A rickshaw driver's daughter, Mrinal Agarkar balances volleyball and studies
"International player Ajith Lal is my role model and I will work hard to make a career like him at the international level," she said.
Usually in Maharashtra, a sportsperson studying in Class IX is advised to focus on their preparation for tenth standard with less focus on their sports career. That is why performing spectacularly in both the academic and sports fronts is considered a rare feat. Fifteen-year-old Mrinal Agarkar has achieved just that by striking balance between Volleyball and studies.
Although a native from Pune, she is representing the Satara senior team in state mini Olympics. After representing Maharashtra in the recently held junior national Championships in New Delhi, she immediately participated in the Volleyball matches of the State Olympic Games here.
She reached Pune by an early morning flight on the first day of the matches and immediately attended the matches at Balewadi. Mrinal has played a major role in team's success without feeling the fatigue of the journey.
Presently she is studying in the tenth standard at Dr G. G Shah English school in Pune. She has been selected for the sport of Volleyball under the Sports Authority of India's training scheme last year and is practising at the Sports Authority's residential training center near Khalapur.
Mrinal's father is a rickshaw driver. She never thought of pursuing a career in sports due to the family's limited financial situation. She used to go to the school grounds in the evening.
Agarkar used to have a lot of fun with other friends and her brave attitude did not go unnoticed by Mr. Mayur Bage, the experienced Volleyball coach. He advised her to play the sport.
Initially there were no girls to practice with her and had to practice with boys. It was expensive for her to buy the necessary kit for this sport. However, it was senior international player Dattatray More who took the responsibility of the youngster's sporting expenses so that her career could begin.
With the financial problems solved, Mrinal concentrated on her practice. She participated in the selection test of Sports Authority of India conducted last year. She was an easy pick in this test as she was expert in smashing and counter attack skills. Now, she is getting a scholarship and all other facilities under the scheme of the authority.
In the training center of the authority, she is getting the guidance of Ashish Dhayde and S. Manoj. She practices for four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. The rest of the time she studies in school.
The teen is naturally intelligent and her concentration in sports helps her in studies also. The school teachers at this center take the responsibility of studies of the players and the exams are also conducted there. Her ambition is to represent Maharashtra in Khelo India even though her 10th exams are in the month of February.
Although she is presently a junior player, she has represented the senior team many times. She has represented Pune, Satara and Raigad districts in the inter district competition.
Mrinal said that while participating from different districts, one learns a lot while practising and playing with players of different temperaments. She added, "International player Ajith Lal is my role model and I will work hard to make a career like him at the international level. I am always getting encouragement and support from my family."