‘Walk tall, don’t hunch’ is the common refrain we hear from our parents in our growing years. Stephy Nixon’s parents would never have uttered those words to her, considering that she is six foot two inches tall and used to comments like ‘how is the weather up there’ from her friends. It was this impressive height that gave her the initial advantage to enter a domain not many women would think of even in their wildest dreams — basketball. Stephy has found a place in the Indian team. Jeena P. S. and she are the torchbearers of Kerala women's basketball and another talented player Geethu Anna Jose was their senior.
Stephy is a regular in the Indian national women's team and is back with the team since delivering her first child. Clearly, bouncing back to the game of basketball is not a tall order for the pretty player. Stephy, who plays center, was part of the Indian team that competed in the William Jones Cup that concluded recently. This was a prelude to the 2018 Asian Games that will begin in Jakarta on August 19. Stephy started off young, being initiated into the game of basketball when she was in class seven. While doing her schooling at M.A.M.H.S.S., Koratty, a towering Stephy used to be active in sports.Two teachers noticed her impressive height and decided to introduce Stephy to the world of basketball.
So, a year later Stephy moved to a state sports Council programme. From then on dunking, dribbling, rebounds and passes became terms she became intimate with while on the court falling in love with the game. A career in sports is not what most parents aspire for their daughters but Stephy was lucky. She credits her own family initially for giving her ample support to pursue a sporting career. Born under a lucky star, that happy streak continued after her marriage to Eudrick Pereira, a basketball player who captains the Customs & Central Excise team and who has represented India. In just nine months after giving birth, Stephy returned to the basketball court — she gives full marks to her family for that feat.
“I am very fortunate to have the support of not only my parents but also my husband and his family who gave me the encouragement and push to get back on the court just months after my delivery,” that’s not all, Stephy reveals, “Normally women are advised to take proper rest for three months but I would have taken rest for maybe 56 days after my delivery. I started practising my yoga initially then moved on to ball juggling.” Her baby is 11 months old now and Stephy hopes her return to the game so soon would be an inspiration to many other players and women in general. “I do not want women to think that their life should be on hold after the birth of a child. Nor should the additional weight gain be a cause of concern. If I can be an inspiration for any one person that would be my biggest happiness,” she states.
In addition to her coaches, one other person who has stood like a rock beside her and helped her push the boundaries in her career is her husband. She gushes, “He gives me tips on how to improve my game and also motivates me by mentioning I should be setting an example for future players.” On a personal note, she reveals, “I had gained weight during and after my pregnancy and it was my husband who used to formulate diets for me. In fact, it was he who was adamant that I return to the game.” Stephy, who works for the KSEB, which is the best club team in the state, also names her coach Aji Jacob and her fellow KSEB players for supporting her in her game.
For a player passionate about her game, she knows she belongs to a country that considers cricket to be a religion and is also partial to football. Stephy agrees not many people are aware of the game of basketball or its rules and regulations. “In countries like America, basketball is hugely popular but in India, children find cricket fascinating.” She smiles and says, “Most of the people in my native place know me as a basketball player but the majority do not know how I play the game.” But Stephy is finding positive changes as far as awareness of the game goes. “We have basketball leagues happening now and the current group of millennials are aware of the game so the scenario looks bright,” she says.
Stephy was in Taiwan for a basketball camp to prepare for the Asian Games. Injuries are a part and parcel of her life and she laughs it off, “I recently had a surgery but all that is part of a player’s life,” she remarks. Everyone has a role model and Stephy too has one, “Geethu Anna Jose is a huge inspiration and internationally, I like LeBron James.” So what would be her advice to aspiring players? “Play tough, play easy! Failures are the stepping stones to success. So never give up!”...