A small hole in a heart is too small against big will power - The story of Table Tennis champion 'Sanil Shetty'
16th August 1989
Proudly says ‘imd1’ for
Table Tennis, Sport
After a successful stint at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Table Tennis player Sanil Shetty is gung ho about the leaps he has to take. Gaining accolades for his penchant in the game, the young player is all about optimistic things in life. Never ready to settle for losing, he firmly believes that with sheer passion and dedication one can go miles. While not many know about his personal life, Sanil suffered from an ailment in his childhood that prohibited him from playing any sport. But like they say, if you want to make something happen nothing can stop you. Now, without revealing too much details, let’s straight talk to the man himself. In conversation with Sanil Shetty.
We are keen to know; how did your journey begin?
When I was born, I had a hole in my heart. Naturally my parents were scared as doctors said. I was too sensitive to play any rigorous sports. So, as a child my parents put me in various arts classes. I would learn painting, drawing and all sorts of things. My dad played for the bank that he worked for and my older brother, Sachin, played at the national level. was only when I was 9 years old, did I started requesting my parents to let me pursue table tennis. I was inspired to take up the sport because of my brother. He would win medals and that really gave me the boost to play table tennis and to be able to win medals myself. My brother too helped me by talking to our parents and convincing them to let me try. He really supported me. He then took me to Deepak Mani Sir, under whom he was being coached. Deepak Sir saw something in me and agreed. That is how it all began. Since then, there has been no looking back.
What’s your success mantra?
From my journey it is easy to make out that the only mantra I followed throughout was the sheer will power of my heart and mind to achieve. There is no proxy for determination, commitment and hard work. When these work in coordination to your will power, there’s nothing that can stop you. And the key to be successful in any walks of life is Discipline. Regardless of the field you choose, if you are disciplined you will always succeed.
Beyond Table Tennis
Your Quote for life:
Work hard for all that you want and never give up in life
Food I Love
Butter Chicken, Punjabi Cuisine and Italian Cuisine
Food I Hate
Had I not been a Table Tennis Player then...
Like Vacations at
Favorite Pass time
Hanging out with friends
“Tu bata”, since I am shy kind of guy and don’t talk much but I am a good listener
Favorite Movies / Series
I Am Legend, Baahubali
Favorite Actor / Actress
Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt
What were the hardships / hurdles your encountered and the way you overcame in your journey?
Apart from my health concerns, the major hurdle I had to combat was finding finances to aid my game. Initially it was very difficult, as I could not affordtravelingexpenses for the tournaments. I could play tournaments only in India. There were no sponsors to back me. But later as I began gaining recognition, I got stipend for the games I played. I got a job in Air India and later in BPCL. Then things sailed swiftly. But yes, initially finances were the major trouble for me. And like I said my parents were apprehensive about my health conditions being deteriorated but as I started playing the training helped me fight my health issues and really helped me gain physical and mental strength.
Success is incomplete without its share of failures. How should one overcome them to move on?
It was in 2012 when I had a chance to qualify for Olympics but unfortunately, I lost in quarter finals. I couldn’t make it to finals. I was shattered then. Had I been qualified, I could make it for the Olympics. It did take me time to regain confidence and convince myself that I had to buck up and that what went wrong couldn’t be undone. Now I shall revive myself. Boosting morale is very important when you face a downfall in life. Fortunately for me, my family supported me a lot and it gave me a lot of strength. I could overcome these failures because of my mental strength and because of my mental instructor who helps me imbibe self-confidence. I looked forward to visits with her. They really helped me.
Table Tennisand its learning’s can be helpful in life even if one does not want to consider it as a career goal?
Table Tennis is one such sport which caters to all age group. You find children or even adults playing the sport for fun in buildings. Other sports may restrict you pertaining the required age criteria, but Table Tennis is for all age people. Playing Table Tennis keeps you fit and active. The game is very engaging. So, it helps you learn tactics for other arenas of life too. To sum up, playing table tennis is a step forward towards leading a healthy life.
Who has been your influencer in this journey & how?
My father and my brother are my influencers. Whatever I am today, I owe it to the sacrifices they have made to let me live my dreams. My father couldn’t afford training but still he supported me. My brother was himself a great player, but he let go of his dreams and started coaching young kids, so he could let me play. I could make this happen only because of the strong support of these gentlemen in my life. My success would be incomplete had it not been for them to support me. I feel proud of myself when I see them both happy in my winnings.
Which was “that” moment when you considered yourself as “I Am The 1”?
When I won the national title in 2013, that was a big moment for me. I was in my best shape, full of confidence. People were acknowledging my game. It was such a booster. It felt nice to get that kind of love. That was a proud moment when I felt as “Yes, I Am The 1.”
Did you get any formal training and how was that journey?
I started training under Deepak Mani sir. He was my mentor for twelve years. Till date if I am in Mumbai, I go to him for his advice on the game. Since many players of my age don’t train in Mumbai these days, and Deepak Sir is busy coaching young and talented kids, it is always a bliss to talk to him about the game. After Deepak Sir, I started training under Peter Engel in Germany. He was among the top 20 players of his times. Overall the training has been smooth.
Could you reflect on the importance of systematic training in Table Tennis
Systematic training is very important. For a child of 9-10 years if he/she wants to take up Table Tennis as a profession, it is vital that they get the nuances of the game right since the beginning. Like the old saying goes “For a tree to reap fruits one should nurture it” since it’s seeded in the ground and water it for the roots to become thick and strong. The same philosophy applies to training for a sport. Unless you are thorough with the basics you cannot deal with the advancements of the game. Fortunately, these times are great for a child to take up table tennis. The learningof the game have improved with the coaches. Now, India ranks way better than what they were in the world rankings a few years ago. So, it is a good time for table tennis in India.
What are the pre-coaching essentials e.g. Right age, mindset or any other?
One of the most essential requirement is to start young. Young minds are always ready to be molded the way you want to shape them. So, it’s a great advantage if you start training for the game since you are young. Ideally, the age between 6-10 is appropriate to commence training for table tennis or any other sport for that matter. Also, at this tender age the burdens of pressure don’t come in the way of letting them enjoy what they are doing. It is all about fun and they love doing things, the zest at that age is unmatchable. It is also easy to spot talent in the young players, so it naturally helps in defining the parameters of the child’s interest and his/her capabilities in the game.
How can one select an ideal ‘Guru’ for getting formal training for Table Tennis?
An ideal guru is someone whom a child can lay trust on. A guru or mentor must have the ability to have faith in the student and motivate him/her to achieve it in life. Here again, age is a big contributor. If a child is mentored under a coach since a young age, he is bound to lay faith in his teachings and connect with him on different levels but if you send a child to train under someone when they are at a risk age of adolescence, they will doubt the credibility of the mentor and that will not be a healthy thing to do for the child. A guru is someone whom you can trust and look forward to, to help you attain success in the game.
Your piece of advice to parents and new generation especially when some people are skeptical about career in extra curriculum.
Extracurricular activities especially sports are a boon to young minds. No matter whatever sport your child chooses, the learning will always be beneficial your child. Parents should encourage their children to take up sports. It will not only make them physically fit but also the challenges a sport throws at them will make them mentally strong.
One thing which you feel you want to change from the past while you walk down memory lane…
No regrets so far. A sportsman’s life is full of ups and down, but that is what makes the journey memorable. But if given a chance, I would want to go back to seeing myself being qualified for Olympics.
Any other thoughts you want to share?
From my experience, nothing is achievable without the support of parents. It is important for parents to support their child’s dreams and let them pursue it.