Bangalore, 26 January 2009: Standing in attention and singing the National Anthem in chorus with hundreds of school children evoked a feeling of immense joy and a sense of patriotism as the specially summoned assembly of Swami Vivekananda Higher Secondary School in Thirubhuvanai pledged to take up the National Game the thrill and happiness on the vibrant faces of young boys and girls when they held the hockey stick for the first time was unmistakable and made my long journey to Puducherry State and to this village worth the while.
I fulfilled the promise to my good old friend Arumugam, one of the volunteers behind One Thousand Hockey Legs, to travel to Puducherry but I missed on the second promise of writing a small piece on the feedback from the school. And this eternal hockey lover who was thrilled with the response in the Union Territory, has been reminding me and goading me to complete this second part of the assignment. And the Republic Day parade today reminded me of similar solemn moments I enjoyed at the school assembly – so this piece was immediately without wasting any more time.
After introducing hockey in the two schools in Pondy (this is how Puducherry was known earlier), we decided to go to the third school in Thirubuvanai, which is about 25 kms from the former French colony. Like yesterday, the drizzle started in the morning and continued till we reached the school but our prayers were answered and the rains stopped. It was a holiday for all the schools in the region but fortunately for us, the school children were all summoned for the practice sessions in preparation for the big day, the Vivekananda Jayanthi.on January 12. So all the children were present but notably without their books and this gave the Hockey Citizen Group a wonderful opportunity to spend enough time with the children.
The Principal Mr.Srinivasan was very enthusiastic about hockey and offered us coffee in his chamber where the list of the teaching staff revealed the wealth of academic talent possessed by the teaching fraternity. All of them either had a doctorate or was a scholar with M.Phil credentials. He organized the assembly to introduce hockey and felicitated the representatives of Hockey Citizen Group and later hockey sticks were presented to members of both the boys' and girls' teams. Mr Manickyam, our local Project Officer, introduced the project and explained to the children how the Hockey Citizen Group would support them. He urged them to utilize the chance and hoped that the school would produce great hockey players in the near future.
On my turn, quoting from saint Vivekananda, I said: ``Never lose faith in yourself. You can achieve anything in the world if you have faith in yourself,'' and urged the students to strive for all-round development of personality by achieving excellence in both studies and sports.
The holiday gave us a chance to spend enough time with the aspiring players. One of the teachers, a sportsman himself, offered to help the children until a coach is appointed for the school. After a small briefing where the principles of sports spirit were detailed, the teams were told the importance of warm-up to maintain an injury-free sports life. It was also stressed how crucial it is to play the game in its true spirit and not to deliberately injure anyone during the course of their careers.
The boys and girls were thrilled to hold the stick and the first class was about the grip, how to hold a hockey stick. After about 15 minutes when the players knew the grip reasonably well, they were given a ball each to have a free run for themselves and to experience the joy of hockey. This session also provided them a chance to understand how difficult it is to keep the ball under control. The session went on for about an hour and the basics, as much as the first lesson takes, were imparted. Thus we left the school by about 1 pm with the satisfaction of introducing hockey in one more school and carried back sweet memories of those sparkling eyes and vibrant faces of the little kids having a ball with a stick in the hand.
Developing sustained passion for Hockey by introduction of Hockey to pre and early teenaged children and simultaneously promoting playing sport as a culture and tradition, thereby contributing to develop a sports loving society.