setbacks in that regard and as a team I’m quite confident we will be able to work on it together when we get back to campus. Also, we might start playing matches and that’s a great way to come together as a team and compete together.
1. How and when did you find your love for the sport and what prompted you to pursue it on a regular basis? Growing up with my cousin brothers, we would kick the ball about in my grandparents’ backyard all day long. I started playing properly in the 3rd grade when I entered this league our school used to hold every year. It was called the Shri Soccer League and we’d be put into teams, given kits and had matches on the weekends. Initially I was quite hesitant, I mean playing with my cousins itself was a bit scary with all those hard shots and all you know. Plus, when I joined the league, I think there were only 2-3 other girls apart from me. However, as the weekends went by, I found myself rather enjoying the game more and more. Surprisingly, I wasn’t half bad at it either and with encouragement from my father and the rest of the guys on my team I decided to pursue it. That was probably when I decided to play on a regular basis and so the journey began!
2. Tell us about your experiences with your predecessor, watching them lead from the front and what is one quality you found inspiring in them as a leader? Ananya Moncourt has many inspiring qualities as a leader and as a person in general. Her never-ending faith in each and every player, be it on or off the field is something truly admirable. She brings a certain electrifying energy which charges up the entire team, especially during games and practice sessions it motivates and pushes one to do the best they can. For her there’s never any obstacle we can’t overcome, she believes and sees immense potential probably more than we do in ourselves. I know you asked for one quality but personally I think these all go hand in hand and do hope to emulate them as a leader myself.
3. How do you plan to balance the responsibilities of a captain along with an already packed schedule for both academics and sports at Ashoka and what challenges do you see as a sportsperson at Ashoka trying to find this balance? As someone who’s been into football and dance from my school days, I have been used to managing them with academics. Of course, as a captain I assume it will be more challenging now but I think staying focussed and proactive, as well as the discipline will hold me in good stead. As a sportsperson I feel the main issues we face are the dilemmas which come forth when our tournaments and classes clash. In the previous year itself we as a team faced this with tournaments which began mid-week. This is why discipline and attending all classes, being on top of the work is something as a sportsperson one must do right from the beginning in case such situations arise which is when we can use up the absences provided to us. Additionally, deciding which tournaments to let go and which to go for must also be thought through.
4. As a leader, what are the ways in which you think the fan following for Sports on campus can improve? I personally feel events like 4v4s, APL and so on do really draw many from the Ashokan community. However, to instil a stronger fan following events be small or big should be done regularly. Perhaps 3 small events outside the mess for 3 weeks and the 4th week could be a bigger event like a 4v4 or something of the sort which would draw more people. Additionally, collaborating with other clubs on campus may help access a larger pool of people. It all may not be feasible but I think to instil a love for sports spirit the events must be done more regularly and not just closer to big events. Also, there must be a variety of the kind of events and go beyond the known sports so that those not very ‘sporty’ people would be interested too. Maybe screening games in the mess near Fuel Zone also could be done, as it’s a popular and frequented spot on campus!
5. With the impact of Covid-19 hitting all aspects of life, how do you envision sports in a post-Covid world? What challenges do you expect to face as captain to rekindle spirits in the camp? With the cloud of uncertainty looming over us regarding almost everything in terms of whether we’ll get back to campus or not, when will we if we do and so on, the future of sports too seems to fall under the same category. Of course, non-contact sports will still be easier to revive. However, more than rekindling spirits I think what as a captain I dread is whether or not we’ll get that pre-season and those tournaments we always looked forward to which are a big part of playing at a university level. Even organizing friendlies with other colleges may not be as smooth. We will have to put our heads together as a sports community and figure out alternatives I believe. More on-campus tournaments and events to keep the spirits up until we can move beyond this are in order.
Watch this space to catch a glimpse into the stories of the new sports captains of Ashoka. Part 2 to follow soon!