CHENNAI:When the skies opened up above the Government Higher Secondary School in Thoraipakkam on Thursday evening, none of the students wanted to leave. Over a 100 students were playing their favourite sports in the playground, an hour after school. Within minutes after the skies cleared, they resumed practice.
It is no wonder that the school produces some of the best athletes in Kancheepuram district — nine of the twelve girls who represented Tamil Nadu in the fourth edition of the Junior National Rugby Sevens that was recently held in Madurai, were from this school.
Although they finished at fourth place this time, the girls had struck gold in the under-14 national championship and bronze in the under-19 national championship held last year. One of the team members, V Anitha, recently attended the National Training Camp for the Asian Games.
The game is not famous in the city, yet. The reason that the school’s rugby girls shine, they say, is because of four people — Dhanalakshmi, headmistress; VK Murugezhilan, PT teacher, Arul Venkatesan of the Tamil Nadu Rugby Football Union, who is also their rugby coach, and A Malavan, Physics teacher.
While the headmistress is known to encourage students to play new sports and sometimes shell a few thousands from her own pocket when the students go for tournaments, the ‘PT sir’, as the students call him, is their pillar of strength. “He comes early in the morning, picks some students on his bike and drops them off if it gets too late after practice. Initially, a lot of people were apprehensive about letting the girls play until late night, but the reason they freely play is because of the PT teacher,” said Malavan, referring to Murugezhilan.
Students said Malavan takes a keen interest in sports despite being a Physics teacher. He stays with them until practice gets over and makes sure all their equipments are in order.Arul Venkatesan, a national champ himself, is more of a brother to the students than a coach. That’s the reason the girls are motivated, said Malavan. “He and his team take the students out for a treat after a win. They do everything they can to make them play comfortably,” he added.
Girls of the moment
Priya R and Ramya S, both 13 years old and both, to their advantage, tiny for their age, run like there is no tomorrow. During the initial selections, the school identified fast runners and then trained them in rugby.
“My parents are happy that I’m playing although they don’t know much about the game,” said Priya. Her father is a painter and mother, a store supervisor. Meanwhile, Ramya’s father is an auto driver and mother, a domestic help.
Although the girls ensure they don’t miss their games and practices, their teachers said that they do well academically too.K Lalitha, a class 12 student said, “It’s not too difficult to balance studying and playing. Our parents also understand.”
School for champs
The school, which has a total strength of 2,162, mainly has students who were resettled from their homes to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board settlements in the outskirts- Perumbakkam, Kannagi Nagar and Semmenchery.