KOCHI: When it comes to hockey, the likes of Manuel Frederick, PR Sreejesh and Dinesh Nayak are the famous names hailing from the state. However, within the hockey fraternity in Kerala, the name Sreedhar Shenoy holds a special place and is regarded among the people to have popularised the sport.
Shenoy is a hockey coach from Kerala who earned the nickname 'Dronacharya of Kerala hockey' thanks to his relentless work with children at the grassroots level.
The 72-year-old passed away on Sunday due to stomach ailments but has left a lasting legacy on many generations of hockey players from the state.
"I think that it is through him that there was a hockey revolution in Kerala. My coaches were among those who were trained by him and it was through him that hockey found its root in Kerala. At a time when football and cricket were popular in Kerala, he introduced hockey and made kids fall in love with it. He always tried to help hockey players get some recognition and I remember how he would always come to receive the hockey players from Kerala after some important tournaments. He was always there for us," said Indian team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.
Shenoy's work primarily involved with school kids and many tales have been formed about how he cycled from one school to another school across Ernakulam to teach hockey to children. After passing out from the National Institute of Sports in Patiala in the 70s, he joined the Kerala Sports Council as a coach.
What followed was a relentless drive to impart hockey lessons to school students and he produced the likes of Olympian Dinesh Nayak, Sreejesh's coaches Jayakumar and Ramesh Kolappa, Sports Authority of India coach Ali Sabir.
He is also credited with nurturing the majority of hockey coaches in the state and many players who have gone onto play for Air India, Indian Railways and Services.
"He was my first coach and he taught me my early lessons. I'm everything because of him and he was my inspiration. He used to have thousands of students and he took care of them. He never managed to get the recognition he deserved but he dedicated his whole life to hockey," said Dilip Nayak.
After his retirement from the sports council in 2003, he served as the Technical Director of Kerala and also as the chairman of the selection committee besides his involvement with the RS Shenoy's School of Hockey.
But grooming youngsters remained his biggest motivation.
"There was no one better than him when it came to grassroots coaching in all of South India. He was really good at training kids who were just starting out. He believed that if the basics were sound, then one could always build on it and if the basics were not right, then it would be difficult to develop later. A lot of hockey's popularity in Kerala is because of him," said former Kerala captain Sunil Emmatty.
He is survived by wife Dhanalakshmi and daughter Divya.