Interview with Shiba Maggon, Basketball Coach of Indian Junior team

Shiba Maggon  is an Indian basketball player who played for the India national team. She is currently the coach for the Indian Junior Team and she is the first woman in the history of Indian basketball to represent a country as a player, coach and referee. Having come from a sporting family (her father was a cricketer in college), Shiba has been playing basketball since 1989. Her sister was an international netball player and also attended two Indian basketball camps. Her death in a car accident, inspired Shiba to take up basketball passionately. She is a product of Sports Authority of India (SAI). In 1992, she was selected for the Indian Junior team. Shiba had her initial schooling days in Karnal and later joined SAI at Chandigarh and stayed there till 1996. She later joined Western Railways, Ajmer in 1996 and was with them till 2002. In 2002 Shiba joined MTNL Delhi and played with them till Jan 2011.

Sandeep:What prospects do you see in the future in basketball, especially for girls?
Shiba Maggon:
To achieve something great, vision has to be expanded. I have been coaching now for almost five years with National teams and have been holding clinics, residential camps and summer camps in different institutions. Of my understanding from the experience I have gained all these years, I think that change need to be made at the lower level itself to achieve something big at high level. The women team in all the categories have qualified for level 1 and it’s been a while now. Sr. women team qualified in 2007, youth in 2011 and junior 2014. Now we can either sit back and enjoy our qualification for level 1 or start working harder to improve our ranking to fourth or third in Asia. Let me be honest, it is not easy. The Middle-East Asian countries are already ahead of us. Few things that we can add and help us to achieve our goal is the introduction of basketball at young age in schools… that’s the base of sports. We do have an existing system where the sports are introduced in schools but there is no curriculum for that. The first coach we find for our sports is a P.E. teacher, who at times have never played the game and theoretically knows the game. I’ve heard that in Canada they have LTAD program, which helps them to identify the talent early and help them in growing better and become an efficient player. I myself was fourteen years old when I came to know about game, and I missed on Youth ABC and Junior ABC. On average, a Chinese player learns about the game at the age eight with proper fundamentals; learn to train and train to train stage. Whereas we in India straight away jump to learn to compete whereupon an athlete has less time to achieve his goals and miss on the RTE fundamentals. So one big change we need is the introduction of such programs in schools and academies to have more number of players with better efficiency. If we can bring this change at lower level we will be better prepared and the future of basketball will be better. More changes need to be applied but I would like to go step by step. We as coaches need to know that we shape the world and therefore we should keep ourselves updated with the latest techniques.

Sandeep: What was your turning point in life to come up to this level?
Shiba Maggon:The credit goes to Mr. Harish Sharma, CEO of Basketball Federation of India. I did not know that I had the potential to help the game and players grow. But it was his belief in me and so the day I retired from the game, he asked me to coach the National under-18 women team.

Sandeep: What is the basic reason for the notion that Indian players lack in comparison to foreign players? Is it skill, race or government ignorance?
Shiba Maggon: I already mentioned few things above to what we miss upon. So as we all know 10000 hours or 10 yrs of training makes you an elite player. If a player trains himself at an age of 14, he will be 24 to be at this elite level and you are far away from China then because their players reach elite level when they are 17. This gap is huge to fill in. Well we all know that government has some policies that need to be changed and make more open and flexible to grow sports in India. And all I can hope is that Modi’s government comes with a good policy. We just need to know that sports help the growth of the country and make the nation much more efficient in many ways.

Sandeep: What was your game experience at college level?
Shiba Maggon: I had good experience at college level. Since we were all from SAI hostel, so we had a great team and we won at All India University Championships. Though the system is so different from how it runs in US. Their athletes are prepared in college to represent nation whereas our vision in college is to win Inter-College or University games. I know a great Program ICAP which is similar to NCAA model in US will be launched in 2015 August has the same vision and hope it will help us to grow sports at all levels.

Sandeep:Basketball was not popular in India at your starting time. But before two decades, what was the reason you chose this sport, professionally?
Shiba Maggon: My reason to be in sports was my sister. It was her dream to excel in sports and to play for nation. But her sad demise in 1991 left her dreams unaccomplished and my dad wanted me to relive her dreams. So here I am now, playing different roles, and I am fairly satisfied that I did the right thing, in deciding to play Basketball.

Sandeep:As you are from sports family background, how much your family supported you in the game?
Shiba Maggon: Well, it was my family only who always pushed me to play the sport. There are always moments of disappointment and quitting the sports, but I guess my dad played an important role in always pushing me to the edge and teaching me to never give up. My mother was equally supportive, giving me all the emotional support I needed.

Sandeep: Now you are the coach for women’s junior team, you know about them very well…what prospects you see in the team or a particular player?
Shiba Maggon: We don’t have a system where you work with a group of players for 4 years for one particular competition, and that’s how the sports governing body runs in India. Each year, the players keep changing. The way I look at it is that I help the players to understand the game better in whatever time is designated for camps and championship. Couple of players, I believe, have bright future. Kavita Akula, who is been training at IMG Reliance Academy in US, and Pujamol from Kerela. If given the right direction and guidance I see them excelling themselves to good heights. Some of my players who have already graduated from Juniors are Jeena from Kerela and Shireen from Pune are already doing great at Senior levels.

Sandeep: National League of Basketball is planning to be held in India. How will it help Indian basketball?
Shiba Maggon: It will be a motivation for the players who want to choose basketball as their career. We’ll get to play among the players from different parts of Asia and the world regularly, this will help in developing our skills and techniques better. We will be able to perform the techniques more tactfully, and handling the pressure of the game. Each player wants to be rewarded, so the money will be a drive. Parents will support kids to choose basketball as their career. Internationally, Indian basketball will start growing faster and help us to keep expanding the goals.