“Basketball is my life, it is in my blood,” says Shiba Maggon who has played basketball for 20 years. Her association with basketball has not been just as player but as a coach and an International referee too.
With multiple medals—gold, silver and bronze at the National Level, she has represented India in five FIBA Asian Championships and was ranked among the top 5 Asian players in 2002. She was also part of the Indian team to take part in the Commonwealth Games at Australia in 2006.
Shiba’s list of achievements is a long one but she hardly talks about herself, choosing to talk more about the sport and her love for it.
Basketball and SAI
Born and brought up in Karnal, Shiba did her schooling from there. As a teenager, her first exposure to basketball was in 1989, when she went to pick up a cousin who was playing in a tournament. Shiba was not impressed by the game but her sister who was a couple of years older to her was completely fascinated by it. It was Shiba’s sister’s fascination for the sport that got her into basketball.
“I think my sister wanted someone for company and that is why she dragged me with her.” Shiba turned out to be gifted when it came to basketball. She was fast and good on the court and displayed a natural skill for it.
She was also shortlisted for the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Chandigarh hostel. She completed her schooling and graduation from Chandigarh while she continued to play for Chandigarh and SAI and win medals.
However, soon after she had joined SAI, Shiba’s sister passed away in an accident. It was a painful time for the family, and one of the hardest things for Shiba was to head back to SAI after the loss of a sister who had loved basketball so ardently. Driven emotionally to give basketball her best shot, a game her sister loved, Shiba just continued to play and get better at it.
Though Shiba did have a few misses when it came to making the team, she continued to play. However, a major part of sports are the injuries that come with it. Shiba had attended a camp and after the camp happened to injure herself while practicing. She had to undergo surgery and she could not use her right hand as it healed. But such was her desire to improve, that she continued with her practice sessions everyday using only her left hand to dribble!
She had learnt the value of hard work and maintaining top form. She recounts how in 1992 she made it to the Indian team but she was moved from number 12 to 13. At the camp the senior men’s team had seen her practice extra hard and diligently and they advised her that the way forward was, “to just get so good at your game that people should think 10 times before asking you not to play.” This was a lesson Shiba would never forget.
She would spent extra time at the court, practice very hard and pushed herself to learn everything her coach could teach her. In 1997 she made it to the Senior Indian team where her performance made people sit up and take note of her.
Shiba’s game has always been her trademark. Even after 5 years of stay at SAI hostel and not making it to the Indian team, she was given an extension of two years because of her game and the medals she brought for the state.
The game is on
Shiba has never looked at the problems in her life. She says, “I look at them as obstacles that I need to overcome.”
Though not always inclined towards academics, Shiba got better at her studies after she got into sports. “Thanks to basketball, even my interest in academics and level of performance had improved. I planned to study further after graduation.”
She had planned to pursue an MPEd but when she reached home after her graduation and realized the financial crisis the family was undergoing she decided to work. So in 1996 she joined Western Railways.
“During my college days,” says Shibha, “I had been flooded with offers including the railways but I had politely refused them and decided to focus on my academics. Things for my family had changed and when Ajmer Singh Chopra, my role model whom I have seen play and he is a magician on the court, and I have looked up to him walked in with the Railways form, how could I say no. No one in my family knew I wanted to study further.”
Shiba was with the Railways till 2000, she played with them and won six gold medals. Shiba did not want to quit the Railways team but once again personal reasons drew her to Delhi. To support a family member she decided to stay in Delhi and joined MTNL and continued with them till 2011.
In 2008 she also cleared her referee exam and joined the ranks of referee as well. Shiba says that since she plays the game, it makes it easy for her to be a referee as she can sense when to expect fouls.
To overcome the personal setbacks in my life I have gotten all my energy from Basketball. When I go to play, I go not with the urge to defeat someone but with the urge to win. While I m playing I am not competing with others but with my last best performance.
Shiba says that, “All victories are special but one of the most unforgettable moments was the first junior national in 1993 when I got the gold medal. It was the final match and I was the captain of the team and my parents had never seen me play or practice, but they came for the match and saw me win. Everyone met them and congratulated them and the smile on my parents face and the pride that showed on their face will always be special to me.”
Another memory she holds close is the time when she was playing the nationals in Ludhania and her mother was in the stands watching her play. A gentleman sitting next to her mother pointed towards Shiba and remarked, “Watch out for this girl. She is good and plays like the boys and I have been coming in for two days to watch her play.” The man did not realize that she was Shiba’s mother.
Sports and women
According to Shiba, women usually face many a tough time in their lives and the general mindset of society towards women needs to change.
In the last two decades, Shiba says, things have changed for women in sports.
Earlier women did not have same exposure as men’s team in terms of tours, foreign coaches etc. but over the years that has changed and both men and women are graded and paid on the basis of performance irrespective of gender.
For a few of these changes she commends the work of Harish Sharma, whose contribution to the growth of basketball has been commendable.
Learning from Basketball
“The one thing I have learnt from basketball is that it is a team game and it’s not me and it is not about the individual,” she says.
She is grateful to basketball for other things as well.
Leadership, commitment, sticking to what I say. It has also taught me how to help me help others, taught me about coming together, to be humble. It also taught me sacrifice that you don’t score when you want to score; it is a team game. Most importantly it taught me life skills, which are things that come back to you when you face challenges. People who play sports find it very easy to overcome disadvantages or challenges.
While Shiba continues to coach and run an academy that she is yet to register, she is currently funding three students. To ensure that the funds keep coming so she can support more players, she also does commercial coaching. Her motto – “Never say die” keeps her going strong!