Growing Together

Players reflect on their long-term teammates

Oishee Misra and Chelsea Wong

Seven years. Four boys. Five years. Two girls. 


Senior Nikhil Bapat has been playing volleyball alongside the same three people since the beginning of sixth grade. The Kennedy Middle School boys volleyball team was where Bapat met current MVHS seniors Kevin Mathew, Gautham Dasari and Rajas Habbu. They didn’t know it at the time, but according to Bapat, this bond would carry on for the next seven years and shape them as both players and as individual people.


“Obviously we’ve gotten a lot better since [sixth grade] and we’ve grown together in terms of how we play,” Bapat said. “Since we’ve been playing together for so long, our styles kind of complement each other well to develop that way.”


Senior Kevin Mathew, one of the four, agrees. He says that their friendship has strengthened over the course of seven years and believes that this is one of the main reasons as to why their teamwork is so strong.


“The first time we played together was in sixth grade,” Mathew said. “So from then on, our on court and off court relationship has just gotten stronger and stronger. Like by now, it’s like we’re best friends on and off the court.”


Similarly, sophomore Viveka Ramanathan began playing soccer at the age of five. Initially it was an effort from her parents to make her more social, but little did she know that her soccer experience would allow her to create a steady friendship with a teammate — MVHS sophomore Sidney Chan. Now, they are really good friends, and are even referred to as ‘the dynamic duo’ by the rest of their teammates.


Being half of a ‘dynamic duo’ also helped Ramanathan become more at ease with her team, which initially, was difficult.


“Having one person who I’m close to and know their style of play [is helpful],” Ramanathan said. “It also helped me because I know that’s one less person that I have to bond to and gel with. The rest of the team is also easier to get to know when you have a friend there with you because you always have them if you need backup, but you can also open yourself up to the team.”


Bapat says that because his teammates have stuck with him for so long, they have played an integral role in terms of his overall experience.


“It definitely helps [to have a bond],” Bapat said. “To know people standing next to you not just as a teammate, but also personally and be able to trust each other — it’s just a lot easier when you’re really good friends.”


In addition, both Ramanathan and Mathew explain that having close bonds with teammates allows them to grow as players, as well as mentally.


“Definitely in practice and games, we’re always telling each other how we can be better and a lot of coaches are gonna say ‘coaches should coach’ and ‘players should play’, but when a player can give you feedback that helps you get better, then that’s always a good thing to have,” Mathew said. “Having teammates around that I’m close to allows us to push each other more and as a result, I think I’ve gotten more assertive over the last few years.”


Ramanathan stated that teams tend to have intricate relationships among players because otherwise, the whole team may fall apart. There is a certain kind of gel needed to hold the team together, and having close friends further helps this happen.


“You need to know each other [and] you need to know what they’re thinking on the field in order to move forward,” Ramanathan said. “Definitely knowing Sidney, I think has improved both of our styles of play. We know what we are thinking, where the ball is going and we know how to play and each other’s style of play.”


Not only do Bapat and his teammates impact each other’s playing styles, but he says they retain this same bond off the court as well. For instance, they often hangout and watch games together.


Ramanathan adds that gaining a close friendship as a result of playing her sport has definitely spread a positive impact on her life, especially proving helpful while dealing with the stress high school can come with.


“Having her as a friend definitely impacted me because she’s helped me through a lot of stuff,” Ramanathan said. “I know that I can always have her as a shoulder if I need one.”


Bapat says that improved team chemistry is the main benefit from attachments with their teammates. Matthew agrees, and says that the most important aspect of being close to teammates is knowing how each teammate will respond to specific situations. For example, if they know that a teammate becomes really amped up when a game is on the line, then they act accordingly, whereas if they know a teammate tends to shy away in that situation, they change their behavior towards them. Knowing what their teammates do in specific situations helps them when they actually get into that specific situation.


“[The team chemistry] would probably be different [without these bonds],” Bapat said. “I don’t know if it would affect the way we play, necessarily. But it’s an intangible thing between plays, we just feel more comfortable on the court.”