“Chutki baja kar, problem solve karo. Darna nahi hai!”- A journey from an International hockey player to a coach: Meet Balvinder Kaur Mehra

Published on : February 24, 2023

Tags: Training

My mother’s attention was caught when a girl named Saba Anjum made India proud in hockey internationally. She introduced me to the sport when I was in 6th grade. Saba’s story inspired me. The Padma Shri awardee’s laurels were incredible. But that’s where my story started. My mother- my pillar of support. She’s the reason I’m in hockey. She’d yell at me if I got low marks at school, “poora time khelna hai, padhai nahi karti”. I wasn’t very academically inclined, but I belonged on the field. Afterward, I’d say, “Mummy, aapne hi mujhe hockey mai daala hai” and giggle. Both of us had one goal- to represent our homeland internationally. I came to SAI BHopal for the first time as a 14-year-old with that goal in mind. My parents dropped me off. They walked around the campus to see if everything was okay, and then we said our goodbyes. My development as an athlete was aided by good coaches, clean campus, and nutritious food. We had lady guards in our dorms, so we felt safe. We also had access to doctors in case of an emergency. It’s very important for a woman to have a clean washroom, especially during periods. The bathrooms were probably not as good as we have at home, given the fact that there are only a few bathrooms for about a dozen girls. Periods wasn’t something we talked about or shared back then. In case we were feeling uncomfortable during periods, we would raise our hands and tell the coach we had a personal problem. He’d then understand it and let us do a light workout and rest.

My four years at SAI were very fruitful as I went on to play for India, played the Junior World Championship, and participated in World and Olympic camps. My journey here came to a halt when my father passed away in 2013. A short time later, my brother committed suicide. It was a dark phase. My biggest cheerleader broke down. My biggest cheerleader didn’t cheer for me. I didn’t know how to survive and pursue my passion. We had to find ways to earn money to run the household. 

We were disappointed that despite playing for the country, my State didn’t help me at all. I wasn’t getting a government job either. We were in despair. A friend of mine referred me to a hockey academy in Anantpur, Andhra Pradesh, where I became a hockey coach. That was the beginning of my coaching journey, and I’m loving it! I get to work with amazing kids and youth. It’s so rewarding and humbling.

In the U13 and under 21 categories, I threw myself into it to train the girls in a way they could understand since some of them come from traditional villages. I had to teach them about sports attire, handling hockey equipment, and cleaning it all. Sometimes they miss their family and cry that they’d like to talk to their mom. We had them call their family.In terms of training, the older girls had a more structured process. However, I encouraged open communication with them so we could make sure they stayed focused on their sports and performance. In my role, I guided them not to get distracted and raised flags if anyone misbehaved. I approached them with a solution-oriented attitude.My sister was very supportive during this period. She pushed me to be fearless and pursue my dreams.  I was so happy to see my mother back to the Sherni she used to be when she saw us all getting back up on our feet! In 2019 I was honoured in my state with the Shahid Pankaj Vikram Award. Mine and my family’s hearts were filled with pride.Currently, I’m enrolled in a coach certification program at SAI Bangalore. Hockey is my passion, and I’m glad to have the chance to learn the nitty gritty of coaching. I want to teach as many kids back home as possible. I want them to have enough exposure to tournaments too so they can learn to compete and win.To me, coaching isn’t just about teaching them hockey, it’s also about instilling values. Nothing comes easy in life. You have to work hard for what you want. 

“Problem se darr ke nahi bhagna. Samne se face karo. Problem ko chutki baja baja kar solve karna hai”

In the future, I want to pursue the Hockey India level 1 and 2 certifications as well. I’m hoping to be the head coach of the Indian Junior Hockey team one day. Jai Hind!

About the writer:

I am Medha Kattige, an education, and sports professional. Having graduated with a Gold medal in Master of Sports Management, I am also a former badminton athlete. Education and sports for all is a cause close to my heart. I strive to positively impact lives by spreading knowledge and facilitating opportunities to take part in sports for all.


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