Team Speaks: Volleyball

By Sharika Mahadevan and Neema Davis

As everyone is gearing up for the long-awaited Inter-IIT sports meet at Kanpur, we had the opportunity to interview the volleyball team.

The volleyball team:

Boys team: Kishore Yadav (captain), Harikrishnan R, Nevin Thomas, D Sri Charan, Kaustubh Joshi, Mithun Mp, Jassim Rafeek, Avienaas, Sandeep Pamidipagu, Vinoth, Chandan Kumar, and Athul Muraleedharan.

Girls team:  Aiswarya Anand (Captain), Yamuna Nagalakshmi, Bandi Pallavi, Roshni Akkaldevi, Bhavya Sai, Mutyala Anjali, Kiran Kolipey, Sujata Khandare, Aditi Khandare, Khusboo Lataria, K S Lalitha, Shumaila Shahid.

How do you feel about practice?
B: Practice is quite hectic and tedious during the semester but some of us ingeniously find excuses to not attend. The mini-camp, the prologue to the main camp, is compulsory for all players. Unfortunately, this happens a few weeks before the end semester when we have to meet multiple deadlines or have lab exams. You could say this was the first time the entire team met and practiced together which took a little adjusting to. One of the biggest advantages we had was that the NSO participants had practice every day. Hence, we had regular practice matches. Also, the coach quite efficiently set up matches with other institutes almost every two weeks. A whole lot of sessions were aimed at improving our fitness. All the team members are quite cooperative and the senior players never pull their weight around.

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G: The practice has been extremely systematic this year, compared to the previous ones. Last year, we could not get sufficient practice because of the floods. So this time, we have been having the most practice compared to any other outdoor sport. In a day, we have 3 sessions that take us about 7 hours to complete and that is the maximum among all the sports here. Even during the end semesters and quizzes, the PGs practiced regularly. Other than that, 2 to 2.5 hour of practice was mandatory every day to which everyone is extremely regular.

How do you think the team can improve offense and defense? What steps can you as a team take to do better offensively and defensively?
B: One of the main things we must focus on during the main camp is the combination. Throughout the semester, we stuck to practicing the basics. The team has two new boosters and the main attackers are final years who could not come regularly to practice. Also, the strategies will be discussed during the main camp. As a team, we are stronger on offense. We have extremely strong attackers and very few defenders. We need to practice defense more as we had not many sessions on defense. We should focus on defending power-packed smashes and difficult services.

G: To improve offense, it is important that we practice regularly. Until last year, most of our offenses were concentrated on one or two people, and unless and until they come to the front court, we used to play the passing game. That was an issue. But this year, with the new coach, everyone is working towards improving the all-around game. People who are good at offense have put more effort into improving their defense.

The girls team at practice
The girls team during practice

Improving defense is only possible through regular drills. Even though it can get very tiring and painful at times, we are practicing our defense drills every day. In fact, we practice regularly with the boys’ volleyball team. Their attacking skills are much better than ours. Taking in that level of attack will help raise our bar. It is important that we work together as a team and coordinate among ourselves while taking the next ball. Also, just two people will have cover the entire back row. Most of the defense will be effective only when there is sufficient communication between the team members and that is something that we are constantly working on.

Does the coaching staff display signs of good sportsmanship?
B: Yes!! Mr. Edin Raj was honestly always the first person to reach the court besides the captain. He was extremely regular during mini-camp and recently, he was appointed as the permanent coach for the team. He is extremely dedicated and has a wide array of basic exercises to start us off that we’ve never had the same exercise during a month. He is rather strict; we wouldn’t describe him as a friendly force but a reason to perform. He is more relaxed with the senior players. Extremely observant, he knows the individual strengths and weaknesses of players better than themselves. One of the best things about mini-camp was that one of the former team members,Venkat Sai Krishna (Sega), had come to the sessions and also helped out during practice.

G: Every year a new coach comes in and brings something different to the game. Last year’s coach completely transformed the team. We have started to view volleyball with more enthusiasm.

This year’s coach, Mr. Mukunda, is very experienced and he has coached the boys’ team before. A university gold medallist, his tactics and match awareness are brilliant. He knows exactly who is good at what and trains them accordingly. For him, it’s all about what we do in the game. He often says that the results don’t matter, the process does. In fact, he is more regular than us for practice. When 5 of us have to take 10 balls each, he serves all the 50! He emphasizes a lot on fitness and motivates us to run 2-3 kilometers a day.

How long has the team been together?
B: To be honest, this is a fresh team. A good number of freshies(first time on the team, not the institute) have been inducted into the team.

G: The current core team was formed last year. This year, we have around 5-6 people picked from last year’s NSO and one freshie on the team. But most of the players on this team have been together for the past 2 years.

