“Imagine the situation – 170 players and just 60 hockey sticks. These children patiently wait for their turn. This happens all the time. But, they are passionate about the game and this inspires them to come to the ground and practice every single day,” Avinash Upadhyay says.
They believe that their hard work will pay off one day, he says.
Challenges That These Players Have to Deal WithThe small town of Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, is home to several hockey players from underprivileged backgrounds.
Like Sagu, Priyanka Chandrawat, Neelu Dadiya, Sangeeta Bhabhor, Kirti and Astha Borasi, have all recently won accolades in hockey for Madhya Pradesh. In Upadhyay’s coaching term, about 200 players have made to the national games and there have been around 30 national medalists.
Poverty, lack of equipment and specialised support staff, bad pitches are a few of the difficulties these players have to face.
“We don’t have proper equipment. These players play with wooden sticks. If they can play so well with them, I can only imagine their performance if they get to play with the highly popular graphite sticks,” Upadhayay says.
In the absence of other equipment, the coach ensures to make them exercise with desi techniques. He gets the car tyres that aren't of any use from the garage next to his home. “The tire-based exercises help train the legs, thereby adding strength and agility to the entire body,” he says.
The Passion for SportAfter an entire day’s hard work, these girls come for practice every day from 4 to 7 in the evening.
Upadhyay, who's also a former national hockey player, said there has not been a single day when the girls have missed a practice game. “It’s inspiring to see how a lot of parents have been supportive. They come to drop their children on cycles and pick them up every day after practice. What more can I ask from them?” says Upadhyay.
These players need thorough training and equipment to acquire the needed skills and develop the game suited for national and international level, he adds.
Upadhyay has been training rural children of Mandsaur for about 23 years now and he has never looked back. Once directionless, brilliant hockey players have emerged from the rural village of Mandsaur owing to Upadhyay’s efforts. You can provide him with the needed financial support and help him maximize his efforts.