Saturday 29 April 2023

No One Hits Harder Than LIfe - Tenzin Norsang.

It was during the monsoon season when heaven was raging with thunder and lightning and blessing the crops of Kharif. The children of Dehradun went to school like always, cursing the DM for not granting them a holiday despite the bad weather. Everyone in the city was having a hard time due to the weather, but the ones suffering the most were our School Football team.

Everyone in the school, including the teachers, got excited and exhilarated when they heard the announcement. The tournament was, after all, being organised after a break of two long years. The SJA family put a lot of faith in us and wished us every luck whenever they passed by us during training. All this attention really has a positive impact on us. Our minds were being pressurised and narrowed. It was as if the responsibility of keeping up the name of the high school had fallen upon our shoulders. It was as if a heavy load had been thrust on our chest and would only disappear if we won the competition.

The final day was arriving nearer and faster than we all had anticipated. For the first time, I realised and noticed that time really flies. We were putting our hearts and souls into practice. We were training so vigorously that we would usually become exhausted and worn out. I was finding no time for studies at all. It was like I only went to school for practices and football matches. Studies had become our second priority then. Many of the players wished just to pass the upcoming examination. Each of us had one ambition, motive and dream: to win the tournament, become champions and bring the trophy home ( our school stood runners-up the last time the tournament was organised). Practice matches were scheduled exclusively to gain confidence and improve our coordination. We won most of the games and felt confident whenever we thought about the tournament. Everyone was determined to lift the trophy.

Finally, the day arrived. I hardly woke up from sleep that morning when I wore my jersey and started packing my kit. It was sunny, and I thanked God for the excellent weather. That morning, I first checked how I looked in my new jersey. The colour of the jersey was bright red this year, which clearly matched our team's spirit and mindset (burning with the fire of desire to win and only win). The school's logo was printed in colour, and one could clearly read the words written over it, "LABORARE EST ORARE", meaning Work is Worship. My name and jersey number were printed in big, bold letters, but unfortunately, the printer got my name wrong. Instead of 'Tenzin', my name was published as 'Tenzen'. Well, it didn't matter much to me. At least I am in the school team, I thought.

It was my first time going to school in an informal dress, so I set out to school a bit early that day. I felt a mixed burst of emotions as I stepped inside the school. I gathered every ounce of courage, hid my anxiousness under the layers of excitement and exhilaration, and continued walking towards the sports room. Tents were pitched on the school ground for the visitors to rest and change. Everyone from the team had already arrived and was so engrossed in their phones that they did not notice me coming. I went inside the sports room and took blessings from my coach. He patted my shoulder and told me that we would surely win. With this saying reeling in my head, I went to change and got ready in no time.

The school slowly filled itself with students giving sideways glances at the field. The other schools, including Wynberg Allen and St. George's College, had started popping up on our premises. The tournament was about to begin. We were having a tough time practising in the rain. The ground would sometimes become so muddy and wet because of the rain that many of us would slip or stagger whenever we tried to chase or pass the ball.

On top of that, we would always end up soaked and wet and caught a cold. We tried to persuade our coach, Mr Thapa, to not have practice during such weather and would try to find every possible excuse to give, but our coach was never ready to agree to our terms. And I would have done the same thing too if I was in his place because in about a week or two, our school, St. Joseph's Academy (SJA), was going to organise the Inter-School Keogh Memorial Football Tournament, a tournament which is hosted by our school every year, a tournament which is very prestigious, dear and special to us Josephites and a tournament which is named after the first Principal of our school. 

Our coach instructed us to circle up before the tournament officially began. It was noticeable that Mr Thapa was very electrified and elevated by how he spoke to us. We were told about our team's strategy and formation for about ten minutes. In the starting eleven, we had Spandan as the goalkeeper, Param( Captain), Shivansh, Bhandari and Bhasin in defence and Gogoi, Mehta and myself in the midfield. In the attack, we had Shashwat, Krishna and Devansh. The desire to win was coursing through every inch of our bodies since this was the moment we had all been training and waiting for.

The fixture for the day had been updated by the school. We were allotted group D, including Shri Ram School and St. Thomas College. With tough competition, we managed to qualify for the semifinals, which was to take place the next day. Everyone was happy and appreciated our team's success, and the day ended with jubilant shouts. The four teams that qualified for the semis included Wyn Berg Allen, Missouri, Indian Public School (IPS), Doon Presidency School (DPS), and SJA. 

The sky was apparent as crystals, and the blazing sun showered its rays over the valley of Dehradun, a perfect day to play the tournament's final matches. We were up against Wynberg Allen School. With a lot of hard work and a bit of luck, we got through the finals by defeating them 3-2. Although the match was very intense, we appreciated our opponent and thanked them for giving us such a wonderful experience. On the other hand, IPS demolished DPS completely as they won 5-0 and qualified. The final match was scheduled at 12:00, and we had a whole hour in hand. We roamed around the school and found our friends bunking classes just to talk to us about the matches. We enjoyed our time until our coach summoned us to the sports room. The final game of the tournament and the day were about to be kicked off.

