BENGALURU:For about 70 children from St Mary’s Orphanage at Cooke Town, Bengaluru, 6 am to 8.30 am is the duration when they understand life in a new way. They assemble at the orphanage’s ground to play hockey. For the lot, whose lives have been clutched by tragedy, it is not just a sport of netting the ball, it is learning to tackle problems, unleash anger, embrace joy, forget fear, lift courage and seize opportunities. They abandon loneliness, coming together as an exulted team trained under the able guidance of coaches from Jude Felix Hockey Academy (JFHA).
Started in 2009 by Jude Felix, an Arjuna awardee, former captain and coach of the Indian National hockey team, and currently the coach for National Juniors, it was his fidelity to a worthy purpose, to correct their innocent infirmities, which encouraged children of the orphanage to keep going even during their emotional adversities.
After his tenure with the National hockey team, Jude fostered his dream of not just putting talent into souls of deprived children, but eliciting it, for he believed talent was already there. The realisation came through in 2008 when he visited St. Mary’s Orphanage. “When the priest and others realised that I nurtured a dream, they were ready to give their ground for training children. It all fell in place. The kids were there, the school was beside, the playground was available, and the church was willing,” he says and adds that the ground was later developed to playing conditions.
According to Jude, the initiative was started thinking that they only have to teach hockey, but he later realised that it was a much bigger responsibility. “From small things like pure drinking water to personal hygiene and bigger traits like time management, discipline and honesty, communication skills and above all academic performance also came along as a responsibility. We also provide financial support for their education,” he says.
Completely driven by volunteers, spearheaded by Shanmugham Pandurangan, who played for the National and State teams in the late 1990s, their mission is to develop hockey at the grassroots and nurture vulnerable children.Presently, JFHA has a volunteer base of 45. “The initiative has rejuvenated many veterans who have joined hands to train the kids,” says Shanmugham, who is the Hon. Secretary, Trustee & Coach.
Children above 18 years have passed out of the orphanage but remain engaged with JFHA for training, coaching and volunteering. The children, all boys, live at the orphanage and study at the Maria Niketan School. Girls and a few boys come from around the community.
“We have a social audit to assess the impact made by us. We have not hit it big, but with whatever donations we get, we have ensured that there is enough transparency,” says Verghese K John, another trustee and a former national hockey player.
According to them, the academy never received any assistance either from Sports Authority of India, the state federation or the district association. “If we had the support, we could have changed the landscape of hockey,” Shanmugam asserts.
JFHA is in talks with people abroad for exposure trips for their children. They plan to increase operational efficiency and improve hockey training. JFHA is also focusing on providing more training on synthetic pitch and plans to owning one for training purposes.
70 Children from the orphanage are trained of the total 220
10-18 years: The age group of children from the orphanage undergoing training
1,400 Individuals including students, coaches, volunteers and veterans directly introduced to and associated with hockey since inception
235 Players trained in the last two years, of whom 35 have been identified as star players
4 Students represented Junior Nationals at Bhopal in April-May 2018 including a girl
3 Students selected to represent Hockey Karnataka Seniors in the Seniors ‘A’ Division Nationals held at Lucknow in March 2018