Karnataka's first woman rugby player, Sushmita Vishwanathan, tells Kalyan Ashok that women play the sport better because they use their brain rather than brawn

What can possibly bind a pretty and savvy woman professional to that tough and mean contact sport like rugby?

“Passion,” says Sushmita Vishwanathan, without batting an eyelid and sincerity rings out loud and clear for this young woman, all of 25. She is perhaps the first woman rugby player in the Karnataka and now the vice-president of the Karnataka Rugby Football Union (KRFU) in charge of its women's development wing.

Sushmita, who began playing rugby in 2008-2009 has a vision to popularise the game among women in the State and country. When she began playing, she was helped by male players and colleagues and in a year's time, she was able to raise a team in the city. Now she aims to get every girl in schools and colleges playing the game.

“Rugby is no longer a sport; it is more of a lifestyle and it is cool to say I am a rugby player! The notion of it being a violent contact sport is a misconception. We basically play touch game, since there is lack of grass top grounds in the city and seven a-size events are more popular with women. It is quicker and faster,” says Sushmita.

Great leveller

Why rugby for women? “It is a great leveller and it is empowering,” says Sushmita. “This is a sport that binds people together, gives them self confidence and the ability to come together as a team and network. It can change your life.”

One need not be tall or heavily built to play the game. Women can play the game with a lot more finesse than men, feels Sushmita. “We play with brain and not brawn. We women can think more coolly and strategise better and can play a tactically better game.”Sushmita, though a pioneer of sorts in the game in Bangalore, now wryly calls herself a “pseudo rugby player”. She has turned her focus to promote the sport using her management skills. A former Christ College alumni ( BBM) who went on to pursue her MBA degree at Glasgow, Susmita feels at home using management tools to further the cause of rugby.

“My management background helps, as I see rugby as an entity and work on its brand strategising — how best to market it and how to get sponsors and how to push the game up the Indian sporting ladder,” says Sushmita. She has also done a Level I course of the International Rugby Board (IRB) and is now a certified coach.

“What I found is that word of mouth publicity helps. We invite girls to come and watch us play and most get hooked to it. We also have a dedicated coach, Adam Whittington from UK, who goes to schools and colleges to promote the game.”

KRFU recently put up an all India rugby 7s tournament for women at Bangalore. It was a huge success with teams from Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and players from the Indian camp for the Asian Games participating in the event, which was supported by Assetz and Sagar Hospital.

Bangalore now has a handful of top notch players like Sindhu Srinath, Suman, Sitara, Nazeesh and Roshini. The last three were selected for the Indian camp for the Asian Games.

The city, Sushmita feels, has the potential to become a major rugby centre but it needs lot more grass grounds. “We are grateful to Police Commissioner Shankar Birdri who had allowed us the use of the police grounds in Audugodi,” says Sushmita.

Multifaceted

Though rugby is a prime driving force, Sushmita is a multi-faceted personality. As a service professional, she takes pride in her work as it offers opportunities for interaction with people from all walks of life. “I am an extrovert and I love meeting people. My job gives me lot more opportunity for that.”When she is not promoting or playing rugby, she goes trekking with friends and does a bit of reading. She's also a hard core Classic Rock fan (Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Scorpions et al). She loves working with underprivileged children and teaches them rugby. Sushmita also trained under Bharath Thakur in artistic toga, which she calls a dynamic form of yoga.

She enjoys doing whatever she has to… “There is no joy in life until you learn to love what you do, be passionate about it, keep learning and make your life better,” she sums up, on a philosophical note.

Before signing off, she makes one more pitch for rugby “Come on girls, you can play it. Join the fun.”

If anyone is keen on taking that call, contact Sushmita on 9538806036 or KRFU coach Adam Whittington on 9902796796.