The team gathered around for one last group discussion. Our captain, Param, was filled with cheer, enthusiasm and energy. It was my first final match with the school team, and my coach was expecting high from me. I was very nervous and afraid of the outcome, but I did not want to let my coach down at the time. He had been my pillar of support and friend during the training.
The team's spirit was so high that the blue sky seemed very low. We lined up outside the sports room and started marching towards the field. The seats were filled with students from our school, and the playground was packed. Just by looking at the crowd, Nervousness crept through my body, making it numb and involuntary. It was as if my soul had left my body for a moment. The last time the tournament was organised, primary school students were privileged to watch the final match, not the whole Senior and Middle school. Even the teachers had seated themselves among the students in the audience. I expected this to be different. The Sports Prefects of respective Houses were on the stage along with the chief guest and our vice principal. Away from the crowd, the IPS team was having a last-minute discussion with their coach.

The Referee called both the teams up front, after which followed the tradition of shaking hands with the rivals and the referees. I had hardly stepped a foot on the ground when my coach pulled me out of the group. 

He said, " Do not take the pressure and Do not feel nervous." 

I nodded silently and walked on to take my position. The whistle blew, and the match kicked off. There were shouts of SJA from every corner of the crowd, but they failed to positively impact me. My mind was totally pressurised, consumed and instantly went blank. I was physically present but mentally absent.

The fever of the final match was on but not for me. I ran around the ground like a mad horse let loose from the stable. Whenever I got the ball, I would either lose or miss passing it. I could feel my heartbeat in my throat and hear my coach screaming at me because of my minor mistakes, costing me a lot for the team. It was ten against eleven, for I was totally out of the game, but the team was still holding on well without my involvement until the opposing team got a free kick near the box. The taller players made a wall between the goalposts and the ball. The whistle blew, and the ball came so fast that we hardly had a second to react. It went over the wall. Param jumped and tried to save the ball from the goal. Instead, it got deflected and found the back of the net. We were 1 nil down.

The crowd was silenced by the celebration of the IPS team. The dreams of winning slowly faded from our minds like the morning mist that disappeared before the sun. The game resumed, and the cheers of SJA filled the stadium again. I was useless for the rest of the first half, and angry shouts and screams kept coming from the bench. Mr Thapa was too stressed out, thanks to my poor performance. The first half was almost going to end, and we already felt defeated, but luck was on our side as we won a penalty. Param came forward to take the penalty and scored. Our team was back in the game. He equalised the score and ignited the fire of hope in everyone's heart. We still had time to take over the competition.

The whistle blew, and it was half-time. We went off the pitch and seated ourselves on the benches. Volunteers for the tournament showed up with water and glucose in their hands. Mr Thapa again pulled me out and said in a calm voice:

"Why are you getting so tense and nervous? Is it because of the spectators?"

I did not answer the question.

"Listen, beta, the opponent players will not slaughter you. They are humans like us. Are they carrying weapons in their arms, because of which you are getting scared? Chill out, you have the quality, boy, and I want you to show it to them." He said.

I simply nodded and sat between my teammates. The second half was the same as the first half. Actually, it was much worse. For the whole time after the second half, I thought of when I would be substituted, but the call never came. Our team conceded two more goals and lost the final match with the scoreline 3-1. I was pissed off, depressed, sad, weakened and mentally destabilised. Not only had I let my teammates and coach down but also the entire school due to my lack of involvement in the game. The IPS lifted the winner's trophy and celebrated like the prisoners released. When the award ceremony ended, I ran off to hide from the others since I was ashamed of my performance. I was emotionally low and felt like crying, but as a boy, I had to control the tears. It was the worst day of my life. The day ended with sadness and dejection on my face. 

I didn't want to go to the school for the next few weeks because I did not want students backbiting and talking about my gameplay in the final match whenever I passed through the corridors. I tried my best to avoid my coach and my teammates. I began isolating myself away from them. The feelings were too heavy for me to handle. One day, my coach asked if I wanted to play in an upcoming tournament. I rejected the offer and told him I still had not gotten over my poor performance in the final match. He understood me and consoled me.

"Winning and losing is part of a game. Winners are the ones who do not win immediately but definitely. Life is a roller coaster ride; you will take time to understand it. Learn from your past mistakes, and I hope you will start coming for practice."

He went off and disappeared in the mass of students. I didn't understand much of what he said, but I gradually understood what he meant. 

Sylvester Stallone, an American actor, once said,
 " No one will hit you harder than life itself. It doesn't matter how hard you hit back. It's about how much you can take, keep fighting, how much you can suffer and keep moving forward. That's how you win."

Every winner was once a loser. With this thought in mind, one will thrive and strive in life. Your mindset and mentality should be strong to deal with life. Overcoming your weaknesses and learning from your mistakes will determine your success in life. 

When I understood what my coach meant, I started attending practices and participating in other tournaments and stood as runners-up again in one of them, but I didn't lose hope. I am still on the school's team, and everyone is trying their best to achieve their highest potential. I have shared my failure with you, readers, hoping that you will be ready the next time you fail and know how to deal with it. 

There is only one difference between losers and winners: their mentality. The next time life hits you, welcome it with open arms because it will show you where you stand and where you must improve yourself.

Tenzin Norsang
Pestalozzi Children's Village India

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. I almost felt I was watching the match live. Lessons learnt on a field are life lessons. Donot take them lightly. Winning is easy but loosing with grace and not giving up is what makes you who you are. Your coach is a man if metal. Follow him.


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