Vahbiz Bharucha- My father constantly supported me and he was successful in breaking the stereotypes associated with rugby

“I have two brothers elder to me but my father never discriminated between us. I was never told to choose a soft sport or forced to take the toys meant for girls. He didn’t allow any kind of gender stereotyping.

In school, I played handball until class 10th. I still remember the day (a few months before my class 10th board examinations) when Mr. Surhud Khare came to my school to promote his rugby academy. That marked my entry into rugby.

My father constantly supported me and he was successful in breaking the stereotype associated with rugby being a ‘tough and rash’ sport for a girl. At the age of 20, I was chosen as a captain of the Indian Women’s Rugby Team.

During an international tour with the Indian rugby team, I observed the team physio at work and I realised the importance of that role in keeping the players in shape. On returning back home I decided to get a degree in physiotherapy.

There was a time when there was a transition happening internally in my head, from rugby to physiotherapy. In that scenario, the balance tipped. In 2016, I had put on a lot of weight. My fears rang true and I was dropped from the team due to my low fitness levels.

That was the time when everything besides rugby and physiotherapy took a step back for me- NO holidays, NO family outings to restaurants. I was always the missing one in the family picture. I woke up at 5am, trained for a couple of hours, saw my physiotherapy clients from 8am to 2pm and after a few hours of rest, I trained again in the evening. I earned back my spot in the Indian team within a year and rose to captaincy again.

In 2019, we claimed our first ever international victory in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship. Today, we rank 9th in Asia and there’s a long way to go.

When I look back, Rugby was perceived as a “Maar peet ka game”. We lost many good players as they prioritised their jobs or marriage over the sport or their families didn’t allow them to play thinking what if their nose/leg breaks? Who will marry them? This perception about the sport is changing today.

Indian women’s rugby team didn’t make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics but the future looks bright for us.” said Vahbiz Bharucha

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