Interview with Shiba Maggon, Basketball captain/ referee/ coach
She has played 19 Senior Nationals for different states and professional teams and has won seven gold and seven silver medals. She’s also played with South Western Oklahoma University in 1998 as a Shooting Guard. A FIBA certified referee, and coach of the Indian women youth team, now she is actively involved in improving the lot of basketball in India. She has graciously taken the time to share her experiences with her fans through a interview. Read on to see how one person filled the roles of so many throughout her career.
Siddarth Sharma: Firstly, would you tell us when and where were you born and raised?
Shiba Maggon: I was born in Karnal district in the state of Haryana and I was raised there with three siblings till I was 15 years old.
Siddarth Sharma: How old were you when you first got involved in basketball?
Shiba Maggon: That is a little complicated question as when I first saw the basketball court I went to pick my sister up from there, and I was a very homely girl who liked to play with siblings at home and had no interest in professional sports. Sports for me were playing with dolls and hide and seek, so I picked my cousin and came home. My fate changed when my elder sister went to pick up my cousin and because of her height the Coach saw her potential and asked her to join the game. She was 6 feet tall and readily got interested. Now my parents came to know about this sport and my sister wanted me to go and play with her. I was mad because my childhood games were fading and I was forced to play something I had never liked at first glance. So I was finally on court with a basketball when I was 13 and half years old, but I always escaped by running with athletes on track or else playing volleyball.
Siddarth Sharma: When did you start to practice seriously? And where and among whom did you first practice?
Shiba Maggon: Year 1991, I was 15 and my sister forced me to give trials for the SAI hostel. I got selected because of my extra ordinary speed, but I still did not find the zeal to be where I was. I joined a hostel on 16 September and all I did was cry and cry and cry as for the first time I was away from my family. Two days later my cousin came to pick me up from the hostel telling me that my mom is missing me. Packing my bag I was the happiest I could be, but as we were about to reach hostel my cousin informed me my sister is not keeping well, being an innocent girl I had no idea about what they were trying to tell me. The moment I reached home saw a different atmosphere people crying everywhere and I realized that my best friend had left me alone in this world with her half fulfilled dreams. After this tragedy my whole life changed I went back home with my dad and took his advice to be what my sister wanted to be. So the only thing I remembered when I picked up ball again on 7 October at SAI Chandigarh was- ‘My Sister wanted to play for India’. She was the captain of Netball National Women’s team and captain of the Korfball National team and wanted to be a part of the Basketball National team. She attended two Indian camps before she passed away. So the only thing I knew after that day was that I wanted to be in the Indian team and make her proud, and it took me seven long years to play for Indian team even after I was on the squad in year 1992. The team did not go till 1997.
Siddarth Sharma: Can you recall why not?
Shiba Maggon: I remember three instances when we could not go for International competitions. Once because of floods, another time, the entry for the team was late, I don’t remember about the third.
Siddarth Sharma: Talk about the first tournament you played in.
Shiba Maggon: My first tournament was Pre Asian games for junior boys and girls. In May 1992 at Bilaspur where I was picked up because I was an inch taller than another player, she wore #13, I don’t remember her name. The team included all the stars as it was the Rest of India team. I was the unknown player who was seen for the first time. First game and we were down by 12 points to Kerela and all the players were given a chance to show their potential and I was passing the towels and water with a lot of enthusiasm. After half time my manager told the coach to try me and he looked at tiny me with doubt and said “Ok lets give her a try”. I had no emotions. All I wanted was the ball and the court. We won by 10 points. Next day the people who left the match while it was in progress thinking that we had lost came to know that a tiny girl changed the match; they were sitting for the second game of Rest of India. The tiny girl was still on the bench as my team was full of stars and I was no one. The team was losing to Punjab that day and it was one-sided kind of match there I heard my name being called and once inside my magic started working. That was the tournament since which I started to leave my footprints wherever I played.
Siddarth Sharma: What is your opinion of the teams from other countries you have played against? Their skill level, team management, and other such differences from our teams.
