In the lead up to the International Women’s Day 2024, a year that marks 100 years of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), we are speaking with women in hockey, who have made major contributions towards the growth of the sport over the past few decades. 

In today’s story, we feature Savita, captain and goalkeeper of the Indian women’s hockey team and a three-time FIH Goalkeeper of the Year Award winner

In her own words, Savita’s story of success in hockey belongs to her family as much as it does to her, if not more. Her grandfather was the first to encourage her when she wanted to play and go for sports tryouts in 2003. He had great love for hockey and told her he’d be thrilled to watch her play the sport, when the opportunity first arrived in school to try out for various sports. Encouraged by her entire family, she tried out for hockey and has never had to look back since then! 

Having played the sport since a young age, Savita has seen the massive improvement in the grassroots investment and development all over the world, but especially in her native India. “When I started out playing hockey we had our struggles, in terms of infrastructure and equipment etc. But now it warms my heart to see the next generation get much better facilities and conditions to play and develop the game thanks to the investment from Hockey India and the Indian government. And it’s a constant process. When I first made the national team, our seniors used to say how much better things were at that time, compared to when they had started playing and I can say the same for the players coming up now. So the standards of hockey are definitely improving constantly.”

When it comes to gender equality, Savita strongly believes that the right steps are being made not just in sports, but outside of it as well. She points out that when she started playing hockey 20 years back, she was lucky to get tremendous support from her family, which never differentiated between her and her brother in any regard. But now it is more common to see that parity between genders all over. “There is no end to the steps that can be taken towards equality, but it is great to see women get equal opportunity to shine not just in hockey but in all walks of life.”

Speaking about the support system she has had through her playing career, Savita beams as she talks about her family’s constant trust and faith in her. They supported her goal of playing hockey, despite all the financial challenges it posed to them early on, and now the respect and love they receive from their community as Savita pulls on the Indian jersey, is a matter of great pride and joy for her. Savita also credits the backing she receives from her husband and his family, who always cheer her on in her sporting pursuits. “Professionally as well, the support behind the scene for an athlete’s success is massive. For me Hockey India, Sports Authority of India and the countless people who work behind the scenes make it possible for us to succeed on the pitch. I am really thankful for all of them.”

On a personal note Savita says hockey has given her confidence to face everything in life. “When I started playing hockey for the first time, I did not know my association with the sport would last this long. I was not very confident as a child, but hockey has completely changed that for me. I feel like I can face any challenge that comes my way because of all the learnings I have taken from the sport.”

Asked about what advice she would give to the next generation of hockey players, Savita decided to use the opportunity to address the families’ of the young players and said, “I think parents play a pivotal role in the success of a child. No matter what sport the child wants to pursue, and even outside of sport, whether it's a girl or a boy, they will give their absolute best and be able to achieve anything, if they feel they have their family’s trust and backing. For those that want to play professionally, I think there is nothing much to say other than giving it your best shot and believing in yourself. Hard work is not just the only way to succeed, but it is also a guarantee for success.”