Hockey was once a dominant sport in Coimbatore.

Not any more.

There are not many takers for this sport, which once fetched the country eight Olympic gold medals.

With a view to promote the sport and especially to encourage the youngster to take part in it, Sri Shakthi Institute of Engineering Technology has set up an academy of its own.

It has roped in Olympian Vasudevan Baskaran, the former India captain and coach, for the job.

The ‘Olympian Baskaran — Sri Shakthi Hockey Academy’, to be inaugurated on Friday by another former India captain Dhanraj Pillay, will target the under-14 age group boys and girls. “It was small discussions and a couple of visits that lead to the formation of this Academy. When the proposal was put forth by its chairman [S. Thangavelu], I suggested we will start with a few tournaments. But, he wanted an academy at all cost,” said Baskaran, its director.

“I felt it was a good idea to set up one in my own State. Also, no professional college has got a hockey academy of this kind,” he added.

Baskaran, the gold medal winning captain of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, said he agreed mainly because he saw sound infrastructure in place, professionalism and sincerity in approach by both Thangavelu, and Dheepan Thangavelu (secretary of the college).

“Initially, I wanted to join as a visiting faculty but thought otherwise. It was also nice to see that a college from Tamil Nadu showing so much interest.”

The academy aims to attract young talent from Coimbatore and its neighbouring districts and provide them with the platform to grow.

“Coimbatore had talented stars in Sivanandam, Ramakrishna, Shanmugam, and recently Adam Sinclair. Also schools such as Stanes AIHSS and Mani HSS promoted hockey in a big way. Even there were many State players from The Nilgiris. Incidentally, the first Indian camp for the 1964 Olympics was also held there.”

“We will try to bring such memories back and mould star players out of these children. We plan to start of with weekend sessions from July. We will improve upon the attendance and then increase the sessions,” said Baskaran, who vows to make it full-fledged in two years.

“There is no room for luxury for any sport or any subject. We will have to start from scratch. It may not be successful or attractive but it can yield the best results. I want these children playing tournaments in two years. It is possible and I am going to put in a lot of effort,” he added.

Besides scouting young talent, Baskaran also aims to pick coaches from Coimbatore and The Nilgiris and upgrade them.

“We will try to involve the current India players and national players from the State in the academy.”

About the training methods, he said we always play eleven-a-side. “But I am thinking of training them indoors as well. I want everybody to get a chance and improve upon their passing and scoring skills. We can even set up side boards and play wall pass. I have got enough such ideas in my bag.”

Baskaran said he planned one such academy when he was 40.

“Unfortunately, nobody came forward. Even if they did, it was only temporary. In fact, I was a little ashamed when the current Spanish captain started an academy in Anantpur three years ago. But I am a happy man now.”

The college has its eyes on the future.

To set up AstroTurf in two years and incrementally but steadily contribute to the resurgence of the national sport.

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