On the fourth day of the 66th Junior National Basketball Championship held at Guru Nanak Stadium, the 57-year-old Suman Sharma, who is first Arjuna awardee woman in basketball, came as a chief guest.
HT interacted with the Amritsar-based player and came to know the key to her success in the game, and the status of basketball game in India. She also shared tips for the young players.
How was your overall journey in the field during different phases of life?
I have gone through different phases of life. I used to practice hard to get ready for the championships. Moreover, there were not many facilities available for players at that time unlike now. In early 80s, I had only one goal that was to represent my country and achieve more and more medals. Whenever I used to visit championships and tournaments, I used to observe players practising hard and take lessons from them.
What were your achievements that paved your way to achieve Arjuna Award?
I am a six-time national champion. I have won silver medal in national champion. I have also won ABC Championship that was held in Hongkong in 1980, ABC Championship that was held in Tokyo in 1982, Asian Games held in Delhi in 1982 and ABC Championship, which was held in China in 1984 and several other tournaments. Several people around me including my coach kept me motivated always.
What was the most memorable during your career till now?
Though all my achievements were memorable, receiving Arjuna Award from Giani Jail Singh was the best moment for me. Large number of people came appraising and congratulating. But, I never forgot my past, the tough days, which always keep you motivated to achieve more in your life.
What is the present scenario of basketball in comparison to earlier years in India?
The standard of game has deteriorated and requires immediate attention by the government. The game is losing its identity day-by-day. Women participation in this game is very less due to which no good players are coming out in women basketball teams. Camps should be held to motivate girls to join the game.
What needs to be done to promote and improve the game’s status in country?
Not many players are coming forward to join the game due to less encouragement by the government. Players are neither given appreciation nor any jobs. Surprisingly, there is no player from Punjab in the Indian Women’s Basketball team, but during 1980s there were six players from Punjab in the team. Players do not take interest in this game as there is no support from the government. Moreover, players should have full concentration in game to excel in it. Besides, government should organise more and more matches and give cash prizes and jobs to the players.
What tips would you give to the young players to achieve success in the game?
First of all, be fully dedicated towards whatever game you choose. Secondly, minimum four-hour practice a day is must. One should always remember there are no shortcuts in a game, one has to practice more and more to reach a level. Last but not the least, abide by the teachings of coach properly. Moreover, a player should play for the pride of his family and country, not for jobs and perks.