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Developing a culture of hockey in rural Andhra Pradesh

The Rural Development Trust (RDT) aims to bring attention to the national sport with a grassroots movement in villages in Southern India.

There was a time when Major Dhyanchand wielded his hockey stick like a magic wand to score goals at will – no wonder they called him the wizard! However, the national sport of India has unfortunately taken a backseat in the Indian sporting scene for quite a while now.

But that has not been the case in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, where Rural Development Trust (RDT) supported Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA), strives to build a strong grassroots structure on which they look to pave a better future for Hockey in Andhra Pradesh and India

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Andreu Enrich with the ASA girls hockey team during a camp

Roots of the Program

The ASA hockey program began when a Spanish International Hockey player, Andreu Enrich, visited the facility and conducted a 20-day Hockey camp in 2005 to introduce India’s national sport to the youth of Anantapur. This boosted the morale of the region towards the sport, from where on RDT, supported by the Andhra Pradesh Hockey Association, began seeking qualified individuals to start a Hockey program.

A few PE teachers, with Hockey as their specialization, were utilized to begin a Hockey program in 2006 with 10 government schools in Anantapur. This number has now risen to 32 government school teams all over the district of Anantapur. Moreover, three other districts, namely Kurnool, Chittoor and Kadapa, also ensure that Hockey is regularly practiced within government schools.

To ensure the effective implementation of the Hockey program in these schools within the district of Anantapur, two RDT coaches, P. Chowdeshwar Prasad from Anantapur town and S. Hasain of Dharmavaram, play a key role. Both individuals are National Institute of Sports (NIS) trained Hockey Coaches who periodically visit the existing and new schools that are part of the Hockey program.

They ensure that the morning training of the athletes at their respective centres is undertaken as planned, after which they make way to visit other schools identifying and teaching students the skills and techniques of hockey, while at the same time educating the school PE teachers and providing them with guidelines to further train the students in the sport.

Excellence in hockey

Apart from the grassroots programs running in government schools, RDT has been running a Hockey Academy at its Anantapur Sports Village (ASV) for talented girls and boys to pursue the sport at its highest levels since 2007. The athletes here are provided the very best support to hone their talent, including quality infrastructure and coaching, education support and a comprehensive nutrition program.

RDT currently runs its Hockey Academy with 30 boys and 30 girls on two separate dedicated hockey pitches at its ASV facility, training for two hours twice a day, six days a week. The boys train under Mr. Laxmi Narayana, while the girls train under S. Anil Kumar. Hockey is the one sport at the ASV that has the distinction of being home to equal number of female athletes, along with having a separate coach for the female athletes.

The Boys Coach at the Academy, Mr. Laxmi Narayana, says that the Anantapur district has a lot of talent in Hockey that needs to be nurtured. A testament of this is the fact that seven academy athletes have joined the Indian Army and three have joined the Sports Authority of India to further pursue their Hockey ambitions.

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RDT’s latest Hockey camp at Dharmavaram

Tournaments and camps

Seeing the enthusiasm for hockey, in 2007, RDT rolled out a District League for boys, whereas a League for girls began in 2010. The league, called the Fr. Vicente Ferrer Memorial Hockey Tournament, has been named in memory of the founder of RDT, Fr. Vicente Ferrer. Another tournament, the Fr. Vicente Ferrer Memorial Rayalaseema League, sees the best teams from the districts of Kurnool, Chittoor, Kadapa and Anantapur lock horns at the ASV for top honours.

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 Action during RDT’s Fr. Vicente Ferrer Memorial Hockey Tournament

RDT also organizes an Open tournament by the name of RDT Invitational Hockey Tournament that brings Hockey its much needed exposure in the region of Anantapur.

Apart from this Andreu Enrich, who initiated this Hockey program at RDT in Anantapur, runs an annual camp at the ASV, with the help of compatriot Santi Friexa, captain of the Spanish national field hockey side, along with assistance of Indian international players too.

Hockey is doing very well for its current standing in the district of Anantapur, courtesy of RDT’s prolonged efforts to develop a culture for the sport, starting right at the grassroots. Taking into account the development of Hockey in the district, the performance of the athletes over the years and a continual effort for the betterment of the sport, RDT’s future plans involve investing in a Synthetic Turf Pitch for the ASV to truly create a world-class Hockey program.

About the Rural Development Trust (RDT)

RDT is a non-governmental organization, founded by Vicente Ferrer and Anne Ferrer in 1969 in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.

RDT has been carrying out various need-based welfare and integrated programs of development to improve quality of life of rural poor, especially marginalized and underprivileged sections. The organization’s interventions cover major sectors such as education, women empowerment, community health, hospitals, ecology, cultural and sports.

RDT believes that youth participation in sports is very much necessary for the growth, self-esteem and confidence of rural children and has been undertaking suitable initiatives to bring out hidden talents of rural children in different sporting disciplines.

As part of their long-term development plan, to nurture the talent of rural children, RDT has built the “Anantapur Sports Village” (ASV) in the year 2002 on the outskirts of the city. The sports village is considered to be one of the best venues equipped with modern amenities and infrastructure which are on par with national and international standards.

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