Member Spotlight: Quazi Syque Caesar, a Trailblazer for South Asian Gymnastics

“It was the first sport I ever played, it was the first organized sport I’d tried. It’s the only sport I’ve ever done. And it clicked.”

Quazi Syque Caesar is a gymnast from Florida, who has represented the University of Michigan Wolverines and the Bangladesh national gymnastics team in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Winner of Bangladesh’s first international gold at the Central South Asian Artistic Gymnastic Championships in December 2011, Caesar is now retired and currently the Assistant Coach of the Stanford University Men’s Gymnastics team. His introduction to gymnastics was serendipitous, encountering a flyer for gymnastics while he and his father were walking home. His father asked young Caesar if he wanted to try it. His training began in 1997 in Florida, where he was the “only South Asian in the facility” as far as he can remember. He remembers the gym had “people from all kinds of background, and everyone was very welcoming.” Thus began a journey that would see him perform at the college level for the University of Michigan and at the international level for Bangladesh, a country he holds dual-citizenship for alongside the United States.

Caesar+Quazi+Syque+Asian+Games+Day+6+0Re1GGztH6rlCaesar understands the financial sacrifices his parents had to make to adhere to his training. One of three children, Caesar tells us about the expenses that come for parents when putting their kids through gymnastics. The cost of uniforms, competition fees, and coaches’ fees all add up.

“My parents were struggling a bit sometimes,” he says, with no shortage of gratitude. “We were driving and travelling all over the place. There was definitely a time and financial burden in the family. But they were really supportive the entire time.”

Athleticism is in his blood. Caesar’s father had been a soccer player for the Bangladeshi national team and encouraged his son to push himself to the next level. His mother was excited as well. They were both pleased by his determination and commitment to the sport.

Balancing academics with training was much easier in high school for Caesar than in college. The latter proved to be a struggle, especially in his first two years.

“In school I had figured out the system,” he tells us “I got straight A’s because I had figured out how to get straight A’s.”

As for college, the gymnast wasn’t sure how to study or learn material in the same way he had cracked the system in high school. He freaked out when he saw a D in his report card in his freshman year, an incident he refers to as an “eye-opening experience.” Incidentally, he was injured his sophomore year, and used that time to regain focus on school. By junior year, he got the hang of doing a better job balancing his academics with his gymnastics training.

The process for Caesar to represent Bangladesh in the Olympics started in late 2010. His college coach suggested that if Caesar was interested in taking his gymnastics career to the next level that he consider competing for his home country, a thought that had not occurred to him before, although his father had been thinking of it for a while.

“In the year 2011, we started that whole process, thinking if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it all the way,” he says. “My dad had contact within Bangladesh Olympic Association and the general sports federation and then we just started conversation and a year and a half-long process.”

By the end of 2011, he was able to compete for Bangladesh.

His community at the US were as equally as supportive as his immediate family to his status as an Olympian. He loves the feeling of being recognized, and being asked for his autograph. Everyone around him, and especially his family, was highly supportive and proud.

Naturally, there were cons alongside pros to his rigorous schedule, especially when it came to family and culture. Fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan was challenging, since he had to go through intense training four hours a day. He remembers trying to fast during training and literally losing consciousness.

Although in general the South Asian family lifestyle suited his training since his family had late dinner. But he also missed out on special family time since he was on a strict routine.

“My schedule in high school was waking up at 5.45 in the morning, drive to school, which was 25 miles away,” he remembers. “So I’d leave around 6.15, get there right before 7, had school from 7-2. Then I’d drive another 60 or so miles or so to the gym. I’d get there around 3.40, and had practice 4-9. Then another long journey back. I’d get back home around 10 o’clock. I’d eat dinner, do my homework. And refresh all over again.”

This wasn’t uncommon between the higher level high school gymnasts. But for him, this meant missing out on quality time with his family, as well as missing out on spending weekends with extended family in Florida.

While Caesar absolutely loved the thrill of competition, he had to retire because of the brutal training.

“To compete at the highest level you can’t do anything except train,” he says. “It was a full-time job. That’s just at the gym. In order to get at that level you’re gonna get injured, you have to do physical therapy, you have to do rehabilitation work. It was pretty brutal, if you wanted to be good. I’m someone who didn’t just want to participate.”

