"Balancing rackets and university": An interview with Yasitha Rangana De Silva

"Balancing rackets and university": An interview with Yasitha Rangana De Silva

As we celebrate World University Sports Day tomorrow, we at Moraspirit want to appreciate the dedication and commitment of all our young enthusiastic sportsmen and women. Especially for not giving up on those hard battles, and striking to be the best version of you. 

We at Moraspirit had the privilege to interview one of the finest sportsmen University of Colombo has ever produced. He has excelled in both academics and sports, leaving the best example for the rest of the undergraduates. Having being a part of the national squad, the list of his achievements and accomplishments can go on and on. 

Yasitha Rangana De Silva, fondly known as ‘Racketa’ among his batchmates completed his degree in International Business with a second upper in 2019 from the Faculty of Management of Finance, University of Colombo. Having being in the National tennis team since 2016, Yasitha has represented not only his alma mater but also a proud representative of Sri Lanka. “I started Tennis when I was in Grade.01 when I entered Ananda College back in 2001, and the reason for me to start tennis is that, my brother who is three years elder to me, started tennis in school and my parents thought to enroll me for the sport as well” Yasitha recalled his first step in tennis with us. “I had completions even in my A/L year. So I had to put an extra effort to cover up my studies. One thing that my mother said was that you don’t have to sacrifice one thing to achieve another. This I always had in the back of my head. I was not worried about the hard work I have to put in I knew if I worked according to a schedule throughout my A/L years I will succeed and that was the key to my success. Lot of kids these days give up on sports when they find it hard to balance.” 

It is a great misfortune that many good school players have to give up on their sports dream in order to achieve another. Yasitha has set an example by also getting selected to a state University. When asked about his academic life and sports life at university this is what Yasitha had to share with us “I started to peak in tennis in 2016. That was the year I entered university hence it was a bit challenging to balance the sport and academics. I had to be out of the country for 2, 3 months and because of that I had missed lectures and also exams. So I had to do those exams the following year. This has happened in all four years in my final year I had to take 10 subjects in my first semester and there were days where I had 2 papers in one day. It was hard but I’m glad that I faced those challenges because with everything I was also able to get a second upper, and if someone asks me whether I regret myself coming to University of Colombo; I would defiantly say No, because I was able to complete my degree while playing tennis at a very high level. Because of the University I got the chance to represent Sri Lanka at the world University games. And even captain the Sri Lankan team. I am really happy that I had those challenging times in the past four year”.

 Yasitha has indeed proven that Challenges make one stronger, determined and focus on their big goals. He also explained how tough it was to maintain the national rank In tennis while he was at university compared to his school days. “it was very difficult the reason was how the national rankings work is that they have local tournaments throughout the year. Normally the national calendar in tennis starts from Jan-Sep. so you have tournaments spread out in those 9 months. So once you play the tournaments according to those results you get ranking points. That’s how the Sri Lankan ranking is done. The funny thing is the main tournaments of the year normally falls in June-August and within those 3 months they have the most important tournaments of the year which are called A Grade tournaments, As uni students we always have our first sem exams in June so all four years in uni I had to miss out on some tournaments because of the exams, or I have to finish some tournaments just before my exams and then I have to play some tournamnets just after my exams so I was never peeking into those tournaments. In order to maintain your ranking, you need to do really well in those A grade tournaments so it was defiantly a challenge and the other thing is that the tennis time table goes according to the school time table. So they avoid the school exams. They put matches after 2:30 but sometimes you have lectures after 2:30. And they put most number of matches during school holidays specially in august but this schedule doesn’t go hand-in hand with UNI. I feel maintain the rankings in schooldays were much easier because the tennis schedule is always following your school schedule but university it is different, I had to cut out some tournaments unfortunately to this date there’s a tournaments that I haven’t played for the past for years because it always falls during my uni exams so It has been a tuff ride. But I must say in the past four years I have been able to keep my ranking in top three in singles and doubles” 

