Sunday, December 21, 2014

Learning through Cricket - Living a Childhood Dream

You wanted to play cricket for India?

Love Letter to a Game I Love
I enjoyed playing cricket from a young age. So did a group of friends that stayed in my neighborhood. We would play a good three hours of cricket before sunset in a ground nearby. We would get all the cricket material. We would also get water and snacks for a break in between play. Then by seven in the evening, I would go and play some more cricket with my building friends. On weekends, we would go to a local club and play the game with friends late into the night.

I played cricket, whenever I got a chance too

At school, we would make a list of every single cricket match happening around the world. We would watch the games on television and then come to school and deconstruct them. I also started playing cricket for the school team. I was introduced to leather ball cricket at school and became an active member of school practice sessions and matches during the week.

For a long time, all I could think about was Cricket. I was in love with the game. I dreamed a big dream. To play for the country someday. I did not get there. But I loved every moment of the journey. A few lessons I learned along the way :-

Why Cricket (Sport) helped me as a Student?
Winning the School Tournament - U-15 Team

All this improved my confidence as a student. I was happy people did not judge me based only on my academic performance. I had an outlet for all my youthful energy. I felt it really helped me cope up with all the pressures of growing up in those pre-adolescent years. It got me through my nervous teenage years.

In class one day a friend asked me, ‘Abhishek what do you want to become when get older?’ I replied my shoulders upright, ‘I want to play cricket for the Indian National Team.’

Bringing a Childhood Dream to Life

Asia Cup - Practice Game vs a Srilankan U-15 side

My parents found a cricket coaching academy in the city. I joined the academy and cricket was now a major part of my life. There were two practice sessions at the academy every week. At the end of the week a cricket match would be organized between the students who were part of the academy.

This academy, also took the students on yearly cricket tours. We played tournaments with other prominent cricket academies in the Gulf Region. Through these tours, I got to live a childhood dream. We got to go on Cricket Tours for the Bahrain Team to places like Dubai, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and England over the next two years. Life could not be better for a young boy in love with the game.

The U-15 Asia Cup in Malaysia

Asia Cup 2006, Capping Ceremony - U-15 Team

The tournament had Asia’s top U-15 junior teams Afghanistan, Nepal, UAE and Singapore were among the favorites for this tournament. The team of 14 youngsters was selected over a period of 4 months of intense training, matches and selection trials. The final tour was scheduled as follows

1)  1 week of practice games in Colombo, Sri Lanka
2)  2 weeks in Malaysia for the U-15 Asia Cup Tournament.

Asia Cup 2006, Match - Bahrain vs UAE
We traveled together, ate together, spend several nights discussing game plans together. We had meetings, we lost matches, we won matches and more. We made so many new friends from different parts of the world. We experienced a new culture and lifestyle. We reached the semi – finals of this tournament, but came back home with an even greater love for the game. We really understood, why it was so important to be there for each other in the team. To be supportive and to push each other to do better. Tours to England and Dubai followed later and the experience got better every time.

What Cricket can teach you?

Sports is a such a great learning tool for young people. Some things the game of cricket helped me learn were:-

1)  Waking up at 4 am, maintaining my fitness and practicing every day for three months thought me self discipline.
2)  Playing my role in the team and working with the other players thought me team work and collaboration.
3)  I learned the power of setting small everyday goals to reach large goals by building and working on my skills every day.. I was overweight and unfit at the start and had to setup a schedule of small achievable everyday goals to become fitter to play the game I loved.
4)  I realized failure was a part of success in whatever field I went into.
5)  Some of the other things I learned through sports were time management and giving my energy to the people and activities that really mattered to me.
6)  Sports also thought me how to respect people no matter what background they came from and to be a leader with no title.
7)  Playing with the best junior cricketers in the world made me realize, that if I really want to do something amazing with my life, I have got to set myself world class standards.
8)  Persistence was an important skill I was forced to develop. If I did not keep trying I would not achieve what I set out to achieve. If I set myself a goal I had to be persistent and do all I could to get there.

Those were the best days of my life. - Bryan Adams  (Summer of 69)

I loved cricket and played it religiously in every form possible from the age of 7 to the age of 17. A 10 year journey. A 10 Year Dream. I cannot thank the game enough for the joy and happiness and sense of purpose it gave me in this turbulent period of my life.

There are so many ways to learn from life. Sports is merely one aspect of it. There is something to learn from every experience you have in your life. I cherish what Sports did for me in my life and encourage more parents to let their children take up a sport when they are young.

Oh the things you can learn from in life! So beautiful. So exciting.  I thank the game of cricket, for an adventure in learning like no other.

Let us Learn Together
Tweet @AbhishekShetty_

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