The Passionate Arjuna Awardee ‘Prashanti Singh’ breaks stereotypes of Varanasi

Sport
Prashanti Singh
The Passionate Arjuna Awardee ‘Prashanti Singh’ breaks stereotypes of Varanasi

Not too many people are as fortunate enough in their career paths to carve a niche for others to walk on or even get as widely recognized for their contribution to the pride that India beams of, but this former captain of the Indian basketball team is nothing short of passion. In her words, “If one has a vision to make it big and do what they love doing then there is nothing stopping you, sometimes being stubborn for your dreams is the only way you can live it.” Yes, you heard it right! We are talking about Prashanti Singh, the woman of substance. While her family’s contribution to making basketball popular in India and making India popular in the circuits of the global sport has been huge in the last 25 years; they always lacked something enormous than just appreciation and with Prashanti winning the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2017, the dearth has been filled with immense pride and joy.

Apart from her humble background and the love for Varanasi city that she truly holds, there has been no hustle about her earlier life. In a realm to know the global basketball icon and an insight about her personal life, the team of imd1 was just as lucky in discovering the mindset that truly drives Prashanti Singh. Without further ado, let us begin to know the story of Prashanti (Boskey) as she is fondly called in her circuits.

Quick Facts

Name Prashanti Singh
DOB 05th May 1984
Father’s Name Gauri Shankar Singh
Mother’s Name Urmila Singh
imd1 for Basketball, Sport
Achievements
  • Arjuna Award - 2017
  • Rani Laxmi Bai Bravery Award by Uttar Pradesh Govt, 2016 -17
  • National Record with 22 medals for one team in senior level - 2015
  • One of the first ever ranked Top Four A Grade Elite Basketball player of India - 2011
  • Captain in 3rd Asian Indoor Games where the team won a Silver medal, Vietnam - 2009
  • First woman Basketball player in India to represent the National team in one 2006 Commonwealth Games & two Asian Games 2010, 2014 respectively
  • Awarded MVP (Most Valuable Player) of Mahindra NBA challenge National Final in New Delhi 2012 where a total of 6000 Basketball Players participated from all over India
Place / From Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Your Quote for life Being unique and different. The monotonous routine life doesn’t excite me

We are keen to know; how did your journey begin?

My father was posted in Varanasi when I was a few months old. We stayed in a rented accommodation near the UP college which had SAI training center, and it was nearby to our residences. My elder sister Priyanka being a tall girl in her class was spotted by the coach of SAI, Amarjit Singh Sir was posted in Varanasi at that time (natively he belongs to Jammu and Kashmir). Having approached my sister on playing basketball, when she resented the offer he landed up at our place one day and sat down to convince my father. He somehow managed to get my sister to play basketball under his guidance. The only condition my father had kept for her was to not let her studies get affected with this stint and she needs to focus on her studies.

One fine day it so happened that while playing one of the guys tried bullying me, though I jerked him off I approached Amarjit Sir to include me in any Basketball team and he allowed me to play in under 13 team where I ended up scoring two baskets myself as a young girl and my coach gave me sweets because I was the youngest player of the team. It made me feel so good and I was enjoying being in the basketball court. The appreciation made me feel so better. But by the time I passed out 12th, I was very much clear about my decision of playing basketball. I had applied in St. Stephen’s college and the DU under the sports quota but got an offer from the MTNL Delhi to play and train under them. I asked my father what I should do, he said since you are going to Delhi for studies and if you want to continue playing then go ahead and even if you don’t like to take this further you can always come back. But being there completely turned the tables for me. My perception towards basketball and myself as a player completely changed its dynamics. I got to learn a lot. Soon I saw us team members winning the national championship. But I wouldn’t deny that initially I was hesitant as I wasn’t sure whether I could be a fit for that place. Playing at the junior levels different but witnessing and being a part of the senior team is a different gamble. When you see their game, their level of preparation… It was a big leap for me. Also, the fact that I was alone without any support or my family, it did get to me and at one point I was on the verge of breaking. It took a lot of conditioning for me to stay away from my family and focus on the game. It took me time to blend in with the functionality and the system, I was not so strong physically or mentally but was trying to keep pace with the seniors. I was all of 18 I guess, when I got selected for the senior’s team. I was surprised myself to see a naive girl like me get this lucky so soon in her career. But I was happy I made it!

What’s your success mantra?

Keep going! Life is uncertain, and all we humans are differently facing our set of challenges – financially, mentally and physically. But even when we don’t know how to tackle the situation, one must always keep going.

What were the hardships / hurdles your encountered and the way you overcame in your journey?

