Physical Education Coach Shiva Shalini created a ripple recently when she made it to a select squad of Osmania University’s Women’s hockey team. The reason: She picked up a hockey stick for the first time 4 years ago and learned it all at IIITH. Meet this badass who has surmounted odds with sheer grit and and wants no pity party.
It was the grunts of ‘kiai’ that first piqued 9-year-old Shiva Shalini’s interest. Tracing the cries to a Karate class in progress in her neighbourhood, she found herself looking on in wonderment as the students imitated their teacher’s punches, kicks and strikes. The 3rd grader was hooked and there was no looking back. As her Karate prowess and expertise steadily increased over the years, Shalini found herself participating in and winning accolades at various national as well as international tournaments.
Little But Fierce
By the time she reached 10th grade, she had already been awarded a Black Belt. While a Black Belt in itself is a sign that one has mastered the art of Karate, there are however 10 levels or degrees in the Black Belt rank that need to be accomplished before being awarded the final belt. Shalini had just been conferred the second level Black Belt when a personal tragedy struck with her mother’s passing. “With her demise, all my extra-curricular activities took a backseat. And instead I concentrated on my academics,” says Shalini sombrely. Though her familial situation prevented her from actively practising Karate, the love for the martial art never left her. Hence when word reached the by-then 2nd degree B.Com student in 2015 that there was an urgent requirement for a Fitness Coach and Martial Arts trainer in IIITH, she jumped at the opportunity. Ever since she obtained the Brown Belt, Shalini had subbed many a time for her own teacher in his absence and was no stranger to conducting a class of her own. It didn’t seem to matter at all that she was coaching students who were as old as or even older than her. She grins, “All I wanted at that point in time was some pocket money and was ecstatic to receive my first payout of Rs 6000!”. A part-time engagement with the institute which initially comprised of morning PT classes from 6.30-7.30 am, gradually expanded to include evening classes too. The PT classes which are mandatory for the first and second year students comprise of a 30 minute warmup that includes either a few laps of jogging or brisk walking, followed by the next 30 minute of any sport opted for by the students. Alongside this coaching gig, Shalini meanwhile went on to complete her graduate education.
The Guiding Force
At IIITH, under the tutelage of Kamalakar K.S who heads Physical Education on campus, Shalini not only grew proficient in handling Martial Arts, but also gained exposure to the other sporting activities that are offered to the students. “It was Kamalakar sir who insisted that as a physical trainer, I need to be aware of how the other sports are played too,” she says. In this way, she learned the ABCs of volleyball, football, throwball, basketball, and hockey. In the case of the latter, what started as a rudimentary education metamorphosed into a full-blown love for the game. It helped immensely that Kamalakar himself is no mean hockey player. “He is so good at the game. No one can take the ball from him,” gushes Shalini.
Shalini’s typical day begins with the morning PT sessions after which she dashes off to a primary school working all day in the capacity of a PT coach. In the evening, after the PT sessions wrap up on IIITH campus, Shalini can be found practising her hockey manoeuvres in Kamalakar’s keen presence. He is more than just a mentor and coach for Shalini. In fact, thanks to his encouragement and guidance, she went on to enrol for a Bachelors in Physical Education and is currently in her final year. Her skill and passion for the game reveals itself in the fact that she was chosen to be part of Osmania University’s (OU) 16-member girls hockey squad. In December, this team played at the South Zone Inter University tournament in Chennai. Speaking of the experience, where the OU team won 2 out of the 3 games, the left forward player is all praise for the camaraderie of the team: “By calling me ‘akka’, they never let me feel like it was the first tournament I was playing in”. The first match with Kannur University was a tie and OU won 3-0. The second match which they won against Krishna University was well played too. “The last and deciding match with Madras University was a tough one and almost everyone on our team had injuries. Even though we lost this one, we loved the way they played,” she says. A third win would have ensured the team’s shot at playing at the national level.
Unlike her other OU team mates who are full-time students, Shalini juggles between her two jobs while squeezing in time for her personal practice. She mentions, teary-eyed that she has been living in the IIITH hostel for over a year now when her father abandoned her after his retirement. For now, she has her sight set on improving her hockey game, and playing it professionally while continuing her formal study in Physical Education. “I would like to do a Masters in Physical Education as well. That way, I can continue to play for OU for another two years. It will also allow me to obtain a secure and well-paying job. After all, I have to look out for and support myself,” she says matter-of-factly. It is not without pride that her guru, Kamalakar remarks that she’s a fast learner. “Not only does she enjoy sports, but she is willing to learn anything new and readily absorbs it. In just a span of 4 years, she picked up a lot. She even takes charge of the girls on campus.” With currently only a men’s hockey team active on campus, Shalini hopes to inspire other women to take up the sport too and lead a women’s hockey team at IIITH very soon.