Ritvika Patodia from Mumbai who is back from Bryn Mawr College, US, is a role model for students who are keen on balancing sports with studies.
By Ishaan Kali Sarkar | Opening Doorz Editorial | June 06, 2021
Mumbai girl Ritvika Patodia is tough as tough can be. One look at her as she hobbles away at the Adams Wylie Physio Rehab Centre, Mumbai, where she had come to treat an injury and you know that this here is a sportswoman.
Ask her the question and she smiles. She lists out several sports she is actively involved in, not just one! “I spent four years in the US pursuing an undergraduate degree,” she reveals. “That’s where I plunged myself deep into sports,” she adds. Of course, the seed was sown at the age of seven when her parents inculcated in her the love for sports and the outdoors.
Back from Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, US, with a degree in environmental studies, Ritvika who is passionate about tennis and wants to give it a shot speaks to Opening Doorz about starting out early in sports, education, and the advantages of being in a college that supports sports.
Which school did you study at when in Mumbai?
I studied at St. Anne’s High School, Fort, till Grade X (SSC board). I then went to Singapore International School, Dahisar for Grade XI and XII (IB board). Post that I went to the US.
Why did you chose, Bryn Mawr College? Was it because of its historical significance, choice of subjects or sports environment?
To be very honest, I didn’t choose the college for any of the factors mentioned by you. My college councillor looking at my SAP grades and my scores at school, my interests and my resume recommended that I can try for Bryn Mawr College.
When you compare sports in the US to India, what is the differentiating factor, according to you?
I feel at the college level at least, sports are given a greater significance and opportunity in the US. There is more capital, resources and commitment from the coaches and athletes to train. A differentiating factor for sports at the college level would be recruitment and sports scholarships (my college did not have any because they were not allowed to give sports scholarships but they still recruited athletes). These give greater incentive to domestic and international student-athletes to represent the team and continue the dedication through financial support and focused training and competition.
Now that you are back are you planning on pursuing sports in India?
This one is a tricky question. I do not know what the future holds for me. For the time being, I want to get back into tennis but I would have to figure out how to balance that lifestyle with my career as well. I am also looking at pursuing my Masters abroad and eventually finding a career pathway outside the country so my sports lifestyle would also depend on my future location.
You chose sports as one of your major childhood activities, was it because of your desire in making a career in sports?
My parents always have put me in a bunch of classes and activities while I grew up. I tried various new things and I am very fortunate to learn a variety of activities ranging from outdoor activities like tennis, squash, table tennis, and swimming to martial arts and taekwondo to indoor activities like painting, chess etc. instead of focusing on just one activity. When I started playing tennis at the age of seven, t just stuck with me. Without sports, my day would be empty. In high school, I narrowed down my list of activities to pick only some that I would pursue in college. Sports is a part of my upbringing and now ingrained as a habit.
Do you have any special training schedule, a special diet for your regatta sports, or your multi-sports activities are enough for building the stamina for a regatta?
Each college has its training programme. I was trained by an Olympic Gold Medalist. She made sure that the training was rigorous, even if we were a D-3 school. She made sure that the students were fit enough to compete against students of D-1 school. Both coaches of track and field and regatta advised on diet and carb loads—both before and after a competition. For instance, before a competition, we were expected to have peanut butter and bread, juices, fruits like banana. After the competition diet mainly included water and protein snack. The training was specialized as both the activities focused on different body muscles. We trained with different body weights and had multiple sessions for specific conditioning for our muscles along with our routine training.
What skill sets are required for rowing or Regatta training?
I must share a common misconception regarding rowing; it is widely believed that strength comes from the arms. Instead, most power comes from the legs, which is harnessed and strokes are finished with the arms with that power. The legs and core do the most work. The training depends on the type of regatta one is doing, whether it is a 2k or a 5k in the spring and fall season respectively. While 2k is like an 8-minute sprint the longer the races like the 5k require more endurance, where the stroke rates are lowered. Thus training patterns vary as per regatta. Regatta training needs a strong mindset and a lot of mental power. When we are training on the indoor rower which is a machine, one has to continue for half an hour to one hour non-stop which requires a strong mindset.
Focussing on sports and studies, especially when one has invested so much in education abroad, is a difficult decision. How did you manage your time between so many sports, which are time-consuming, and your studies?
Time management wasn’t an issue for me in my case. I never felt that sports were taking time away from the study hours. Only during my Grade X did I take a break from sports. I feel playing a sport clears my mind and helps me think, focus and perform better. If I only focused on studying and exam preparation, then I would not be able to concentrate as I am a person who gets bored easily. I need to do some kind of activities to keep myself engaged. I planned and balanced my study schedule around my sports activities, and thus my sports and study schedule never clashed. For instance, in India, I would study in the morning, as my sports classes were in the afternoon and evening. But in the States, I would play sports during the morning and study in the evening.