He also mentions that there isn’t much financial gain when it comes to male gymnasts in the US, unlike somewhere like Japan where the men overshadow the women. Moreover, he didn’t have a real job or work experience until he was 24 years old, because he had done nothing for train for almost twelve years of his life.

He misses competing immensely, from the the adrenaline rush, to the feeling of nailing his routine. He also misses the brotherhood that comes with being part of a collegiate team.

“When you’re growing up in high school in the comp level you’re by yourself,” he says, referring to competitions as “boring.” “But in the collegiate world, it’s super loud and exciting and being obnoxious and in general teammates behind you just roaring and cheering. I miss being a part of it and knowing I’m competing against the best in the world. That was motivating for me. And to be able to prove myself.”

While he was finishing off school in communications and sports management, Caesar was trying to figure out future employment. His only work experience had been as an administrative assistant at the University of Michigan.

“I had nothing, all I had was gymnastics, I was a gymnastics nerd through and through,” he recalls. “There was a point I’d seen all the college men’s gymnastics video on YouTube. I was all in, was always a student of the sport, a fan of the sport. And during the time I was training, I’d help guide the coach. Something just clicked, that it was something that I was good at.”

Syque_Caesar_JT_120816_120His friends encouraged him to look into coaching, something he had never realized was a real job as it hadn’t felt like one knowing his club gymnastics coaches growing up. During his last year at Michigan as an administrative assistant, he began reaching out to collegiate coaches across the country. The men’s gymnastics coach at UC Berkeley at the time loved his work, but did not have a position available. But, he talked to the head coach at Stanford, and Caesar got accepted as the Assistant Coach on the Stanford University men’s gymnastics tea, without any coaching experience.

Caesar sees a bright future for South Asians in gymnastics, as the typical body type is suited for the sport.

“You want to be small but you want to be wide. you want to be strong but you want to be quick,” he says. “The people of Bangladesh are built for it. “

However a lot of South Asians currently living in the subcontinent don’t have the privilege to play sports in the proper facilities with trained coaches, and are more asked to focus on academics. His parents’ immigration to the United States definitely paved the path for him to participate in sports professionally, and he had the options available to him.

“You need to have a proper facility, and an educated coach,” he says. “Those two things are super hard to come by. It’s difficult to be a good coach, and have a big or great facility. It’s hard to have the combination of both. It really comes down to having a good coach. Somewhere like Bangladesh it’s gonna be a long process.”

According to Caesar, coaches have to stick with a gymnast from when they are six to the age of eighteen or nineteen years.

Caesar himself is in his fourth year of coaching now at Stanford, as passionate and excited about the sport as ever, glad to have an opportunity to share his knowledge and wisdom. While it is busy, he also loves that it is fun. It is clear that not only does he love coaching, but he loves every single aspect of gymnastics.

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Written by Padya Paramita
Instagram: padya307
Twitter: @padya307

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The Ascent of Nandita Nagangoudar

Sports can be greater than oneself, and used as a platform for social change. A shining example of an athlete aspiring to work toward a better future for women and children is mountaineer Nandita Nagangoudar.

Born and raised in Hubbali, Karnataka, Nagangoudar has already conquered four of the world’s seven summits. Initially a computer engineer and marketing manager, Nagangoudar now hopes to complete all of the seven highest peaks in the world, with the goal of empowering youth and women across India and the world through her journey and achievements. Her conquered peaks include Asia’s Mt. Everest (South Col), Oceania’s Mt. Carstensz Pyramid, Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, and and her latest conquer Europe’s Mount Elbrus, which she scaled this past October.

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She was handed a great honor before her Mt. Carstensz Pyramid expedition, when in 2017, Nagangoudar was chosen to represent the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which comprises of 12 nations, on behalf of India. At the ASEAN flag handover ceremony in Jakarta, Indonesia  in 2017, Nagangoudar delivered a speech on the theme of strengthening India’s ties with other nations and womens’ empowerment through mountaineering.

Advocating for social empowerment is not new to Nandita. She believes her dreams “are as big as Everest as she not only aspires for herself but for others too.” Alongside empowering women and speaking for strengthening of India’s ties with the world she also advocates for awareness toward climate change, education, and fitness through all through her adventures completing the Seven Summits.

