Life & Style

Age is not a factor for this group of women from Thrissur who are having a ball with volleyball

Royal Angels

Royal Angels   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The team triumphed at the National Masters Games held in Vadodara recently

“Who would’ve thought that I would wear shorts for the first time at the age of 47 and win a gold medal?” Sajitha Rahman says with a hearty laugh. She is a member of the volleyball team that came up trumps at the third National Masters Games held earlier this month at Vadodara in Gujarat.

The win is special for 47-year-old Sajitha and other players in her team from Pallimoola in Thrissur, all aged 40 and above. They are Royal Angels, comprising homemakers, self-employed entrepreneurs, professionals and government employees. For the last seven years, every evening they have been getting-together at a nearby ground to practise and play a game, mostly against a team comprising their children! And the win at Vadodara was the time for the children to turn cheerleaders for their elders.

They were introduced to the sport through Women Integration & Growth through Sports (WINGS), launched by NA Vinaya, a police officer at the Thrissur Police Academy. “Several women’s teams were formed in Thrissur through this initiative. However, some of the teams got disbanded. But we were in no mood to wind it up. Except on Sundays, we are out on the ground by 4.30-5 in the evening and play till it gets dark,” says 51-year-old Sheela Varghese, a nurse at a Public Health Centre.

Some players of Royal Angels at their daily training session at Pallimoola in Thrissur

Some players of Royal Angels at their daily training session at Pallimoola in Thrissur   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Except for occasional guidance from a male coach, the team has been on its own since its formation. “Initially there were 20 of us. But some of them dropped out due to personal reasons. Now seven to 10 of us regularly practise at the ground,” Sajitha adds. None of them had played volleyball till WINGS introduced them to the game.

“We were looking forward for some sort of exercise to keep ourselves physically and mentally active. That’s when volleyball was suggested. Even though we had no clue about the game, gradually it became a part of our lives,” says Sindhu Prakashan, 42, a tailor by profession. Sajitha remembers that initially they used to come home in pain after the training sessions.

Challenges off the field

“But we never gave up and it eventually became a passion. We felt young, playing in T-shirts and track suits! With a ground all to ourselves, we were in a different world altogether. The game brought in discipline into our lives. We took part in contests organised by the Corporation and each game boosted our confidence,” she says.

All of them highlight the support of their families. While many in the neighbourhood were doubtful whether they would stick to the game for long, their spouses and children never gave up on them. “There were people who thought that injuries might persuade us to stay away. Some others wondered what we were going to gain by playing at this age,” Sajitha elaborates.

And there were quite a few who ridiculed the players saying they had not lost weight in spite of sweating it out. “We tell them that we are not in it to shed calories. This is to keep ourselves mentally and physically active. It keeps us connected and happy because we have so much fun and laughter during the training. I am healthier than many women of my age!” Sheela chuckles. Now young girls and boys in the area also join them during the practice sessions.

Players of Royal Angels at their daily training session

Players of Royal Angels at their daily training session   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Talking about their win at Vadodara, the team says that they weren’t prepared for the big game. “We have played only in and around Thrissur and our first game outside the district was the state-level competition in Thiruvananthapuram. And when we were chosen to represent the state at the national level, initially, we were nervous. Later, we trained with some of the former players who played with us at the championship as well. The opportunity meant so much that we didn’t feel awkward about replacing our track suits with shorts,” says Sajitha.

All of them plan to play the game as long as they can. Lijisha Anand, currently working in Thiruvananthapuram, is looking forward to take lessons from professional trainers in the capital city since she is missing out on the training sessions with her teammates. “The time we have on the ground is precious for us. It is better than spending hours in front of the television,” Sajitha insists. Three cheers for the winners.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 10:05:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/women-from-thrissur-all-aged-40-and-above-whove-scripted-sucess-in-volleyball/article30943070.ece

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