The 11th edition of the Anantapur Hockey League (AHL) kicked off in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh earlier this month. The AHL is a grassroots hockey program that was started back in the year 2008 with the aim of endorsing the sport among the schools, kids and youth in and around the villages of Anantapur.
The three major objectives of the tournament is Right to Play, Gender equality and skill development. The league is administered by the Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) under the Rural Development Trust (RDT) and is comprised of 40 teams – 24 boys and 16 girls’ teams. The schools are further divided into three regions and six zones among the towns of Anantapur, Dharmavaram and Kalyandurgam.
To promote hockey culture, the players are provided with all the necessary equipment such as hockey sticks, balls, shoes and jerseys by the ASA. A total of 170 matches will be played over the course of the season during the five-month span, with each school playing their opponents on a home and away basis.
Lakshmi Narayana, hockey coordinator at ASA added, “The annual summer camps at Anantapur Sports Village and grassroots centres have been quite a useful platform for the hockey players. Moreover, this year technical seminars for senior players were conducted to promote them to participate in matches as umpires and officials.”
The AHL has come a long way over the last ten years. Participation has gradually improved over the years as each school has steadily grasped the idea of developing a sporting culture among children and are allowing their students the freedom to equally balance their life with both studies and sport.
Another success of the ASA hockey program has been the rapid increase in participation of girls at the grassroots level. The female players have been encouraged to step out, play and explore. Likewise, the parents have also had a significant contribution in the elevation of sports in villages as they have not put a restriction on their kids and allowed them to be involved in extra-curricular activities.
“I thoroughly enjoyed participating and representing my school. I look forward to improving my game for the next match”, Bhavani, a 14-year-old who is playing for the first time as a striker in AHL.
A platform of this stature has given the players great exposure and opportunity to express themselves, as involvement in these type of setting have played a significant role in their careers since many of the players aspire to play at higher levels of the game in the future.
“I am satisfied with the response since the kids are playing very well and are enjoying at the same time”, says Louknath, a hockey player at ASA who has been playing hockey for ten years in ASA and is also officiating the matches in AHL.