Nagangoudar’s next expedition awaits her in South America, where she will aspire to scale the continent’s largest peak, Mount Aconcagua of Argentina, which lies in the Andes mountain range. Carrying both the flags of India and Karnataka, Nagangoudar hopes to create awareness for the education and uplifting underprivileged children.

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Once she has conquered Mount Aconcagua, Nagangoudar would only have the highest peaks of Antarctica and North America left to complete the the Seven Summits. As Nagangoudar continues to rise, her accomplishments grow with her, and 2019 seems to be a year full of hope for this humble and passionate mountaineer.

You can support/follow Nandita on her next climb on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NanditaNagangoudar/

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Written by Padya Paramita
Instagram: padya307
Twitter: @padya307

 

Vivo Pro Kabaddi League

The raider was swift, each step calculated with utmost precision and craftiness. With unwavering determination, he plunged towards his target. He was breathlessly swearing something and cautiously maneuvering the space around him as if his life belonged in that one movement.

No, I’m not describing a scene out of a thriller fiction novel. While the title of my article might have given it away, I am talking about one of India’s most culturally rooted sport- Kabaddi and now one of its most lucrative sports leagues- The Pro Kabaddi League.

What is Kabaddi?

For starters, it is not cricket.

Kabaddi (Pronounced- Kuh-Buh-Dee) is a contact sport involving seven active players on each side of a 33 ft × 43 ft. playing field. Players from each team alternate to act as “raiders” to fetch points for their teams.

The goal for each raider is to cross their half of the field, tag a player(s) of the opposing team and return safely to their side. Sounds simple, right? Maybe, a little twist would help. The raider must also chant the word “Kabaddi” incessantly without getting tackled.

A team earns points by getting the most tags (offensively) or defending the most raiders (defensively). Additionally, not chanting the “Kabaddi” mantra can get you out by default.

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What is the Pro Kabaddi League?

The ripple effect of the Indian Premier League spread not only to commercialized Indian sports but also to hinterland sports such as Kabaddi. Initiated in 2014, the Pro (Professional) Kabaddi League has become one of the fastest growing leagues in India. For such a young league, it boasts an impressive roster of 12 teams not only from India but South Korea, Malaysia, Oman, Japan, and Iran amongst others. 

Numbers don’t lie:

1. Viewership:

The online viewership increased to 13 million unique visitors this past season, which was 18.5 times that of last year’s unique visitors.

Additionally, the Pro Kabaddi League was watched by a total of 435 million viewers in its inaugural season in 2014.

2. Players and Popularity:

The most expensive pick at the 2017 auction was Nitin Tomar who received $9.3 million (USD) to play for the U.P. Yoddhas. The auction saw over 400 players go under the spotlight.

3. Owners and Popularity:

The chief proprietor, Star India is doubling its investment by growing the roster as well as the length of the league. This move comes after a growing demand for the sport. This will now give broadcasters a chance to draw greater value from the telecasts.

Owners include known and well regarded personalities such as Indian business moguls Gautam Adani and Kishore Biyani, Bollywood celebrities Abhishek Bachan and Ronnie Screwvala, and the Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar amongst others. Teams are well managed financially and are on the verge of breaking even as they rely on the central revenue pooling model.

What differentiated this league?

It is commendable to the owners and marketers who saw potential in a sport that had long been forgotten. With no household names and a lack of awareness on the sport, the owners managed to create a powerhouse of a league.

In my opinion, the fast-paced nature of the game, easy to learn rules, low to no cost equipment procurement and small set-up space helped push the league tremendously.

The season is well timed as it begins when the IPL season terminates, which avoids colluded attention from fans.

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International scope:

The league boasts of great international reach especially within the neighboring countries of India. Players from over 15 countries have shown participation. The league could be credited for having its own ripple effect as far out as Canada, Dubai and Pakistan which seem to be brewing their own Kabaddi leagues and tournaments.

What’s next?

For league owners, the next step is definitely to grow the league in terms of media and sponsorship rights. Despite the recent expansion, it hasn’t broken even yet. Though the goal doesn’t seem far off, it is imperative to move strategically.

A few potential advances down the line could be:

  • Expansion into more countries to gain traction.

