While most athletes pursue their sport from an early age, you will seldom hear examples of a professional sportsman starting as late as their early adulthood. Such was the case with Deepak Niwas Hooda, whose kabaddi career was born out of circumstances.

He lost his mother at an early age and his father passed away right after he finished his twelfth grade. To add to the situation, Hooda had to also look after his sister and her two young children. Though he wanted to complete his education at the time, the wellbeing of his family took precedence for Hooda over his dreams.

 “I wanted to pursue engineering. But the circumstances so were tough that I had to drop out,” said Hooda in an exclusive interview with prokabaddi.com.

As the sole breadwinner of the family at such a tender age, Hooda had to take up a job as a teacher at a private school to make ends meet. It was during this testing period of his life where Hooda saw an opportunity in kabaddi.

“I developed an interest in kabaddi since it was an avenue to earn money for my sister and her kids,” narrated Hooda, “I thought that if I can get a job in the sport, I will be able to give them a better life. Though I was young, I put my heart into it. The circumstances had made me grow up.”

His mind was made up, but it wasn’t easy for 18-year old Hooda to catch up with the other players in his age group. They had years of experience over him and the free time to put in all the practice needed; a luxury Hooda couldn’t afford at the time.

“The other players had been playing the sport for a long time. It was tough for me to get into the team because I started after my 12th. Also, I had to run my house at the time. So I was juggling my school job along with my practice. My schedule was very busy,” recalled Hooda.

But having already faced the incredible hardships that he did, Hooda was mentally prepared for the herculean efforts that he would have to put in to get to the level he aspired to be at. He would wake up at 3 in the morning to work on his cardiovascular fitness before heading out to his day job as a school teacher. On returning home he worked in his family’s field before going to the ground to practice kabaddi in the evenings. He also had to cook for the family and put his young nephew and niece to sleep before he could finally get some much-needed rest at night.

It was a tough grind with maximum effort and minimal rest which lasted for a little over a couple of years. Hooda’s incredible journey, though, demonstrates that the human body may have limitations, but the human spirit is boundless. It was his sheer willpower coupled with a desire to help his family live a cosy life and give his sister’s kids a better life along with the ability to get all the things that he couldn’t afford growing up, that pushed Hooda to keep the engine running for almost 20 hours each day.

Even after bagging a big opportunity in VIVO Pro Kabaddi, Hooda stayed true to the intentions that led him on this path.

“With my first paycheque I took my sister and her kids out all the way to Rohtak to buy them new clothes,” said a proud Hooda.