“People may say something is impossible, but if you really want it then it is up to you to make it possible,” advises 26-year-old Rishank Devadiga, whose experience has made him wise beyond his years

“You need to give your hundred per cent and ignore the people who demotivate you.”

These are more than just words for the U.P. Yoddha captain. He has lived much of his life with this attitude. As a youngster interested in kabaddi, when the scope of making a career in the sport was slim, it took massive amounts of will-power and self-motivation to keep Devadiga going.

Even when the burden of his family’s financial responsibilities forced him to pursue a career in hotel management, Devadiga managed to protect his dream of one day becoming a professional kabaddi player and kept the fire in his heart alive

“It has been a long struggle,” Devadiga recalls as he speaks exclusively to prokabaddi.com, “When I had started playing, I never thought that it will become viable for me to play kabaddi professionally. But my passion for the sport kept me going.”

But in the cauldron of courage, Devadiga slow-cooked all the ingredients that allowed him to continue serving up masterful performances in local tournaments. As fate would have it, he was spotted by the Mumbai district kabaddi team coach during one such performance and there was no looking back for him from there.

“Once I got the opportunity, I gave it my all. I was focused and never missed a day of practice. I put in a lot of hard work,” he said.

Mother knows best

But the question of convincing a family with limited means to allow one of their only breadwinners to leave his day job and pursue a career in the relatively unpredictable field of sports still remained. It was here that his mother’s encouragement and belief gave him strength. 

“When I spoke to her about playing kabaddi professionally I was very scared. But she supported me a lot,” Devadiga said, “I must dedicate all my success to my mom, and even my sister. They have always been my pillars of strength, even when times were tough.”

Through his grit and determination, though, Devadiga managed to repay their faith in him by earning a place in the U Mumba team of the inaugural VIVO Pro Kabaddi season. From there, Devadiga’s career-graph changed completely. 

“VIVO Pro Kabaddi has changed my life,” said the raider, “Earlier, I lived in a chawl but now we live in an apartment.

“When I started playing in VIVO Pro Kabaddi, I was the third raider in the side. I was only sent in to raid during Do-or-Die situations,” remembers Devadiga, “Since there was so much pressure at those times, I started being aggressive. It became my style.”

A place among the stars

Having mastered the approach required to become an effective raider, there was nothing that could stop Devadiga’s meteoric rise in kabaddi. From being the 18th most successful raider with 64 raid points in his debut season, Devadiga soon rose to the second spot in Season 3 with 106 raid points. His exploits on the mat prompted U.P. Yoddha to pick him as one of their main raiders in Season 5. It was there that he first got a taste of leadership, being a senior member of the team along with Nitin Tomar and Jeeva Kumar. He even ended up scoring 28 raid points in the game against Jaipur Pink Panthers where he was the captain, showcasing his ability to lead from the front.

This led to him assuming the reins of the team completely in Season 6, and the responsibility that comes with such a big role is not lost on the raider. He managed to alter his game to suit the current situation, giving the team’s cause higher priority than individual glory.

“As a captain, you need to handle the entire team. Thus, as a raider, I cannot be aggressive every time I go in. When a crucial time comes, then the onus is on me to get points,” explained Devadiga, his wisdom once again shining through.

The boy who had to put his dreams on the back-burner to study hotel management never imagined he would one day be using his skills to manage an entire kabaddi team. But such is the power of dreams and, through his life, Devadiga has shown just how what people believe to be impossible can actually be made possible.