Shiba Maggon: Of all the teams I have played International games against, they leave us behind with their attitude. Talking about attitude, when they practice they do quality work. The coaches trainers and players, everyone is professional in their approach to all the aspects of the game. For the past few years Since Mr. Harish Sharma has taken the responsibility of the Basketball Federation of India, he has given us a lot of facilities to the best of his ability. He’s also roped in sponsors.
Skill wise, I remember us bringing in laurels in skills competitions such as three-point shootouts and dunking competitions. (She herself won bronze medal at a shooting competition at Malaysia). So we are equally good to any Asian or European teams. What we lack is speed and the way we move on court and the coaches cannot get inside us and put that speed and agility in us. So talking about the right attitude, I am pointing out the responsibility of the player when we are on the court. It’s on us when we are on our court. What is our approach towards the workouts and what is the goal? Before I talk about team management I would like to talk about individual management, and what that involves is how focused I am, am I taking proper nutrition? Do I know about my sports diet? Do I know how much rest my body requires? What is the water intake? What is the importance of conditioning of my body? I have always noticed players complaining that they don’t have good coaches. In my days I did not have any resources like the internet but I managed to gain all this knowledge. Nowadays if we Google any information it’s easily available so why we don’t do our homework and research and start understanding our responsibility? We practice the same amount as any other foreign team but we have our mental blocks. We are introduced to the same scrimmages but we execute it with our speed and never think of doing it with Asian teams’ speed. The only thing where I feel the foreign players are ahead of us is in their focus of the game. We have a responsibility as an individual towards our team and our nation; before we start suggesting our seniors or the organization about what they lack, do we see where we lack as players? We always talk about grass-roots so this is grass root where an individual as a player, coach and trainer understands their duty and honesty to their job.
Siddarth Sharma: Which position do you prefer to play?
Shiba Maggon: I never thought about which position I love the most and I also don’t know what is my main asset whether it’s shooting, driving or passing or my defense but my coach always used me according to the opposite team. I loved to play all the positions, I just enjoyed being on court.
Siddarth Sharma: Your most memorable moment on the court?
Shiba Maggon: I don’t know which moment was the most memorable. Maybe when I was adjudged as the Best player in the year 1996 in the presence of Aparna Ghosh in the same championship. She was the star everyone looked up to and getting that award was awesome because she was my all time favorite player. Got best player before that and after that but it was not the same.
Then being in top 5 Asian players among the giants China and Korea in 2001 was unbelievable.
Or may be in 2007 when my mother got paralyzed because she saw her daughter weak and fragile for the first time on court. But that very year when I played the Senior Championship again with double strength and when she saw me on TV and I heard my Dad telling me after the final game on the phone that my mom got up on her own today after she saw me enjoying myself on the court.
Or may be when I passed my FIBA referee test and became the first women to be FIBA official from India.
Or may be when I represented Indian team as the coach of the Junior Women team and became the only women in the history of Basketball game to represent the nation as player, official and coach. I don’t know which one is the most memorable but I guess these all the moments are very special to me.
Siddarth Sharma: So there are many memorable moments. About the competition, do you often come across players who are very tall/short? How do you adjust your game against them?
Shiba Maggon: Yes I do come across players who are taller and shorter and I did my homework long back when I was training in SAI. When the players are short, then to mark them I stay low and if they are tall then I can gain height by jumping to stop them. And when it comes to offense I take short players on post. And tall players, I bring them out and if they are slow, I attack them and if they are agile then I pass to my teammates more, get them free and try to keep that tall player outside which helps my team to get more offensive rebounds.
Siddarth Sharma: Talk about the Indian fans.
Shiba Maggon: Fans all over the world are same they love us like crazy and very easily we become their mentors. So fans in India are the same, they show their love by doing every little thing that they can do. But as their mentors its our foremost duty to let them know that they have the same ability and strength so if you love us then try to learn all the good things and while on your path on following someone never forget your own goal.
Siddarth Sharma: Words of advice from you to aspiring players in India.
Shiba Maggon: I’d sum it up in Five Ds, to all the aspiring players.
-Desire, understand what your heart desires for you in life
-Decision, think do you really want it and if you tell yourself yes I want it then comes your third D
-Direction, get the right direction towards your goal and do your research.
