Sports: A field that floats in the pool of uncertainties. Today, when you choose this sector as a career option, it is tough to stay, maintain patience, and be very tough to endure with all the physical stress and mental as well! So we thought, why not take a closer peek at a budding and very young Table Tennis player who is so obsessed over his goal that he won’t give up at any cost!
Currently in his 20’s, Rushab Salaskar proves to be an inspiration to all the youngsters around. He is pursuing his undergrad; the player took a break from the game because of the pandemic. During the conversation, we toured all the phases of Rushab Salaskar’s journey.
Rushab had played for the Maharashtrian team and represented the state in Nationals when he was just in his teens. Currently, he plays for the University. He has been on and off the game due to some injuries. But every time, he comes back with a bang!
He even holds a fantastic record of bagging prizes in Under 15 Singles and doubles, Under 18 Singles and Doubles, Youth Singles and Doubles, Men’s Singles and Doubles all in one tournament!
THE BEGINNING THAT SHAPED RUSHAB
“I started playing table tennis because of my seniors. I was teased and taunted because my father was an international table tennis referee, yet I lost a school match. I wanted to show them what I can do, so I took up the sport!”
“I convinced my father to let me play. I told him not to keep any high expectations from me, at least not at the moment. He was okay with it, and I started practicing. Later, I got the hang of the game, and I was so involved that I decided not to leave. I gave the game all my efforts. I practiced hard and began gaining strength. Eventually, I started winning. Soon, I was selected for the Raigad District team, my very first match. It is a feeling that I won’t ever forget! That was the moment when I took up table tennis seriously!”
“The tussle between school, studies, and practice was challenging. But I was obsessed with table tennis that I was ready to do whatever it took to make myself the best. My mother took care of everything – my food, my diet, and even matches. She accompanied me wherever my matches took place. She did not know much about the game, but her presence was comforting for me.”
“Whatever I have achieved over the years is because of my obsession with the game and with the victory. Table tennis has given me the confidence to face life. The game taught me how to keep calm in crisis and control emotions.”
THE BALANCE BETWEEN EDUCATION AND THE GAME
“I did not attend much of the school because of matches and tournaments. I was out there playing most of the time. So, I would attend the exams, and teachers would help me out with the difficulties. I would study on the go, carry all the required books, and this is how I finished my 10th class with a good score.
“I trained hard at athletics, and I was building strength. Thanks to this, I was always dozing off in lectures. My school got over at 4 p.m. after which, I rushed to the practice. The practice sessions went on till 10:30 p.m. The schedule was tight and hectic. But again, my obsession kept me motivated. The endurance sessions and practices took up around 5 hours on weekdays and 7 hours on weekends.”
“I took up science in Junior College. Due to that, I did not play a lot at that time, but I managed to play Nationals. I also won a gold medal at the local tournaments as well. For graduation, I changed the college. By this time, a lot of people knew me, and that elated feeling is incomparable.”
“It was my obsession and respect towards the game that kept me going despite the odds. I also got concessions from my school principals, and the teachers were quite supportive.”
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE COACH
“For the first few years, my father was my coach. When I told him I wanted to practice for tournaments, he took me along for the matches. I used to observe the players and made mental notes about their tactics. My eyes and mind soon started grasping the game. I used to practice a lot against the wall, and this helped me with the basics. I learned a lot of tricks by watching recorded games. My father was always there for me. He dropped me off at matches and picked me up from practice sessions like a father. He discussed the game and strategies like a coach.”
“When I shifted my practice sessions to Dadaji Kondev Stadium (Thane), I started training under Coach Raju Sawant. He has played an important role in defining my game. He used to practice with us and train us even if he didn’t receive the salary. Even today, he wouldn’t mind lending us a hand with the practice.”
MENTAL STABILITY IS VERY IMPORTANT
“Table tennis has helped me a lot. It made me realize what my strengths were and where my weaknesses lie. Mental preparation is necessary. If you don’t work on your mental stability, you won’t even make it through qualifiers.”
“There was a guy, and I did not know him personally, but he considered me his opponent. I, on the other hand, used to think that he would beat me fair and square. But when we faced each other in the states, I beat him. It was possible only because I was mentally present in the game. For me, the mind works where physical strength fails.”
Being mentally strong is what you need in a game, and positivity matters. This will help me score a win. It always does. My dad has taught me not to give up on a match until the game is over!”
WHERE DOES INDIA LACK IN TABLE TENNIS
“Indian parents have this tendency of sending their children to play just because they are bored at home. So these kids come, hover around for an hour or so, and leave. They don’t respect the game. If you are investing your time in it and you love it, then practice is the key. Parents here are inclined towards academics more. I think the government of India should help the players who have talent. Be it academically or financially. For international matches, our players don’t come forward because the team is of 5, but only 3 are funded, and the other two have to manage on their own. This does not suit everybody’s condition.”
“The players I am with; not all of them are financially sound. So, once you achieve certain medals and rankings, you are offered jobs, and talented players choose those for stability, and the game is just left behind. If you look at top countries, like China or Korea they have strong players because of the policies. These players don’t worry about funding, jobs, or anything else. They focus on the game and win. Their players study the game like science. They practice for shots that we don’t even consider using. We use traditional shots. This needs to be changed.”
FUTURE PLANS FOR LIFE
“Due to the pandemic, I did not get to play this year. I have taken time on and off the period, but my injuries take a toll all the time. I never stop, though. I take breaks, but I make sure that my practice goes on. Once I am ready, and I believe that I could win, I enter the tournaments again. Nothing can take me away from the game for long!”
“As far as my future plans are concerned, I am planning to pursue Sports Management. Once I am done with the course, I will start a firm that will organize sports events. But I will never leave Table Tennis, that’s for sure!”
MESSAGE FOR THE PLAYERS
“If you are choosing sports, then you need to learn management. Manage your practice sessions and your studies. Nothing is impossible; take your time, and everything will just fall into place.”
“If you are committing to something, be obsessed with it; obsession matters.”