At 19, when most of us were worried about our college assignments, Naveen Kumar was busy making history for Dabang Delhi Kabaddi Club by taking the team to their first-ever vivo Pro Kabaddi Finals. Millions watched with awe and excitement as this child-like assassin made raid after raid straight into to the finals of the tournament. His leopard-like agility and reflexes allowed him to escape from defenders well before they could react to his movement. But being just fast is usually not enough, especially when you are a 19-year old who is carrying the responsibility of his team on your strappy shoulders. Naveen has a simple hack for the pressure that builds up in his head. “I just focus on the moment and on things that I can control in the match, worrying about things you cannot change just increases your stress without providing any results.”

A product of Mashal Sports’ Future Kabaddi Heroes (FKH) Programme, Naveen also credits the senior players of his team for helping him maintain his composure .“I’m blessed to have players like Joginder ji and Ravinder ji in my team, they make sure I focus only on my game and don’t succumb to pressure.” What we usually see as performance pressure is often the fear of letting others down. At such points in the game, it helps to have a mentor who puts an arm around your shoulder to give you the strength and courage needed for a fruitful raid.

Apart from the coaching staff and senior team members, Naveen also has rock steady support in the form of his family, “My family keeps talking to me during the league and encourages me to take more risks without worrying about results.” says Naveen. His pre-match ritual always includes having a chat with his family.

Younger players need to be nurtured and encouraged to express themselves on-field and such positive changes from the grassroots level will make sure we see much more Naveen Kumars in the coming years. By focusing on their individual development, and by emphasizing the importance of learning and effort over their natural abilities, we not only help these players, but we also give those that will go on to make it in the professional game the best possible foundation which they can build their future success on.