This could be hosting a potential game in an international venue and encouraging participation from other countries. This will also help Kabaddi strengthening its case as an Olympic sport.

  • Solidifying and spreading Kabaddi’s awareness in the schools of India.
  • Flourishing the league on the women’s side could be another point of contemplation.

All in all, while IPL might still be the highest profit-making league in the country, Kabaddi has to be a sport that has amassed the country’s grassroots and traditions.

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Author: Ananya Sachdev is former national level Basketball player from India. She is pursuing her masters in Sports Management from Columbia University and is actively involved on the operational and digital side of various organizations within the sports industry. You can contact her on Linkedin.

Member Spotlight: Rahul B. Patel

San Antonio based attorney, NBA agent and sports industry leader, Rahul B. Patel is our featured member this week. Rahul has built a reputation in San Antonio as a industry leader and pioneer. He is the Managing Partner of the country’s 5th Fastest Growing Law Firm, Patel Gaines PLLC, a licensed NBA Agent, Real Estate Developer, Professor, and Serial Entrepreneur. In 2018 Patel founded, Fundamental Sports Management (FSM), an  athlete management firm in 2018 with one simple goal – to change the way NBA players are represented throughout their life – not just their playing career.

Read our interview below with Rahul on what its like to be a South Asian sports industry leader!

Current Location: San Antonio, TX
Current Occupation: CEO, Fundamental Sports Management

Why did you choose to have a career in the sports industry? Growing up in the South Asian community, sports was always an afterthought. I was often told it was a waste of time and energy, and my focus should be on my studies. Fortunately, I did just that; however, I never let my passion for sports—specifically basketball—die. When this opportunity was discussed I knew that I wanted to do something groundbreaking, novel to our community. I hoped to be a spark for others behind me. It is possible. Anything is possible. It just takes effort and passion.

What is it like to be the CEO of a company in an industry with very few South Asians? How has being a South Asian impacted your career? It is very different. Usually, like my previous ventures into the legal and real estate fields, I always had friends, family and resources to go through—specifically in our South Asian community. Here, I really am one of the first. However, my resources have been the foundation of what we are doing at FSM. Many of my investors are from the South Asian community and have been instrumental in our launch.

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You have been an industry leader for a long time now, do you have any tips on how one can stay on top of industry trends and developments? Read, read, read! How you get information today is much different from when I was growing up. As a high school senior in 1998, I had to get up, tune into ESPN at a certain time or get the newspaper to find out what happened, what the score was, did an injury happen, etc. Today, with the Internet and social media, information, resources, and trends are all out there, but nothing replaces self-knowledge. My advice is to always read, keep up with the current trends and stay passionate.

What advice would you give to the next generation of South Asian sports industry professionals or those trying to break into the industry? Never let fear drive your decisions.

You can follow Rahul on Instagram @theofficialrbp 

Member Spotlight: Basketball Sisters – Shayna & Nina Mehta

It’s not every day you come across elite athletes who are sisters and Ivy League students. This week’s spotlight is on basketball champs Shayna and Nina Mehta.

Current Location: Brown Univeristy, Providence, RI.

Current Occupation/Organization: NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball, Brown University. Shayna is senior team captain and Nina is a freshman.

What has your journey(s) to becoming NCAA D1 basketball players been like? Can you give us a few highlights?
Our stories are very similar, almost identical.  Growing up we were both gym rats, playing whatever sport was offered at school and in our community.  We both started playing basketball when we were about 6 or 7 years old, first with our dad, and then with local Rec leagues, which then led to many years of playing AAU basketball on traveling teams. Basketball in middle school pretty much consumed our lives.  We were both also fortunate enough to play in the same high school team together for one year, and both have led our small French Immersion high school team to regional titles.
In my sophomore year I was voted player of the year in San Francisco and 2 time league MVP. Nina was also voted top regional player.

I was recruited by Brown University Basketball after going to their elite camp in the summer at the end of my junior year, Nina in the summer after her sophomore year.  We both instantly fell in love with the school and the basketball program. The players and coaches were all very welcoming, and the fast pace style of play was everything that we both were looking for in a college team.

Being from San Francisco, I think my biggest accomplishment was last year when I scored a career high 33 points against a crosstown school, Cal Berkeley (ranked top 20 nationally), while setting a school record with 9 three pointers made in a game..