As an athlete one of the biggest hurdles that comes your way is a physical injury. And though one overcomes it, but the time that is gone is gone. As athletes, however best one may be, our career span is short. In a career of say 10-15 years if we have an injury also, that time is never going to come back or that opportunity to play in the tournament is lost and shall never come back. As far as my journey is concerned, I wish I had a role model in my family before I set my foot in this field. As belonging to a humble background where everyone in the family wanted me to pursue higher studies and give civil services exams, it did take me time and a lot of convincing to make my parents support my dream of playing basketball.  I had no guidance or a road map to my destination and I was only going on with the direction of winds. It is not wrong for me to say that I paved the way that I am walking on today. If I had a blueprint to go ahead, things would have been easier and probably I could have gone places.

Success is incomplete without its share of failures. How should one overcome them to move on?

Failure is the biggest challenge of anyone’s life and perhaps the best teacher as well. Overcoming failure can only happen if you are willing to go against the odds and keep doing what needs to be done. And if you are born with the competitive spirit and are of the winning nature, like I am, then nothing can stop you. Just keep your head high and focused.

Beyond Basketball

Favorite Personalities Apart from my family and friends, I admire creative people, from different arenas of Dancing, Painting, Singing
Inspirations My mother
Food I Love Indian authentic Cuisine, Pasta and most of everything
Food I Hate Black Coffee
Had I not been a Basketball Player then... Civil Services
Like Vacations at On Mountains
Favorite Past time Watching Netflix
Favorite Dialogue Main Apni Favourite Hoon
Favorite Movies/Series Game of Thrones, Vampire Diaries and 100
Favorite Actor/Actress Aishwarya Rai, Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan

Do you think Basketball and its learning’s can be helpful in life even if one does not want to consider it as a career goal?

Absolutely. I might sound biased, but I feel basketball is a complete sport. I mean that the game is of 40 minutes, it is a fast-paced game wherein 12 players of the team are part of the game. 5 on the court and 7 on the bench, but while the 5 players of your team and the opponents are battling to score max baskets on the court, the 7 players off the court are equally responsible for the team results. As there is always a chance of being substituted. So, it is a reminder as well that if you fail to give your 100 percent, you can be substituted. Also, you know that even if you fail at times you have a support team on the bench who can undo the mistake. So, to not make mistakes on the court, you need to be vigilant. Basketball as a sport, teaches you to be a team player and ultimately the team’s goal is to succeed.

Who has been your influencer in this journey & how?

My mother has always been a major influencer. She has always stood by me and supported me in everything since childhood.

Which was “that” moment when you considered yourself as “I Am The 1”?

There have been a few international tournaments that not only for me or my team but for our country has been glorious. Back in 2009, when our team won a gold under my leadership in Sri Lanka, it is a completely different feeling to see your country’s flag go up. I was spellbound by that moment. We then qualified for the Asian Championship after 28 years and I was the captain of the team, so I felt happy and proud. Then again, we won several crucial games and one such was against Malaysia and the winning 4 points were scored by me so naturally I was beaming, as it helped us rank higher as a nation. Earlier our world rank was so not recognizable, but this game put us back on the map of world rankers. So yes, it feels great when you know you can return some more pride to the country you are born and brought up in and makes me feel “Yes, I Am The 1.”

Did you get any formal training and how was that journey?

When I started training in MTNL, I was exposed to a new dimension of basketball, as training with the seniors and acing the knack of the sport got me driven. Earlier I was in SAI, things were different. Playing at a junior level as athletes we don’t understand how big the sports scenario is. But here in Delhi, I learned the true dynamics of being an athlete. Being competitive, the winning spirit, the importance of training. That is when I realized the potential that I hold in myself and what I can achieve. The Indian national sports camp has helped me grow as a person, it taught me perseverance, strength and to rely on self-confidence. So yes, I learned a lot from these camps. Later in 2009-2010 we started getting training from international coaches as well, coaches from America and Spain and other countries so it really helped us to get an exposure to advanced basketball training, so it really helped me and my game in the past 8-10 years.

Could you reflect on the importance of systematic training in Basketball?

More than systematic training we require uniformity of training, as all states function as per their rules and this becomes a problem when different players from different state come to play for the national team. More than anything we need more federations coming up to universally make the ground rules same for the players, as now we do waste a lot of time getting to know each other and the skills, up and stuff. For example, girls from Kerala are agile, their physicality is a plus point similarly girls from Punjab are high on strength and girls from UP rely on their skills, so you see when you assemble different qualities for the national team it becomes difficult to manage them. And for this we don’t always need to depend on the government bodies, just like other established countries, we need our National Federation which has setup from roots to top. So, idea is to have system which improves uniformity in training from the starting so that we can move advance quickly.

What are the pre-coaching essentials e.g. Right age, mindset or any other?

