KIYG 2023: Despite lack of facilities, J&K volleyball team punches above its weight

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Chennai: Jammu and Kashmir is hardly a formidable name in volleyball. And hence, when their boys team upset defending champions Haryana in the group encounter of the Khelo India Youth Games 2023 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium here, the celebrations were quite understandable.

The win wasn’t enough for Jammu and Kashmir to advance to the knockout stage despite being locked on points with Haryana and Rajasthan with one victory each due to inferior set scores. But the fighting spirit they showed in a group that also consisted of hosts Tamil Nadu, would do them a world of good to their confidence.

“This Khelo India Youth Games was a very good platform for us where our players got more exposure and were able to play in such good infrastructure, which is absent in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The performance here will definitely boost our confidence and I can ensure that if we get good facilities and hostels for players in Jammu, they will definitely win medals for us in the future,” said Naresh Kumar, the head coach of the Jammu and Kashmir volleyball team.

Lack of infrastructure has been a major hindrance in developing the sport in Jammu and Kashmir as the Union Territory lacks any indoor facility and weather conditions make it impossible for them to train for more than six months in a year.

Most of the players are also forced to practice individually rather than as a team as the only place they can train together in Jammu does not have sports hostel facilities. Each player shoulders the expenses of travel and equipment, showcasing their unwavering dedication despite hailing from humble backgrounds. These constrains also affects the girls’ team which hasn’t been able to qualify for the Khelo India Youth Games yet.

Explaining the challenges, team captain Shadab Shameem said, “It takes more than a day to reach Jammu for most players, and there are no facilities to stay, which is a sad part. So, we only gather two weeks before the competition under our coach. Otherwise, we practice alone in our locality with limited facilities. Also, in the winter, we don’t have any chance to practice, affecting our form and mental health.

“We approached the game against Haryana with a winning mindset, because we need to mark our name in this Khelo India Youth Games with at least a win and we did it,” he added.

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