Off the court it would have to be my summer trip to India with Crossover Basketball, a non-profit organization dedicated to impacting the education rates of marginalized communities in India through the use of basketball as a vehicle of change.

Some accolades at Brown: 5th youngest 1,000 point scorer in Brown history, averaged 18.5 in scoring last year (2nd in Ivy League), unanimous Ivy League rookie of the year, 2 time all- Ivy League selection, 2 time team MVP.

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Photo credits: @brownsplashsisters

What is the best part of being a student-athlete?
Since Nina just started here at Brown, I will give you my feedback.  I feel that being an Ivy League student-athlete is very special. I am constantly surrounded by highly motivated, incredibly smart students, who are also some of the best athletes in Division 1 sports. Being a student-athlete has allowed me to make friends not only in my academic curriculum, but also to form a very special long term bond with my teammates and coaches. I am hoping Nina also has this same experience.

What is it like being a South Asian American student-athlete? How has being South Asian affected your careers in sports?
What we like most about being South Asian student-athletes is that we have been able to break gender and ethnic barriers. People don’t expect 5’7’ desi girls to play basketball at this level.

What is something you wish the South Asian community knew about sports/college athletics?
Sports have never been highly regarded in the SA community, especially from the older generation and new immigrants. Things are changing though, and we are both glad to be a part of that change. We wish the SA community knew how much more playing a sport can add to a students college experience. Yes there is a large time commitment, with all the practices and travel, and no doubt it is tough to juggle all of the college experience, but we both feel that the journey is incredible and invaluable.

What do you think the next generation South Asian community needs to increase NCAA participation?
Start as early as possible in picking a sport that you have a passion for and stick with it, no matter what your family and friends say. Be resilient. We were both very lucky to have supportive parents and friends who encouraged us to follow our passion.

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Photo credit: @brownsplashsisters

Do you want to have a career in sports after you graduate?
Neither of us have really decided yet, but even if it’s not a career, we both know that sports will still be a big part of our lives.

You can follow Shayna and Mehta on www.officialshaynamehta.com and Instagram @brownsplashsisters

Member Spotlight: Nitin Varma, Tennis Channel

IMG_4356Current LocationLos Angeles, California

Occupation:  Senior Producer, Tennis Channel 

Why did you choose to have a career in the sports industry?
Simple. Sports has played an essential role in my development as a person throughout my life at various times and on various different levels. Combining my love of sports with my passion for storytelling and film has been an ideal fit for me to this point of my career. 

How has being a South Asian impacted your career in sports?
I have always believed that the person we choose to be on the inside reflects more of who we are than our race or cultural origin.  Having confidence and being positive are essential to allow yourself to grow and achieve your career goals.

What’s it like, behind the scenes, of Tennis Channel?
Behind the scenes at Tennis Channel there is always lots going on since the off season in tennis is pretty much nonexistent compared to other sports. Everyone works hard and long hours but at the same time everyone enjoys what they do.

What advice would you give to the next generation of South Asian sports industry professionals or those trying to break into the industry?
First and foremost it’s important to smile and have a positive attitude.  When you are first breaking in the sports industry being a go getter and showing your passions are important.  Always keep an open mind and take it upon yourself to learn new skills that will help you reach your career goals.

You can find Nitin Varma on Twitter @VarmaKarma10S 

Member Spotlight: Pratik Patel, New York Giants

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Bio HeadshotCurrent Location: East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA

Current Title/Organization: Director of Performance Nutrition and Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, New York Giants.

You’ve worked as a high performance sports dietitian for almost your whole career. How did you become interested in this field? 

I’ve always been interested in sports from a young age.  I played soccer, basketball, football, and track and field in high school.  My interest in nutrition and exercise began around that time.  I started paying more attention to what I ate and how I trained and I started to see improvements in my physical attributes and abilities. I was fascinated by how the body can change and adapt based on proper training methods.

I didn’t initially study these fields in college, as I had entered as a mechanical engineering major due to my skills in math and science.  I transitioned into Nutrition and Dietetics my second year and I found myself highly interested and excelling in the field. 

What is working for a major NFL team like? Can you give us a few highlights? 

