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Interview:"let us all give something back" (8/21/2009)
--Shashank Gupta
Interview: "Let us all give something back to hockey"

Bangalore based Jude Felix Hockey Academy was are busy as usual on last Saturday. The boys were training, scored a goal. At that moment, more than half of theom drop their sticks and do a somersault, a sight that is ever to be beheld. The coaches remark that it’s important for the children to learn to celebrate.

The coach to children ratio catches your eye. 4 coaches around and each coach is attending a bunch of 10-12 children. These coaches follow training schedules, which seems to be methodical and tech-savvy.

They realize the importance of career for the children. They reflect positivity in their attitude and are not worried about what people at the helm of affairs are worried about. Talk to them and they reflect a pride in the work that they do, one thing that not many have. They dream big and are working towards to it.

Excerpts of discussion with P Shanmugham, a former international, one of many talented coaches at JFHA.

What is Jude Felix Hockey Academy all about?
We want to give the underprivileged a chance to play the sport and train them professionally. It’s a charitable trust formed all Hockey players and working with the intention of no profit.

What are the challenges that you are facing as of now?
2 main challenges: Proper equipment and do up the ground. We would like to include more number of children. Funding would be very important then. As of now, it’s the ground that we are looking at.

What has been the response of the children till now?
Fantastic! We ourselves have been taken by surprise by their response. Their improvement has pushed us to the higher levels in the coaching aspect. We have been working on the life-skills aspects of the children. There are quite a few positive changes in the children - lot of mutual respect and self respect amongst them. We do follow up with their academic records as well. In the past 4 months of our work, the results we have been getting are tremendous.


Who all are your coaches and how has been the coaching experience till now?
All coaches are volunteers. Khalid Modi – Goalkeeping coach, Sabu Varkey, Dominique Savio, John Verghese, Vinod Benedict, Dayalan, Bipin Fernandes, Anup Antony, Len Aiyappa and Shanmugham, myself.
The best part is from the day we have started there hasn’t been any break up in the programme till now. On a given day, there are always 3-4 coaches present.

Where do you see these children from 6-8 years from now?
(Smiles) 6-8 years from now, I will be coaching them for the state team, I feel. They are pretty good. We are looking at them to complete their studies. The core group is from 8-14 years. Hopefully we will see them in some sports hostel or SAI or try to get them some job. 4-6 years, we wish to have a residential academy for ourselves with all the facilities. Our dream is to have a private academy. Any player who wants to improve on game aspect can come to our academy - something similar to Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
We want them to play for the state first and then national team. That’s how we are training them.

Any promising children?
There are many. We always believe there is tremendous potential in this country. Just that we have go around and look for them. There are some naturally talented players and it’s a matter of time that we groom and they make it big. It’s a long way to go.

How many children you are working with as of now and what are the expansion plans?
From St. Mary’s Orphanage, we have about 45 children. We wish to make it 80. Once we stabilize as an organization, we will be extending our project to other homes. Even the children from mainstream background we will be giving them an opportunity to come and train in the academy.

What has been JFHA’s association to the State Hockey Association?
They have been a good support to us. Our academy is affiliated with the state association and we will be participating in all the leagues and tournaments. They will be allotting us some time to train on the turf as well. Thanks to them that they have waived off all the registration fees because we are an NGO.

What is your message to all the readers?
I think people should appreciate the game as it is without looking into the administrative aspects and other issues associated with the game. It will be a great help if people who have earned name and fame from Hockey should contribute something back to this game.


Sabu Varkey talks about his inspiration to work with the children
What I have seen in these children that they are have a lot of energy and are really tuft. That is what we have seen while training. May be, it’s because of the tuft background they come from. That’s showing on them personally. I have never seen this before. Comparing with normal children, they play very soft whereas these children play really tuft and that is what you need in today’s Hockey.

Dominique Savio says: It’s the kind of response from these children that we have got motivates us. They need a lot of support and we are not in a position to do that. May be, finance would be the biggest help as of now because apart from that we have a hard working team which takes care of other aspects.

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