Image Credits: Fistosports
19-year-old Hetvi Patel and her hero, Sachin Tendulkar, were born on the same day, excluding the year. But Hetvi plays a different sport, that is Kabaddi. Anup Kumar, former Indian Kabaddi player whom she calls idol has been a source of inspiration in her professional as well as personal life. Hetvi Patel’s journey could be a template for the hurdles young female athletes, especially in a contact sport, face in India. Hetvi is currently studying in PDPU (Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University), Gandhinagar, Gujarat. She is also the only female secretary in the college, managing both kho-kho and kabaddi, opens up about her initiation into Kabaddi and how the journey has been so far and how she used kabaddi to transform her body and mind to compete at a high level on the field. Excerpts How long have you been playing Kabaddi and why have you chosen the dual sport? And how would you define your journey till now? I have been playing kabaddi since sixth grade. My journey with Kabaddi has been tough because the nature of the sport and being a female player. Is there any player that you looked up to and inspired you with your playing style and if so why? As you can see, I was born on the same day as Sachin Tendulkar excluding the year, so he always inspired me to play sports and to challenge myself. Talking about playing style, I would say Anup Kumar, former Captain of Indian Kabaddi Team is the constant inspiration. His toe-touch and team leading during the game is what I always try to achieve. How would you describe your game to people who haven’t seen you play? I am an all- rounder player in the team. I do raid, leg catching and play the left corner efficiently. I would say that don’t judge me by my physique. If I catch someone’s leg, then its hard for them to move regardless of body weight of the raider. I raid with lots of hand and leg movements involved to distract the opponent from my actual move. So, what has been your biggest challenge or set back while playing both the sport? Biggest challenge while playing Kabaddi is to never get demotivated from other team member’s performance and never lose patience if I cannot perform well. Other challenges include, the injuries during the matches because being a student I have to attend lectures, so injuries can lead me to bunk the classes which is a major loss from an engineering student. One has to always remember that not every day is a Sunday. You cannot perform the same during each match and even if you do your opponent will soon get to know your tricks. Which player you admire at the start, both at the local and the international scene? I admire Mamta Poojari and Anup Kumar. How do you control nerves? Deep breathing and self-talking mostly. But it won’t work if your other team players don’t perform well. So, I start thinking on other strategies I learnt during the practice sessions to recover the points which works as a great distraction and coming up with new plans under pressure are always unique. During the match I know that you either win or lose, the final result doesn’t matter to me as I always get to know my new abilities if being a team leader and working under the pressure which in return helps me calm down and enjoy the process of the game. Where do you train now and who is your coach now? Now I get all my training in the college premises itself and the coach is being hired from our college. If you could have a one-hour conversation with any historical athlete, who would you pick and what topic would you choose? Oh my god, it is a long list which includes Kabaddi and non-Kabaddi players, here we go - Anup Kumar, Rahul Choudhary, Lee Jang-kun, Rakesh Kumar, Sachin Tendulkar, Messi and etc. But the top player would be our captain cool Anup Kumar. I will ask about his expectations from the Indian Kabaddi fans and his journey in kabaddi from a small town to pro-kabaddi and his views on the sudden growth of viewers and his vision for the upcoming players and the game. Are you balance the rigors Kabaddi and education at the same time? Honestly, it is difficult for being an engineering student to study and play kabaddi. and being the only female secretary of both kho-kho and kabaddi. But when I enter the court I don’t think about my studies and when I study, I don’t think about my previous or any upcoming matches. I don’t follow any particular schedule, if I am frustrated from my regular lectures, I play kabaddi to get the happiness and get the thrill to accept and hard work. Both have an equal importance for me. On your playing career so far, which was the highlight of your career? During the school days I got selected for nationals’ team (under-14) and then again for under-19 team. Getting selected for the University Kabaddi team and then my first match in PDPU sports fest. Which one is difficult and which one you enjoy the most – tackle or ride? I guess raiding is difficult because you are alone against the opposite team and you have to constantly keep eye around you i.e. 7 players or less. I enjoy tackle the most. Leg catching and the dash is my all-time favourite. Many players have routines, habits and superstitions when the travel and play matches. Do you have any individual quirky things you do before a game or special item you carry with you in your bag that must go with you everywhere? Okay! So I always call my father before my matches because him being the inspiration and sports person in my family always motivates me to give my best without thinking about the results and I call or meet my friends before the match, they are my good luck charms. Kabaddi requires a high level of endurance and stamina. What do you do to raise your endurance and stamina levels? I push myself into completing the regular warm up exercises every day. During the regular weekdays I try to take 6-7 hours of sleep and not to skip any meals because of lectures or anything. Also, I love fruits, I can survive on them 24/7, so I eat as much variety of fruits as possible. I'm sure there are times during your training that you aren't achieving the results that you want. What do you do to lift your spirits during such times? Yes, several times. My teammates and coach are there to lift my spirit and remind me of my best performance. And if that not works then I never push myself to perform well because it will not give any better result. Which is your favourite social network and why? Instagram because I can follow my favourite sports stars including memes. What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on and off court? Well I got my 2-3 raids cancelled due to my silly mistakes; nothing can be more embarrassing than this. What goals have you set for the rest of 2020? And for the next years of your college? My goals are to keep participating in new competitions. Long term goal for the next year of college is to keep this game alive in my campus until I am here and become an inspiration for upcoming players to play this rough sport and to become female secretary in sports committee.