By Abu Sultan:
Back in Class 7, I was a skinny boy, with an under average class performance who thought that the world was a disappointing place. I would always fantasise about certificates and trophies, and strive towards earning respect and recognition in my peer group. One day, while I was whiling my time away on the roof of my house; pondering over how to achieve success in life – I was struck by an idea. I was 5 feet 9 inches tall, which was quite favourable for being a basketball player – the game that I had always perceived to be a platform for my success, but had never given myself a chance at it.
In the subsequent games class, I went to the basketball court and tried playing the game. The coach saw me and asked me to join the students who were struggling with the ball; making me feel like I wasn’t good enough at it. In fact, that day, I broke a nail and hurt myself while playing. But I decided to not let a small wound get the better of me. I had lost my nail, but I did not lose my motivation. From that day onwards, I started playing basketball with greater zeal every time I got a chance to. After a few games classes, I was somewhat out of the shell which had initially inhibited me.
Even though I was a newbie in basketball, hard work and persistence got me a place in the school basketball squad within 3-4 months of my first games class. This further amplified my confidence – as I was the youngest student to get selected for my school team. Soon after my selection, an inter-school basketball tournament was coming up, for which our coach told us to practise daily. Since the team had won the last game of the tournament, it had secured a spot in the quarter-finals – and hence, we had to practise sincerely. As a result, I started spending more and more time on the court and ended up getting an average result in class 8. This time, academics in the form of coaching became a barrier between me and basketball. My coaching class was right before my basketball practice and about four kilometres away from the school. I used to start riding my bicycle at 4:30 pm every day and reach school at 5 pm for practice.
Sometimes, I used to make it early or in time for practice; then there were times when I used to reach late. Moreover, my team had only an hour to practise in the evening. Reaching late did not help at all. One day, my coaching teacher had left the class at 4:45 pm. I quickly ran to my bicycle and rode as fast as I could to reach on time. But unfortunately, I met with an accident – which left me in agony and pain for a week. Disappointed and injured, I often used to think whether my efforts were worth it at all or not. I also used to think about backing out from the game and study like my friends – who seemed to have created an artificial consensus with their heart and mind that only academics was the way to unlock the gates of a bright future.
At that time, the famous words attributed to Michael Jordan helped me get back my motivation – “I have always believed that if you put in work, the results will come.” It took me about a week to recover, but once I was well enough to get back on the ground, I started practising even more rigorously. With my coach’s permission, I started visiting Aligarh Muslim University’s basketball court after the school practice got over. I also took the help of the seniors. One of them helped me improve my shooting style. Finally, I realised my strengths and position in the team and started playing as a winger – a player who acts as a helper to the ball handler in attack. We easily won with a huge margin in the quarterfinals and semifinals. And now, we were in the finals.
Eventually, the day before the finals came, everyone was advised to play a rudimentary game. The finals started with a whistle and our team got hold of the ball with a high jump by one of the players. Everything was going well until the first half of the game. We were leading by eight points. In the next half, came a flood of attacks from the opponents and we were dumbstruck; we felt helpless as no defence strategy was working. Soon, there was a timeout and the coach calmly said to the team, “No one is going to give you the trophy, you will have to take it, so just take it!” The coach’s words indeed motivated us. We all shouted the words ‘take it’ as we resumed play. We put in all the power that we had in us – in our defence and united to win the game. As a result, we won the game with just a margin of two points and took the winning trophy home! Moreover, I was also declared as the player of the tournament.
After this tournament, I started working harder on my shooting skills and spent hours putting the ball in the basket. There were times when I was completely alone – no friend to talk to, no seniors to learn from, and no coach to discuss strategies with. However, my hard work converted into positive the results soon. I was given a space in the district team and I started playing for my district in the state level tournaments. In high school, I was declared the captain for the session 2010-11. Back in school, the principal and the teachers got acquainted with my name. I was in the limelight with the other students – just how I’d wanted to be. I was no longer the skinny under-average boy. In fact, basketball also turned out to be my ticket to the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University – and this is how I landed here in class 11.