Working for an NFL team is incredible, to say the least.  I’m lucky to get a chance to be a part of a phenomenal organization that allows me to do the two things I enjoy most nutrition and strength coaching.  Although the title may sound fancy, the work is quite demanding.  There is not much time off and the schedule is rigorous, especially in-season when we work every day from the start of camp until our last game is played.

It’s a lot of fun to work with elite athletes and to help and support them.  In my role, I spend as much time with the entire team, getting a chance to interact with everyone daily.  A lot of the players have big personalities, so it is great getting a chance to connect and build relationships with them.

Game days are the best! Being in the locker room, on the sideline, and on the field during a game is exhilarating and surreal. I’m proud when I see what has flourished from my hard work. Seeing the athletes play at their peaks, working with the other coaches to train the players to perform their best, watching the crowds go wild when we score; all of this really makes me feel pretty lucky to be doing what I am.

How has being a South Asian impacted your career in sports? What is it like being one of the few South Asians working in pro sports? 

I’ve always seen myself not as a South Asian working in sports, but as someone working in sports who is South Asian.  I take pride in the fact that I am in a unique situation being one of the few South Asians in pro sports, and the only one on an NFL team in this capacity as an Assistant Coach.  I use that as motivation to show others that South Asians can be an asset to a team, and to hopefully inspire other South Asians that might be contemplating a career in sports.

What do you think the next generation South Asian community needs to increase our participation on the field and in the sports industry? 

I think it is extremely important for the South Asian community to identify and nurture any interest in sports at a very young age and be open minded to experiences revolving around sports.

One of the reasons that you see so few South Asians in sports is that parents sometimes have a narrow view of areas that their children can succeed in, such as medicine, engineering, IT, etc. These beliefs stem from their own personal experiences, thus they only support and/or push their children in these areas as potential career choices.  I have noticed that South Asian parents tend to think of sports as a hobby or recreation and just a way to get exercise, as my parents did, and not a serious outlet to pursue.

 Since there are so few South Asians in sports it is perceived that anyone trying to get into the field will not succeed or be successful, but that is not the case.  As described in PEAK: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, it is important not to fall victim to the self-fulfilling prophecy.  If parents don’t feel their children have the genetics or talent to succeed in areas such as sports, and their children are told not to pursue it, then they will never excel at that skill and the prophecy becomes self-fulfilling.

The more time that is spent in sports, whether playing or being involved, especially at a young age, the more skills and experiences can be developed which can open up doors to more access and exposure to jobs in sports.

I also feel that if there is an interest in sports or an area of sports then that passion should be followed.  A lot can be achieved with confidence and a good attitude and if a career in the sports industry is where someone feels they can thrive and be successful then it should be pursued if it feels like the right thing to do (in a similar way that I changed my studies in college).

 South Asians can, currently are, and will continue to be successful in sports.

Do you have any specific nutrition or strength and conditioning tips for South Asian elite athletes? 

Without going too in-depth, I will say that mastery of the basics in both aspects are vital to athletes, and being as consistent as possible can be a big contributor to overall success.  In regards to strength and conditioning, it is important to understand training and competition demands, movement quality and efficiency, addressing areas of dysfunction and taking into account injury history. With all of this in mind, a proper program can be planned around individual needs based on the sport as well as the time of year.  Training doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, flashy or complicated to be effective.

The same goes for nutrition.  Understanding individual needs based on size goals, time of year, nutritional deficiencies, and a nutrition plan around the training schedule is vital.  There is a lot of misinformation out there, including fad diets and supplements that promise quick results, but are lacking scientific evidence and can be detrimental to an elite athlete’s performance and health.  Mastering the basics such as meal/snack timing, hydration, adequate meal composition and caloric intake, pre/intra/post training nutrition, and proper supplementation to go along with sleep and recovery can yield long-term success.

You can connect with Pratik via social media:
Twitter: @Pratik7Patel
Instagram is @patek.pratik
LinkedIn

Life as a Sports Management Student   

Considering a graduate program in sports management? Hear from SAinSports member and grad student, Rishav Dash – MS Sport Management Candidate ’18 at the Isenberg School of Management University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Every athlete, former athlete or sports fan possesses a certain zeal for sports that in my opinion, words cannot do justice. Belonging to the latter two categories, I have been closely associated with sports throughout my life. It was during my undergraduate days when I started contemplating the idea of pursuing a career in the sport business and hence took on marketing responsibilities in the athletic department of my undergraduate college in Dubai, UAE. With time, my desire and aspiration to study sport management grew exponentially. I knew that it would be only a matter of time before I would embark upon my journey to chase my dream of working in sports.

