Republished from www.gosports.com.my
Emma Jones in her own words is a big advocate for women in sports. The former rugby international see kabaddi as not only her latest passion but also as a sport that challenges her desire to excel.
“I absolutely love sport and I can never be without it, which is why I am still so involve in sport at 37. It keeps me young,” said Emma.
It is no surprise that Emma loves sport as she hails from Cheshire which has been the home of some of the top English sports personalities including the likes of marathon runner Paula Radcliffe and cricketer Ian Botham.
“My main sport in the past was rugby in which I played at international level. I also enjoy martial arts such as karate and Thai boxing, both of which I have competed in tournaments. More recently I have also got into American football,” said Emma, who took up kabaddi just over four years ago.
Her initial introduction to kabaddi was in the Circle kabaddi format. Kabaddi, an Indian traditional sport, with a 5,000-odd year history is played in three formats – National (Asian) Style, Circle kabaddi and Beach kabaddi.
“I got introduced to kabaddi through a friend, who knew of my sporting background and that I was looking a new challenge. I was invited to their training session to see what I was made of, so to speak,” she added.
Emma is not one to shy away from a challenge and proved that with the right mindset and determination excelling in kabaddi was second nature.
“Initially I didn’t know much about kabaddi, so my inspiration came from the Army girls, who formed the first women’s team from England. I knew many of them from university as we all used to play rugby together,” said Emma.
It did not take too long for Emma to prove he worth and to be selected for the national side.
“My family has always known me to play lots of contact sport, so they weren’t surprised that I took up kabaddi. In fact they were proud that I would wear an England shirt once again,” said Emma.
Emma is one of the rare players, who had donned national colours in kabaddi in all its three formats.
“I have played in tournaments such as the Canadian Cup that was in a large stadium in Ontario, Mauritius beach kabaddi tournament, European championships as well as local matches and various training camps. I also had the pleasure to attend and train with the English men’s team, which I used as a training camp to really start to learn rectangular (National) style,” said Emma.
She added that she had the opportunity to learn from pro league kabaddi players.
“Hopefully the women’s game will be professional in the future. I am a real big advocate of women’s sport. We have seen a big step forward in promoting professional women’s sport here in England recently with some of the big sports such as football, rugby and cricket. Hopefully countries such as India where kabaddi is so popular will pave the way in professionalising women’s kabaddi,” hoped Emma.
While sport has given her the opportunity to visit different countries and play in different arenas as well as absorb the emotions from the spectators, Emma sees the friendship she has made as he favourite aspect of sports.
Emma was a member of the English team that finished second to India at the 2017 Beach Kabaddi Championships in Mauritius.
“That was a new experience as we don’t have sand to practice on here. It was my first tournament back after hip surgery. Although it was not my best performance, I was thankful on being able to play alongside some great teammates,” said Emma.
While kabaddi is a lesser known sport in England with training facilities hard to come by, Emma believes that as the sport grows so would be the opportunities.
“I love playing kabaddi, it is such a great sport. It is on the rise here, especially within the universities. I am lucky that I can train with the university boys as well as the girls. The boys know I need to push myself and that I can take a hit. They treat me as one of them, which is good,” she added.
Emma said that she had always strived to get as high as she could in sports , whether it was rugby or kabaddi.
“The challenge is keeping that mentality and desire to achieve and perform to earn a spot on the England team, especially with the younger players coming through,” she said.
Emma sees the level of players improving as the sport continues to grow in England.
The English Kabaddi Association (EKA) are the governing body for the sport in the country and hosted the European Kabaddi Cup last year.
Emma said that both the national style and circle style kabaddi formats have many similarities but also differ somewhat.
“I find circle kabaddi being a lot more physical as it’s a one-on-one battle essentially. Especially for someone my size I am up against some big ladies out there but I don’t let that phase me,” said Emma.
Emma stands at only 5feet 4 inches and weighs 55kg, but it her big heart that puts her on level par with much bigger players.
“Although there are tactics and skills to learn in circle kabaddi, I found rectangular requires more time to understand the game and rules and movement and tactics. Both games require self-discipline and teamwork,” she added.
Emma added that having high level of fitness crucial to play the game at competitive level.
“Fitness! Fitness! Fitness! Players should practice technique as much as they can, but it must go hand-in-hand with fitness. Combination of the two is vital as technique will decline with fatigue,” she added.
She said that new players should make it a point to watch as many games as they can including their own games and practice hard.
“Work as a team and most of all have fun. Give it a go!” she said.