When one crosses the Chaderghat bridge and takes left towards the Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station, there stands on the right the Victory Play Ground. Very few people know that, like Chaderghat bridge, the playground too belongs to Nizam’s legacy and is dedicated to the cause of promoting sports and honing talent.
VPG, as it is popularly known, serves as one of the finest training centres for a variety of sports and martial arts in the city. This combined with experienced coaches and affordable fee is a boon for the youngsters of the city which is increasingly becoming a concrete jungle with no open spaces.
VPG is only such municipal play ground in the city which has trainers coaching students in more than a dozen disciplines. Initially a volleyball and cricket centre, it was developed to accommodate more sports in 2003, by way of construction of an indoor stadium and by introduction of martial arts coaching.
Martial arts that are taught here include kickboxing, Thai kickboxing, Wushu, karate and Sqay, a form of Kashmiri martial art. The sports and games for which coaching is provided here include basketball, cricket, table tennis, boxing, Sepak takraw, volleyball, skating, carom and chess. Fee for learning a particular sport depends on whether the coach is a contract employee of the GHMC or its salaried employee. The fee per month is Rs. 175 for the former and Rs. 25 for the latter. One observable trend at VPG is that most of the coaches here had started off as students on the same ground. O.Kishore, kickboxing coach for four years says, “I learnt kickboxing for five years at VPG. I had decided I would coach others who are interested in kickboxing and making a career out of it”. His students, he proudly reveals, won nine gold medals in the recently concluded State-level kickboxing meet at Karimnagar.
But all is not well at VPG now. Mere 20-25 students constitute a batch for any sport and the number of regular students is much lesser. “We start as early as 5.30 a.m. so that we can take classes for at least two hours. But the schools and colleges start much early nowadays due to which not many students join even if they are interested and those who come are always in a hurry to leave soon,” cites P. Ashok, Sqay coach.
Amrit Raj, former national basketball player and presently the coach at VPG, says, “in order to excel at any sport one has to spend at least two hours per day on training. But none of the students, even the enthusiastic ones, can afford that much time and energy these days.”
He further says, “when it comes to the State and national level competitions, teams are categorised under different age groups that compete with each other. As the number of students who are regular and dedicated is less, VPG cannot contribute players to the various categories. A few years back, the scenario was not the same”.