A couple of years after graduating with an engineering degree, I was convinced that the time was right for me to march on to the next step – a Master’s degree in Sport Management. The most important part of the process was choosing the right program. For me, there were two deciding factors – the quality of faculty and the alumni network. That is where the prestigious McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst came in. The program ticked every box I could think of – be it from having electives of my choice to providing to providing the exciting prospect for hands on learning by participating in real life projects.

One of these projects was the 10th Annual “Octagon Bowl”. The Octagon Bowl is a semester-long graduate level sport marketing competition where teams of graduate students work on designing a sponsorship and activation campaign which upon completion, is presented to judges at the Octagon Headquarters. This particular experience has been the highlight of my sports ‘journey’ so far. I was a part of the winning team for this year’s Octagon Bowl which was very fulfilling and of course, encouraging. The project has also been instrumental in firmly establishing my aspiration to work as a sport marketer in the sponsorship space. I was able to network with several people in the sport industry. I am presently in the last few months my program, once again working on another real-life project for espnW which I’m really excited about.

I had the valuable opportunity to attend the Sport and Technology Panel organized by South Asians in Sports in New York City last fall. Today, I’m very proud to be a member and student ambassador of a community like SAinSports because it is an amazing platform to connect with like-minded people from the South Asian Community. For aspiring sports business professionals like myself, becoming a member of SAinSports presents a truly remarkable chance to learn about different experiences and seek valuable guidance from senior professionals in the industry. I’m convinced that my association with SAinSports will prove to be fundamental in my search for a breakthrough opportunity and my ultimate quest for successfully converting my passion into my profession.

You can connect with Rishav on social media:
LinkedIn – rishavdash
Twitter – @rishavdash

Sports Consulting – Media, Sponsorships & Asking “Why”

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Sports Consulting – Media, Sponsorships & Asking “Why” by Pushkar Sunyal

We love hearing from our members about their careers and what motivates them to work in sports. Check out a recent blog by Pushkar Sunyal, Group Head of Sports Consulting at GroupM in Mumbai, India. 

I am a consultant working in sports and an introduction is usually followed up with a probing question as to what exactly I do. The word “consultant” is such – vague to the tee and usually reserved for experienced folks with in-depth knowledge about a specific knowledge area or someone well versed in theoretical models which may or may not have an application in the real world. Yet, I have realized, that more than anything else, a consultant is primary a story-teller – someone good at building narratives. Along with the plethora of other skills which are required, a consultant working in sport now faces a tremendous challenge – creating value to an industry which is small, fragmented and full of experts. Luckily for me, I started my career working in consulting with a large global conglomerate which mitigated a lot of these challenges – GroupM.

Back in 2014, I took a conscious decision to build a pathway to a career in sports.  Although I spent a useful few years working for a software solution practice at a tech firm, I always envisioned myself working in sport – an interest area which took up way too much of my private time. After spending some time off, I took up an internship at Total Sports Asia (sports marketing agency), a big name in south-east Asia and worked on projects involving niche sports – obstacle course Racing, motor sports, cycling, etc. In the midst, I got a prestigious offer to study at the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst as part of the exclusive MBA/MS Sport Management Dual class of 2017. During my time here, I worked on numerous consulting projects with businesses of different kinds – licensed sports apparel manufacturer, regional grocery store and a sports arena. Combined with exposure to the North American traditions of sport, I realized, for the first time, how impactful at a global macro-level, sports can be. Fuelled by a thirst for a better understanding in my home country, I took up an internship with The Football Players’ Association of India (national soccer players’ union) to understand the challenges of soccer professionals. I also took up freelance work with Leverage Agency (sport marketing and consulting agency) and delivered support to their portfolio of projects in various sports.

