Hey there, I am Prerak Gandhi, a 4th year undergraduate in the Department of Chemistry. I have had a wide range of experiences in my insti life but I wish to talk about one of my most important experiences of all – participating in the Inter IIT Annual Sports Meet. I will talk about my experience in IIT Kharagpur as well as the journey that I took to reach there (not literally about transportation 😛 ).
The Pre – Journey
I took up NSO football in my freshmen year. In the following summer, I got enrolled in the advanced football camp and also started representing IIT Bombay in MDFA (an inter-college competition in Mumbai). Although I was a part of the squad in the training camp, I wasn’t a part of the Inter IIT team that year. I decided to take this rejection as motivation and decided to work harder until I achieved my goal.
In the following year (2019), we had about an hour of practice every morning from 6:35 – 7:40 before lectures. Due to the monsoons, our ground remained closed till October. During that time we had to manage our sessions in the indoor courts which meant more of running and exercising rather than playing football. Once our ground reopened, we had evening sessions with various kinds of strategic and tactical team drills. With practice everyday, it was important to get enough rest to avoid fatigue and injuries.
As soon as the endterm exams concluded, the camp commenced. A fixed schedule of practice – 2 hours early in the morning followed by breakfast, the occasional march past, rest, lunch, again rest, 3 hours practice in the evening, dinner, and sleep. The camp was designed so as to not waste even an hour during the day. In fact, I hardly remember finding the time to check my phone at all for some days.
The training camp is where everyone became a team. It felt like we were fighting for the same mission. Everyone had to be focused in order to have a chance to be in the main squad. The learning curve at the camp is exponential and it gives you the experience of being in a professional team. Fortunately, at the end of the training camp, I was selected in the final squad of 16.
We reached IIT Kharagpur, after a long train journey of 35 hours, and realised that our first match wasn’t until 4 days later. This gave us enough time to explore the campus and practice on the ground. The rooms given were quite spacious and could easily accommodate 4 people. The food provided was good old mess standard which led us to find all the eateries.
Our first match was iconically against hosts and eventual winners Kharagpur who had won against Patna by 6-0. We lost the match 2-1 but in the process managed to impress the other teams. We then went on to the round of 16 (knockouts) as we grabbed our opportunity against Patna. Our next match was against Guwahati against whom we lost by a goal in the dying minutes of the match. That was the end of our journey in Inter IIT.
Okay about time we address the elephant in the room as well. All Throughout the entire 5 months of football, I had to manage my studies as well. The fifth semester was probably the most unfortunate semester to spend this much time on sports. Firstly, in the third year of B.S Chem, the UG and PG students have common lectures and grading. Secondly, getting an internship was also a priority. Finally, my non-core inclinations affected my commitment to chemistry courses. I spent a lot of time trying to land an internship until Midsems. I decided to commit more time for studies since practice would be more prevalent in the latter half of the semester. Studying everyday even for an hour or two is enough to keep up with the syllabus. I immediately began following a fixed schedule which increased my performance in both – acads and sports. I recovered enough marks for good grades and got shortlisted for the training camp.
The entire journey had been as intense and competitive as I had thought it to be. Despite the early exit in the tournament, I had a positive experience overall. As it is often said, the journey is more important than the destination. I managed to learn a lot from our coach and my seniors. I helped my junior teammates by providing guidance whenever possible. Playing football has managed to improve my personality and also make me more responsible. I desperately hope that this pandemic ends and I get a chance to play on the campus once again.