A child is very curious at the age of 3 or 4 and ideally that is the right time for parents to introduce him/her to different sports, be it gymnastics, football or basketball. When they have an exposure to sports from a young age it becomes easier for them to decide what field they want to go to. And when the child it 10 or 12 years of age, it is time for parents to let them discover their potential and work on it.

Technology and Scientific training have been changing the way people get trained in Basketball. What’s your take?

Technology and Scientific training play an important role in individual sports, like Saina’s father who was a scientist and a very advanced man for his time saw potential in her at a very young age and hence he got her admission done in a badminton academy when she was 3 years old. And today look where she is! But my point here is when you are engaged in an individual sport like this, a systematic shift of training is bound to occur. Say if I want to pursue a career in badminton or table tennis I can go out of the nation and learn and master the skills for myself, that way I can make name for myself and win appreciation. But if I am engaged in a team sport like basketball, volleyball or football I can’t expect to learn it abroad for myself and then come back and play with the team. No, that can’t possibly be the right thing to do as it will not get our team results due to lack of synchronization and team efforts. That way a team doesn’t perform well. If I must give my 100 percent I will have to take my team along. Otherwise it makes no sense. It is important for athletes to work together in team spirit.

How can one select an ideal ‘Guru’ for getting formal training for Basketball?

I am not too familiar with the concept of an ideal guru. But all I know is the person that you ought to rely for in your career should be a very passionate person. Only then does he/she push you to pursue your passion. Your guru is a driving force in your life and know how to derive the best in you. The guru teaches you to focus and be a winner in your sport. He sees the qualities you have and motivates you to the fullest. Somebody who has a vision and pushes you to be a team player and not an individual star player.

What according to you, can be a scope for improvement in training for Basketball in India?

In my view, the system and all is just fine however the focus needs to be on the skills of training students for basketball. Rest assured everything else is in the right place.

What do you suggest for better accessibility of Basketball in remote parts of India?

Basketball is a very popular sport abroad and in India it is popular at the grassroots level where children from school and colleges play but due to the limited scope of facilities they are apprehensive about taking it seriously as a career. What we really need is being well equipped with the facilities. Basketball courts need wooden flooring. The least we can do is equip our school and colleges with a synthetic basketball court. It is a short game of 40 mins and 12 players in both teams are required, so it is feasible to accommodate 24 children for a basketball game. What really needs to be done is identifying talents in the nation and providing them with the nurturing background so that they can make a future for themselves and make the country proud.

In your opinion, what are the basic key traits apart from formal training that make “imd1”?

Instincts to play. Instincts to perform and be good at what you are doing. One must know why he/she are in that field and thus thrive to give it their best shot. More than anything the motivation that is self-driven is what really is necessary to be the one. One must always rely and draw inspiration from self-confidence.

Your piece of advice to parents and new generation especially when some people are skeptical about career in extra curriculum.

Yes, I would want all parents to just let their kids be and let them break free from the stress of being burdened to perform well. Especially today’s generation, there is unnecessary burden that children carry even while engaged in an extracurricular activity. Every parent wants their child to be Michael Jordan or be the ace in that sport. If the child is good in dancing and singing, then the pressure of becoming a Bollywood actor is piled up. Why can’t kids play a sport for fun and decide for themselves if they want to continue it or not?

The Passionate Arjuna Awardee ‘Prashanti Singh’

Parents need to let their child breathe in this competitive world, “Har bacche ka hunar alag alag hota hai, unko kuch waqt apne liye bhi lene do.” It is important for children to learn from their nuances and only then can they deliver else being succumbed to pressure always results in destruction.

One thing which you feel you want to change from the past while you walk down memory lane…

I don’t really like being physically injured and due to that I have missed out on important games. Which I now take care of very religiously, I make sure I don’t fall ill or get myself injured because then it wastes time and I don’t want that to happen. I want to make the most of my passion for basketball, I really love playing it, so I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to do so.

How can one identify & encourage talent in the family?

Just talk to your kids and learn of their dreams and motivate them to go pursue it. Don’t let the inhibitions come your way when speaking to your children and try to be as open minded as you can. That should help.

Any other thoughts you want to share?

People need to respect athletes. It is vital for them to understand that as athletes we put in a little extra effort to become something of ourselves. Despite the harassing weather conditions, be it the scorching summer heat or the chilly winter winds when people are inside their homes tucked in the cozy blankets, we athletes wake up at 4 am to practice in that weather and not take an extra hour of nap by snoozing the alarm. A lot of blood and sweat is sacrificed by athletes throughout their journey and sometimes we succeed and fail too. But that doesn’t stop us from doing that we really like doing. So instead of pointing fingers at us when we fail, it is better if you could acknowledge the efforts, time and energy that we invest in for all our games.