Inderpreet Kaur still remembers that little pep talk her father Sukhdev Singh gave her just before she set out for her first hockey lesson, seven years ago. “He said that if I was really passionate about hockey, every bit of my effort should be towards being the best in the sport. Those words cut out the task for me then, and they continue to inspire me even today,” shares the 18-year-old former trainee of Chandigarh Football and Hockey Academy (CFHA), who hails from Mundhon Sangatia village in Kurali, about 25 kilometres from here. Her father runs a small grocery store in the village.
The former UT goalkeeper has done well in following her father’s advice earnestly, with last month witnessing her international debut during the Indian junior team’s bilateral series against hosts New Zealand.
Though the youngster’s maiden outing for the country fell short of being a dream debut, with India going down 2-3 in the sixmatch series (one match ended in a draw), she had a lot of positives to take from the exposure.
“Although there was the excitement of playing for the country, I was gripped by nervousness initially as I had no idea about what the opposition would throw at me. But as the tournament progressed, I eased a bit. I learnt a lot about the kind of hockey that is played abroad. The experience proved to be a good learning curve,” adds the girl, who studies in Class 12th at Government Girls Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 18.
Inderpreet borrowed her passion for hockey from elder brother Bhavandeep Singh, who trained under coach Amritpal Singh at Gopal Hockey Academy situated some 15 kilometres away from their village.
“In 2007, just a few months after my brother had started training, Amritpal sir shared with him the idea of coaching girls. When Bhavandeep, who himself has played at school level, asked me about playing hockey, I agreed.”
Inderpreet spent the next two years picking the basics of the sport at the Kurali academy. And during this period, she also switched to goalkeeping to take the benefit of her tall frame.
“In 2009, on Amritpal sir’s advice, I gave trials at the CFHA and was selected. At the Chandigarh-based academy, better facilities and guidance by coaches Manjeet Kaur and Rajendra Singh improved my game immensely.”
After a couple of months of training, Inderpreet found her place in the Chandigarh team for an open hockey tournament held in Faridkot. With the city team winning gold, Inderpreet got her first medal from the game. In the next four years with the academy, Inderpreet won numerous medals, including five UT inter-school gold medals, and participated in five editions of National School Games and three consecutive editions of Nehru Cup (2010-2012).
“The biggest moment of my career was, however, the 2012 junior national championship in Rai, Haryana. While the team finished runners-up, I earned a berth in the national camp,” said Inderpreet, who waited in wings for two years before finally getting the chance to represent India last month.
So, what’s next now? “There are a couple of series next year, but the schedule has not been decided yet. However, my main focus is to continue working on my skills and give my best in the future events. In doing so, I can make my case stronger for the national squad for the 2016 Junior World Cup,” adds the player before signing off.