“Education Complements Sport”: Interview with Incheon Bronze Medalist Varsha Varman

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For those of you who don’t know Varsha Varman:

Varsha Varman is an Indian double trap shooter. She won the bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon in the women’s double trap team event. She is presently studying Economics with a major in Law at Harvard.

Hi Varsha! First of all I’d like to congratulate you for your Bronze in the Asian Games this year. It must have been exhilarating. 

Thank You! It was indeed a proud moment for me and my family. Standing at the podium and winning a medal for my nation is something that I’ve always dreamt of. So, yes it was truly an eminent moment for me, as it would be in the life of any sportsperson.

What got you into shooting? What marked the birth of Varsha Varman, the double trap shooter?

Well, my grandfather was a Colonel in the Indian Army. Also my father was a sport shooter for the IFS, the Indian Forest Services and as a kid, watching them was what made me get interested and get to know more about it.

As such, in India, this isn’t a very popular event. And it wasn’t any one instance as such that gave me the impetus to take up shooting. A shooting range was developed in Madhya Pradesh, which is where I rise from along with a number of academies. But as in the case of most government initiatives, it was run down and nobody is there to look after it. Nonetheless, all these things proved to be the catalyst and I ultimately found my desire to pursue this sport growing.

I’ve read that you were felicitated by the Chief Minister for topping your CBSE Class XII exams with 97 % and simultaneously winning the silver medal in the junior trap event at the Asian Shooting Championships in Doha in the same year. Wow! How did you manage to pull off this incredible feat? 

(Laughs) I wouldn’t want to lie to you. It was tough. The rigor of the CBSE Board combined with the strenuous training for the Doha Championships made that phase very difficult for me as an individual. You would find me reading during the long flights or in mid-meal breaks during the competition. I’d try and make every minute count, on and off the field.

My school was instrumental in making this happen. I got leaves and exemptions very easily for my shooting and my teachers helped me extensively to make up for my academics. I am very grateful to them for this. May it be after-school hours or individual counselling, I never had any dearth of support from them.

Personally, focus was the key. My mind was constantly engaged between the two activities but frankly, multitasking is one of my strengths.

Moreover, what made it tough was the psychological pressure about how the Board Exams were the most important thing in the Indian system. I feel that in our country, a little too much emphasis is put into them, demeaning the very nature of sport and other non-academic activities at the same time. People must realize that at the age of 17 or 18, an individual should be given an opportunity to think about all possible career choices in a stress-free manner. Only then, budding sports persons can reach their destination.

Since you were so bright at Academics along with being an aspiring shooter, I’d assume that you definitely must have been Mama’s good girl. Moreover, how supportive has your family been all along?

(Grins) Haha…Yes, my parents were as happy with my academic performance as they were with my shooting medals. My family has been very supportive all along. My father accompanied me everywhere for my tournaments till I turned 18, may it be train journeys or long training schedule. He’s stood by me through all the perils in my life. My mother has also been ancillary to every cause.

How highly do you regard the Indian sports setup? And what in your opinion is the reason why countries like China win so big in major sporting events?

We are not short of resources. Poor governance and mismanaged funds summarize the story of the sports setup in India. Not many countries spend as much money on sport as India, which makes ours a much sadder state of affairs. We have talent in the most remote corners who don’t have access to even the bare minimum facilities.

As shooters, we have almost all our practice sessions abroad, namely Italy. Also most of the coaching staff is from outside India. The matter of fact is that we don’t have either the required facilities nor the expertise for appropriate training at present. Rajvardhan Rathore, Abhinav Bindra and the others have all gained from training abroad. The facilities in India are deplorable.

Countries like China develop a player right from the time they’re in school and show an ability in this sort of thing. In India, scouting for talent occurs in a very haphazard manner. We cannot expect a significant increase in medal tallies if we continue on this path. Major changes need to be incorporated at the earliest to see changes in the present scenario.

You’re studying in Harvard at present and preparing for the Rio 2016 Olympics simultaneously. What’re your thoughts on education in the life of a sportsperson?

“Education complements Sport”. All the mental training I need for my sport comes from education. All my life, what has kept my passion for shooting intact is the fact that I believe that even if my shooting career doesn’t turn out to be the most successful one, I have a backup. It gives me the strength to put it all on the line when I’m there, representing my country at events.

Education provides the required maturity, composure and intellectualism for me in my field. I must say, that I’m living a dream; following my passion with a sound educational background to pull myself through. I feel that every sports person in this country, however successful, must not let education play second fiddle in their lives.

Believe me, all the tenacity you need to excel at your sport comes from education.

Those words have definitely given me a unique perspective towards the paradigm of thinking which needs to be followed in sport. 

How do you define success and do you measure up to your definition? 

In my viewpoint, I live a successful life if I’m hungry all the time. Hungry for victory. Hungry to learn. I believe that I will be successful in my life if I continue to work towards my passion for shooting and get accolades for my country, and at the same time ensure that I live a fulfilling life personally with a proper education.

I wouldn’t say that I’m absolutely satisfied with what I am today, but I strive to live up to my definition and work towards it every day of the year.

That’s a wonderful way to put it. You must have heard of India For Sports. What do you think about their initiative?

I think it’s a brilliant way to fund athletes considering that our athletes are always short on facilities. The concept of crowd funding really strikes a chord and is one of a kind idea. I think that these guys are doing a good job and kudos to them on their good work.

We were in a candid conversation with Shreyasi Singh earlier this month. She says that you complemented the team perfectly with the energy you brought on the table.

(Smiles)..I felt privileged to be a part of such an accomplished team. Shreyasi and Shagun di have been amazing teammates and I’ve enjoyed every single moment at Incheon with them.

I have a final question for you.

What would be your 5 point agenda after returning to India to promote shooting?

Okay, so this is what I have in mind:

1. I will look for an organisation that will help me to reach a larger section of the population and scout for talent in every town and village. There is a lot of uncaptured potential in rural places where the sport is still a mystery.

2. Working on arranging proper training camps. The main aim of this is to provide proper exposure and ensure that one is ready for the heated competition to be encountered in the future.

3. Quality coaches are a must during the entire period of intense and vigorous training. Hiring skill-specific coaches is the key to getting the most out of a player. 

4. The most important is nutrition. This is something which should be taken care of, as it’s the prime aid for every individual to perform well.

5. Education. This is the one and only backup which every individual should have. Ending up at 35 without a job is not a pleasant situation in the life on any person.

Before I take your leave, there is one thing our readers want to know. What do you see yourself as in the next 5 years, Varsha Varman- an ace shooter or Varsha Varman, a first rate lawyer?

I always see myself first as a shooter, then as somebody else.

Interview Courtesy: India For Sports
IFS is the first and only athlete funding channel. Support it’s fund raising campaign to ameliorate the standard of sports in our country.

Here is the Link to their Website: www.indiaforsports.com


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