Maintain a such a good ranking even with so much of pressure does need a lot of discipline and practice. Hence we thought of asking about his daily routine and how his practices go. “So at the moment I have fully committed to tennis. So if I say my current routine, I start my practices at 5:30 in the morning. From 5-7:30 the morning session goes on and then I come back home then I go back again at 1:00 and my training will be from 1:30-4:00 those are tennis sessions and then I start my fitness session from 4:30 – 5:30. I normally practice 6 days of the week and Thursday is my off. and on weekends I don’t normally train in the afternoon. I do two sessions in the morning. Because I have committed lot of my time to tennis it is Important to get your mind out of tennis also. That’s why I have one off day, and weekends evenings off just to get fresh and come back the following week. The most important thing to have a schedule is that you have to stick to it and you have to do it over and over again. Then only you will see results. No matter how difficult or how well your schedule is planned if you’re not doing it. So it’s not about doing the schedule one week but repeating it over and over again. So you will be able to get good results. With such a tight schedule it must have been quite a challenge to maintain the national rank “if you’re a national level player you have to keep your game at a very high level. Because you are competing with not only local players but also foreign players. So to bring a medal or a championship to your country depends on your game. So your game has to be always at its best it’s not an easy thing to balance studies when your competing in a very high level but I would say it’s not impossible. How I managed this was that when I was doing sports I focused on that and when I was studying or doing my exams I was focusing on my academics. it is about focusing one thing at a time. The other most important thing is in order to achieve one thing you defiantly don’t have to sacrifice the other. That is something you always have to keep in mind when your balancing both”. 

Such a commitments and dedication could never go into waste, with hard work comes great reward. “there are many memorable moments. One thing is winning a south Asian games bronze medal in 2016, another would be winning a Davis cup match in 2018 for the first time against the very strong Thailand side another one is winning nationals doubles title in 2016 and 2017. So those are the moments you dream as a young tennis player. So when you achieve them it’s very satisfying and memorable moments in your tennis career”. 

The exacting expectations of being a varsity sportsperson often cannot coexist with other aspects of university life. Alongside daily practices and academics, student-athletes have to give up on their sporting career . When making their social and academic schedules, athletes always have to put in extra effort to consider their athletic commitments. Especially when you are a fresher and don’t know much about the system. “As a national level tennis player and a degree holder of university of Colombo I would say you don’t have to sacrifice the sport to do well in studies. But it unfortunate how the sri Lankan society works, how the parents just want their kids to do exams and get good results. They’re not thinking about creating a healthy generation. Sometimes these sports you don’t have to compete in high level. When you do sports it creates a healthy society. So as parents have to take the responsibility in managing that and the kids have to take the rare opportunity of doing sports because not everyone get the opportunity to do sports”. 

‘All work and no play make Jack a dull boy’. While we celebrate the world university sports day this year we want to encourage more and more undergraduates to engage in sports. Because sometimes sports can carry away the stress you already have from your academics. Yasitha shared few tips with us on the importance of balancing both academics and sports as an undergraduate. “The most important thing is not to give up. No matter how difficult the situation is you will defiantly find a solution for that, good days will defiantly come. If you just keep working hard at it. It only take couple days to give-up but take lot of days and hours to achieve what ur trying to achieve as a uni student you have completed one of the most competitive exams in the world to come to this place. You have done the hard part. Just like that think it is an achievable or a doable target to balance ur studies and sports. You need to find the way to do it. It can be different from one person to another. But you need to find that secret recipe. Find a motivational factor. And always make small goals. don’t think about your whole academic life at uni. Work it semester by semester. Break it down to small parts . and this will help you to achieve your targets in life”. 

As Yasitha shared with us setting up smaller goals will help to reach for our target. Yasitha too has set up few goals both in academic and his sporting career. “Sports wise I would say to win a national’s singles title. I have won couple of doubles titles but not single titles. And another target is to represent Sri Lanka at the Davis cup and play well in that and promote Sri Lanka from group 3 to group 2. In Academics, it will be to complete my masters In upcoming years.”

We at Moraspirit are truly grateful to this young national star for sharing his experiences with us to encourage the fellow youngsters and we wish wish you all the very best in your future endeavors.

As I write this article a suggestion has been made to the president by a newly elected member of the sports council, Former Sri Lankan cricket captain and also a brilliant tennis player Kumar Sangakkara on the idea to promote providing marks for sports talents in university entrance to popularize sports as well as to breed national level sportspersons within university system. This is a really great initiative if it is implemented.

Want to keep in touch with ongoing university sports news?
to our email newsletter now.