A woman of authority amongst boys, Prasanna Jayashankar is making her mark in the revolution called UBA
The UBA is changing the basketball scene in India one breakthrough at a time. Moving into the second season, the league is trying to define success on its own terms and is going full throttle towards achieving it. And one of the league’s biggest breakthroughs this year has to be the introduction of female coaches into the fray.
Meet Prasanna Jayashankar, one of the two female coaches inducted into the UBA this year. Drafted in for badminton at the Sports Schook at Cannanore, she was introduced to basketball by chance as the basketball team didn’t have enough players to field. The rest as they say is history.
Charged with the task of nurturing the talent of the Bengaluru team, Jayashankar is on her way to breaking some major barriers in the sport. The demure yet fervent 48-year-old sat down to speak to us regarding how the UBA has come as a boon for Indian basketball at the right time. She also stated that the UBA not only provides youngsters with a platform they have been yearning for but also a chance for the coaches to learn from the more experienced coaches that the the league has brought in from the US.
Jayashankar hopes to break the sex barrier in the game. “The first thing that I asked the boys before practice was do you have a problem with a lady being your coach?”, she says. “If you have an ego problem learning from a lady, you will face lots of issues moving forward. We are trying to move towards making India progressive, and what better way to do that than on the basketball court.”
Speaking about the league in general she seemed upbeat. “This is really great. What better could you ask for, really? The UBA is a great exposure and opportunity for us all,” says the 48-year old Southern Railway coach.
“As we all know the US are the masters of the game and bringing the coaches from the country helps not only the players but also us coaches. We take in a lot from them and can go back and apply the same to the pupils we have under us. And they, in turn, can go ahead and help teach better at the grass root level. It’s a chain reaction really.”
Indian basketball is on the up
Jayashankar hopes that like her, the other coaches in the league can make use of this opportunity and help Indian basketball grow. “Indian basketball is on the up, and this is a boost we got at the right time,” Jayashankar goes on to say. “We coaches are here to not only help excel the careers of these youngsters but learn things ourselves. We have to be open to suggestions from the foreign coaches and also be the bridge between the players and them sometimes.”
Having coached Southern Railway to success in her time and helped nurture the career of Arjuna awardee Geetu Anne Jose, Jayashankar is still eager to learn more. “You can’t have an ego in you. If you have an ego about your achievements you can’t learn things. You can also turn things around and say that when the brain refuses to learn anything new, it’s only then that you develop an ego,” says the Kerala native. “I have been in the folds of the women’s national team and have seen how foreign coaches can help make you better in the game. We hope to achieve the same over here again.”
Like many others, Jayashankar too hopes that the UBA will help in bringing about more professionality into the frame. “When you have a salary waiting for you back home, basketball takes a back seat for many. We tend to forget that all we have today right now is because of the game,” she laments Jayashankar. “I hope with the UBA coming in, in years to come the mentality will change. We will have basketball-first players around us.”
Whether she wins the championship or not with Bengaluru remains to be seen. But Prasanna Jayashankar, along with the UBA, are already etching their niche in the Indian sports scene. In the process, they are leaving behind a trail that is worthy of being followed by us all.