Currently, I lead the sports consulting vertical of MConsult (a specialized brand consulting unit) at GroupM India and primarily work with brands who have investments in the lucrative Indian Premier League. I manage a product called “Sports Watch” which has tracked the three major sporting leagues in India since their inception. Some of the insights and reports we generate include ROI for brands, impact of tournament on brand saliency, and a range of reports for franchisees and owners. With Star India (owned by 21st century fox) buying the broadcast rights for the next 5 years at a colossal premium, the broadcast and media industry is poised for a shift. Cricket has always been more than a sport but the recent unprecedented growth in value has put the league amongst the elite.

Sport business is at a juncture where the lines are blurring – technology, lifestyle, marketing and social media are well part of the sports landscape now. Rights holders and administrators are adapting but there are still large pockets of the world which lag considerably to mature markets like North America. Commercialization is essential, but so is localization, I believe. The NFL is quintessentially American. The Bundesliga is very German. There are anomalies such as the NBA and The premier league, but they are rather the exception. That is one trait which the IPL has adopted – localization, and it’s reaping the benefits as a mass marketed property in India.

If asked to pinpoint one approach to building a successful career in sport, or any industry for that matter, I would suggest the habit of asking “Why”. This helps breaking down the problem and analysing potential fits. As someone who has envisioned being an entrepreneur, this is a useful habit as the sports industry now has many fragmented verticals.  Therefore, to find one’s niche, one has to look at finding solutions to problems which perhaps are not recognized as problems as yet. This is where, asking “Why” comes into the picture. It’s a small but under-rated mental note. Of course, you don’t want to annoy your boss with why’s when he’s asking you to do some menial work J

You can get in touch with Pushkar via Social Media:

Twitter – @pushkar_sanyal

LinkedIn – pushkarsanyal

Aparajita Chauhan – Crew Leader

It’s not everyday you come across a South Asian American athlete participating in crew. As a matter of fact, Aparajita is our first and only member to be a crew athlete. Check out what this Yalie and member of the U19 National Crew Team has to say about being a South Asian in sports!

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Current Location: Yale University, New Haven, CT

Current Occupation/Organization: Student, Coxswain on the Yale Women’s Crew team.

What has your journey to becoming an NCAA rower been like? Can you give us a few highlights?

A coxswain is like the coach in the boat- my job is to steer, execute the race plan, keep an eye on technique, and give information (placement, meters, speed) during the race. In the summer of 2017, I made the U19 National Team where I represented the United States at the U19 World Championships in Lithuania, and placed 7th in the 8+.

I coxed all four years for my high school team, Holy Names Academy in Seattle, and medaled three times at Youth Nationals, culminating with a gold medal in 2017 in the Lightweight 4+ event. I was also on the U19 CanAmMex team in 2016, placing 1st against Canada and Mexico. Having the goal of making the National Team pushed me to become better throughout my high school career and helped me to become the top women’s recruit when looking at colleges.

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What is the best part of being a student-athlete? 

You have an incredible support system on the team the second you get to school. Being a student athlete also means that I get to continue the sport I love at the highest level while expanding my horizons in the classroom. I’ve learned to manage my time even better in college because having two practices a day while taking rigorous classes forces me to utilize my time efficiently.

What is it like being a South Asian American student-athlete?

Rowing is a highly Caucasian-dominated sport, so I haven’t encountered many South Asians in my sport. Generally, I’ve noticed a lack of South Asian American student-athletes at my school. For anyone, representing a minority in any field is an honor and a privilege—its natural for others to be inspired by your success—like I was inspired by the upperclassmen I rowed with in high school.

What do you think the next generation South Asian community needs to increase NCAA participation? 

I think it is important for the South Asian community to recognize the importance of sports in earlier stages such as middle and high school. It is easy to get too focused on only doing well in school and clubs, but sports provide important life skills such as teamwork, time-management, and physical and mental discipline. I think many parents fear that their children will sacrifice grades if they focus too much on sports, but the discipline inculcated by sports has benefits in the classroom as well. In high school, I had practice every day after school (and before school in the spring), but was able to maintain my focus in the classroom and graduated Valedictorian.

Do you want to have a career in sports after you graduate?

I am keeping my options open. As of right now, I plan to go into technology and philanthropy, but I know that I can’t stay without crew for too long. I am looking to pursue the USA U23 team so I may end up pursuing the Senior and Olympic teams as well.

When she isn’t practicing with her team, you can find Aparajita on Twitter: @aparajita_ch and Instagram: @aparajita_c