-D is Dedication once you know your desire, take a decision and get the right direction then dedicate yourself to your goal.
-D is discipline, without discipline we can be good players but we cannot be one of the best ever and legends.
Siddarth Sharma: We know you as a player, also as a referee and a coach. Can you talk about that?
Shiba Maggon: Different roles in basketball have helped me understand the different aspects of the game. Officiating games helped me to be more attentive and react quickly. Officiating is something I’ve had to work on as judgments are not a problem but the signals and foul violations were a big problem, but slowly I have improved a lot on it.
Coaching is the toughest among all the roles I play. As a player I know what I want from my self but as a coach, I have to make my players understand what I want from them. And for that I have to constantly keep doing my homework on what’s the latest work out for fitness and best basketball. Every coach has their philosophy of what they think is best way to teach. Mine is that I have to get inside the head of my players, understand their needs, their motivation level and then mix it with my work outs and get the best out of them.
Siddarth Sharma: If you were to endorse a consumer product, which would it be?
Shiba Maggon: It has to be sports product as my profession defines and do justice to the product.
Siddarth Sharma: Would you like to mention testimonials to some of the coaches, family members, and friends who have helped you along your way?
Shiba Maggon: I’d like to thank the following:
Coach Soma Sokhi, my first coach who taught me how to take lay ups was an amazing coach who did not allow me to get inside those lines till I learnt the proper stepping and dribbling.
Coach Madan Mohan Mallhan, My SAI coach who brought the discipline in my life and helped me to understand my capability.
Coach Riyaz, My western railway coach who trusted in my potential and put me in the starting five to start the game.
Coach Mr. Ajmer Singh, who gave me a hug telling me that he trusts me and made me feel at home when I was not playing well in my first inter Railways at Chennai.
Coach Nandan sir, who made me understand that basketball as a game wasn’t about shooting lay ups on fast breaks , who taught me the right action to shoot the ball, who made me realize that even with my best speed on the court my running style was wrong.
Coach Bhupender Shahi, who gave me a chance to play on Starting Five on Indian railways. It was the first time in the history of Railway team that any junior was playing straightaway in the first five so I had a tough time on court. But the way the Coach told me a story, of passenger traveling in a train being ignored and not being offered a seat at first, but after one stop he gets to sit. And the next day in the finals I played the best.
Coach Babu sir, for always shouting at me to get the best out of me.
Coach Bhaskar sir, for his moral support when I had an injury at Coimbatore camp. For supporting me and making me believe that I can overcome this and anything in life.
Coach John Loftin, in US, for putting me in the starting five as shooting guard and teach me about the importance of screens in the game.
Assistant director of My SAI hostel who made me hard like a wall and encouraged me not to leave the hard work when Indian team did not go for any foreign tour for 6 long years. I had to wait for a long time to get to represent the tri-colour even though I was in Indian squad in 1992.
I owe my thanks to my sister Shelly who passed away in 1991 because whatever I am today it’s because of her. For everyone she is gone but she still stands strong next to me helping me understand everything about life and the game.
My Brothers, Sandeep(elder) and Nitin(younger) for trusting me when I’d be missing from home in the middle of the night and assuring my parents that the crazy girl has gone to play basketball, and then come to pick me up telling me “Its is 2 am! Now come home.”
My mother, Chanchal Maggon, for making me the strongest girl I have come across.
My dad, Balwant Rai Maggon, for literally throwing me out of house to go to SAI Chandigarh after my Sister passed away.
My friend Maan Singh, for teaching me the best of basketball, he came in the morning at 5:15 everyday for 2 months and taught me all the skills which he had picked up watching NBA games on TV.
My teammate Asha Hegde, who is like my little sister now, who has always been there to support me and stand by my side
My teammate Shanti, my best friend, who made sure that success never got into my head and I always remained the same.
Prasanna Jai Shankar, who has guided me as a senior in the Indian team and Coach of the rival team when I played for Western Railways.
Mr Harish Sharma for believing in me as a coach and motivating me on every step to success.
It’s always nice to hear from our national players/ coaches/referees. When one person has played all three roles, it’s even more special. Here’s wishing her luck in future endeavors.
You can find out more about her accomplishments at:-