Have the players done anything specific to prepare in practice?
B: When practices are canceled because the courts are occupied or due to rain, we hit the gym. Every session we have a 45-minute drill to build stamina. We learn specific techniques from YouTube (the captain and the previous captain send us links). We use medicine balls to practice boosters and the attackers practice against the wall at the end of the tennis court to improve strength and power. Defenders focus on improving efficiency or smoothness.

G: The focus on fitness has improved drastically this year. For example, jumping techniques are given special emphasis. The team also practices regularly with the medicine ball for strength training. In addition to that, this year, there is an in-house physio for all the teams. Fitness is something that reflects in the game. We are also following healthy, controlled diets. As a part of team bonding activities, we dine together whenever possible and keep track of everyone’s diet.

What do you anticipate to be the biggest challenge in the game?

B: Two words: Coordination and Combination. A lot of players as mentioned earlier were never regular, in particular, the final years. So the challenge is to adjust with their game. We are confident that this will be made up during the main camp. To quote a member, missed passes and lack of coordination during the matches which have proved detrimental during the Sports-Fest will pose a huge challenge. A lot of our games will be influenced by the atmosphere and crowd at IIT Kanpur. After all, sport is all a mind game.

G: Lack of experience will be the main challenge. Except for one player, none of us have played an Inter-IIT match before. Match practice was something that we lacked and this year, we are trying to bridge that gap also.

What is the team looking forward to the most?
B: Gold at Inter-IIT! Perhaps finding our captain a date as there is nothing as forlorn as him.

G: Playing, having fun, winning a medal! A volleyball women’s medal has been elusive for the last 4-5 years. Because it is a team sport, any position in the top four, will greatly enhance our claim for the women’s GC and for the overall GC as well. A medal is definitely what we are looking forward to.

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Does the team have a motto that it lives by?
B: A team is above all and above all, a team.

G: “Kill him!” The coach says this to us all the time. When he feels that the team lacks aggression in the practice, he asks us to target an opponent and ‘kill him’.

What teammate of yours is best to follow on Facebook and why?

B: It would be a difficult toss between Chandan and Rupak. Most of Chandan’s posts will have you laughing at least for two hours. And Rupak because of all the jokes made on him on Facebook. But he is a good sport.

G: That will be Aiswarya, the captain. She puts up the funniest one-liners on Facebook.

What differentiates the present team from its contemporaries who have tailed off in their athletic participation and abilities?
B: The team is built with potentially strong individual players (better than the previous years) but we lack coordination. We hope to improve during the main camp. Otherwise, it will cost us heavily.

G: Team spirit is definitely on the high. We are also focusing on fitness this year.

What was the best advice you were ever given?

B: “Keep the team motivated. Cheer so loud that the other team feels demolished!”
“Notice everyone’s weakness. Exploit and plunder!”
“Winning gold will set an example for the teams to come.”
“Be committed to your game and the team. What happens next is irrelevant!”

G: One motto that we always keep in mind is that a match is not really over unless it is actually over. We may be down and out for a majority of the set, but there may be one inspired point that can change the set completely. That inspired point will not come, unless and until we practice rigorously. So it’s all about fighting to the very end.

How would you evaluate the team’s captain and their leadership on this team?

B: The captain, Kishore Yadav, is one of the best players on the team. He is an all-rounder and is willing to play in any position if he thinks it would lift up the team’s performance. He is one of the easiest players to interact with on the team. A very dedicated player, he pulls his weight around and works his fingers to the bone for the team. He is almost always the first to be there in the court and is often bankrupt owing to excessive phone charges( most of his calls being made to other team members compelling them to come to the  court). A fund allotted for the captain’s mobile recharges would be much appreciated by all of us because most of us leave our rooms with that call and none of us are late by more than 10 minutes.

If truth be told, he is quite frightened of the coach and is very much like an obedient pup in his presence. He follows the coach’s instructions like the Holy Grail. Most of us depend on senior players for favors or leniency from the coach. So does Kishore. He is known to get upset when the coach gives him a disapproving look. He never gives any advice. A hypocrite at heart, he abuses all Malayalis on campus but is found to be in their close companionship on and off campus.

G: A captain should be enthusiastic about the team’s well-being. Instead of being self-centred, she should think in the point of view of the team. And we are glad to have such a captain, Aiswarya Anand. Everyone on the team, from the senior most players to the subs, is treated equally. We make sure not to end up creating arguments. Even the senior players, who were there in the previous years are largely patient. Well, they do shout at us occasionally, but that is when we are being careless. When some of us could not attend a practice session, we can just call her up and let her know. If it’s for one or two sessions, she will let it pass and never compels us to come. She is even funny and cracks jokes all the time!

T5E wishes luck to the spirited and hard working volleyball team at the Inter IIT Meet.

Disclaimer: The views are not to be construed in any manner as the official views of IIT Madras.
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