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Raspreet Sidhu is a busy sportsperson. Besides pursuing her passion for basketball in international sports tournaments as an India player, she also leads the Sports Programme at Shiv Nadar School. Bringing along her wide experiences from the sports field, Raspreet has helped create a robust sports curriculum, the benefits of which accrue towards the holistic development of all students.

She seamlessly multitasks between several sports programmes running in Shiv Nadar School, which include the regular P. E. classes, the Aha Sports Programme, the Wildcats Sports Programme, and the Wildcats Team Potential Programme. Only recently, she concluded, to much success, the Elite Sports Camp, which was a 10 day intensive, residential sports camp attended by 75 student athletes from Shiv Nadar School, Noida and Gurgaon, along with 10 coaches.

As the Sports Coordinator, she has much to share about the importance of sports in her life, in academics and in the future pursuits of her students. Here are her notions on sports, in a conversation right off the sports-field.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m Raspreet Sidhu and I’m 26 years of age. I’ve been playing for the Indian Women National Basketball team for 12 years and am a former captain of the team. I love reading. I love playing with my dogs and I love children. And I’m a big dreamer. It’s my motto that till the time you don’t dream you cannot achieve anything because you have to have a vision of yourself and an imagination to reach at the point where you want to be.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

I am passionate person, a perseverer, and a dreamer.

How did Sports as a career happen for you?

I think sports is in my blood, in my genes. I came in touch with my athletic side while accompanying my father on his daily fitness visits to the park, which remains his ritual till date. I began playing basketball in grade 6, and within 7 to 8 months, I had made my way to the Delhi under-14 team. It was the first major breakthrough, and thereafter, the journey continued to the national and international levels.

Sports as a career option occurred to me when I was doing my graduation. I’m an English graduate from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and just in the middle, I realised I did not want to drift away from sports. I wanted to give back all my knowledge and experiences gained on the sports field. Hence, I planned to do my bachelors and masters in sports, and I topped both!

My intent is not just to help basketball grow, but to work across different sports in India.

Your track record in Basketball is stellar, and you represent India internationally. Tell us something memorable from your playing career.

Year 2006 was extremely important for my career as a national level basketball player. It’s because in 2006, I played for the country in all three categories, which was Under-18 Asian Basketball Championship which happened in Bangkok; Under-21 Asian Basketball Championship which took place in Singapore; and the Senior Basketball Championship in Korea. I was the youngest member to be part of the Senior National Women Basketball team which has no set age group and where only professionals play. Why I say that this year was instrumental for me is because in all the three categories, India reached level 1! India came into the best six teams in Asia which happened for the first time ever in the history of women basketball. That year was huge and helped me achieve a lot of what I have till date.

I have been playing for over 12 years for the Indian national team, and another important year which comes to mind is 2011, when we played the Asian Indoor Games. This was a different tournament, played with a different set of rules with a lot of technicalities involved. We finished second in the tournament, after losing to Thailand by a mere margin of 1 point! And that happened because in the enthusiasm of scoring that last point, we lost our composure. It was heart-breaking and we took a long time to recover from the loss. Why I say this is because we lost the opportunity to see the Indian flag go up and sing the National Anthem from the podium with pride – I mean, that is a feeling to die for, right?! We did not get the victory, but we got our lesson – no matter how hungry you are to win, you have to keep your composure and be disciplined till the last micro-second.

Do sports complement academic learning? If yes, how?

Out of my personal experience I really feel that sports compliments academics in a huge way. It gives you a sense of responsibility. It helps you develop an attitude of excellence, which spills over to academics. I remember my coach’s words. He used to say, “a good athlete can never be a bad student”, because it takes a lot to become a good athlete. Sports also helps students learn how to manage their time. A sportsperson has to have a time table which he or she needs to get used to from a very early stage. Hard work, passion, perseverance, are also few other things which sports can teach you much quicker. Field is a place where your inner emotions come out. Once a child becomes a sportsperson, he remains one for life.

Through sports, children learn how to manage conflict, and that too in a positive manner. Sports enhances your concentration. It builds in you a never-say-no attitude. Sports are a live setting for inculcating life skills.

Sports give you a sense of identity. You’re identified as a basketballer, a footballer, a cricketer, a gymnast. That is huge for any child to have. Sports help build self-esteem and confidence, leading to better social skills. These skills come in handy not just in the school, but in life in general.

The biggest thing sports teaches a child is how to lose gracefully. In a larger perspective, it teaches you how to deal with setbacks in life.

I personally feel, sports also helps a child understand and deal with authority. I’ll give an example here. On a football field or a basketball court, once the referee blows the whistle, there’s no looking back. There are two kinds of players in every sport. One, who will retaliate and go and fight it out with the referee and another, who would deal with some maturity and say the decision cannot be reverted, no matter what, so let’s just move on. Such a sportsperson knows that the past is past, future is what we don’t know and the present is what we have to be concerned about.

Walk us through the sports curriculum at Shiv Nadar School.

Sports curriculum at Shiv Nadar School is divided into 4 levels.

First is the regular physical education classes. It is a common programme, run as per CBSE guidelines, but has a thorough planned curriculum in place. The aim of the physical education period is to maintain health, fitness and to make our children learn the basics of as many sports as we can cover in one year. P.E. is also about making children learn how to appreciate sports.

The second level of sports curriculum is called the Aha sports programme. This is where a child gets to play minimum 8-10 sports in first and second month. Moving forward, he/she chooses a particular sport for the entire year. This lets you experience many sports, before your realise where your forte and passion lies. The sport selection is based on a two way process – talent identification by the coaches and the child’s own interest.

Level 3 of sports curriculum is the Wildcats Sports Programme, open for the entire school from grade 2 upwards. It is an after-school or a pre-school programme where students are given intensive training in a sport they are passionate about. The level of specialised coaching here goes a notch higher than the Aha programme.

The last level of sports curriculum in Shiv Nadar School is a Wildcats Team Potential Programme, where we coach potential team players, who we feel are ready to go yet another level higher. Thrice a week, different teams practice and try to excel and learn new things each passing day, so they can go on to play for the district, state, nationals and represent the school team.

Share with us an anecdote from the sports field which remains close to your heart.

There’s not just one but many anecdotes which I can share from the sports field.

One of those which is really close to my heart is about Arnav Jain, from grade five, Shiv Nadar School, Noida. He is the youngest basketball team member, selected purely on the basis of his talent. We had been working on the ball-handling skills of players, which take a lot of time to replicate in a live game situation. In case of Arnav, we had worked on the ball handling skills with him only for 15 days, before we went out to play a game for the Shiv Nadar School Wildcats Basketball Tournament. And then suddenly we saw Arnav, who’s exactly half the height of his defender, go to one side of the court, do a behind-the-back, followed by a layup shot, which went in! I play that sport and I know how much time it takes for children to replicate that tough a skill in a live game, but the attitude and confidence with which he did it is remarkable. It was mind-blowing. He always came up to us in practice sessions and said, ‘ma’am, this is what I want to learn and I am finding it difficult’. And with his drive and imagination, at that young an age, he did it. This incident, hence, will always stay close to my heart.