While the odds were stacked against her, she never stopped dreaming. While the means to the end were challenging, she never threw in the towel. While most competed with others, she competed with herself.
Meet Shivpriya Naik, a Palava resident who is a mother of two and a professional Table Tennis player who brought home two bronze medals as a part of the Maharashtra team at the 28th National Veterans Table Tennis Championship. Held in Srinagar earlier this year, the tournament hosted over 1000 professional players across 35 states of India. Shivpriya participated and won the bronze medal in the Under-50 category in the Mixed Double and the Team event.
Read her journey in her own words.
Tell us about your first tryst with professional Table Tennis.
I began playing inter-college table tennis while studying at university. I would watch my seniors play for hours while they practiced meticulously. This really helped me to learn how to play. I was then spotted by the Head Coach, who appointed a special coach to help me train and compete at the district level.
And then you gave it all up. Tell us about the long-playing career pause.
My priorities changed. I got married, had children, and while navigating it all, boxed my aspirations for the next 25 years until I came to Palava. While there were club venues to train and play in Bhayander, where I resided earlier, I could not afford the membership fee mandatory to access the facilities. So Palava helped me revive my career.
How did you step back into the game?
I will be eternally grateful to the Table Tennis Club, Palava for giving me the golden opportunity to pursue my passion. In 2018, my coach, Late Dr. Sudhakar Babras Sir, encouraged me to pick up the racquet again, and I never looked back thereafter. I have not missed a day of practice at the world-class Olympic Sports Centre at Lakeshore Greens in the last four years.
Decision to move to Palava is truly a bliss – it’s been a perfect set up to bringing out the best in me!
Was getting back to court a herculean task?
Absolutely! After giving up the sport for 25 years, I had lost finesse, struggled with the correct grips and was extremely low on confidence. Regardless, Babras Sir (who passed away in 2019) stood by me and motivated me to give my best at every practice session. So, I once again began by waiting on the sidelines and passing the ball and steadily rose to become a sought-after player invited by the seniors to play a good game!
Can you share a few inspiring coaching moments spent with Sir?
There are many special ones though the learning that is most dear to me is never to worry about winning or losing the game. Sir always told us to give every game our best and to see every loss as an opportunity to learn and prepare better for the next match. So while I lost at my singles event at the national’s last year, I consciously chose to smile instead of giving up and used my learnings to win my medal this year.
Who is your biggest inspiration and your aspirations?
My friends, family, my mentors and me! My friends from Palava motivate me to keep improving at whatever I do. Also, I keep telling myself that I have to set an example for many more women and help them rekindle their passion and take time out for themselves.
Also, I want to help youngsters in Palava pursue Table Tennis as a sport. While I lost out on the opportunities available in my youth, I want to help them hone their skills and compete professionally. Presently I am teaching the basics of the game to the students of Lodha World School and The Shri Ram Universal School, Lakeshore Greens. My winning at the nationals has encouraged parents to enrol their children in professional coaching, and I could not have asked for more!
What is the next goal in sight?
I am preparing to play in the International Veterans Tournament to be held next year.
And just so you know, Shivpriya Naik, in addition to being a professional Table Tennis player, also runs a carpool and a catering service and is a personal driving instructor. She truly exemplifies that one can be a master of all in the new age!
Palava is incredibly delighted to be home to such remarkable individuals!
At Palava sports and fitness are some of the key focus areas and we ensure the world-class sports infrastructure coupled with professional training helps the residents not only pursue sports for fun but also gives a platform to excel in the same. In order to encourage people to lead a healthier lifestyle, the membership for the sporting facilities has now been opened up to non-residents as well.
To know more about our Olympic Sports Centre, please write to – firstname.lastname@example.org