Twelve years ago, when he realised that Wynad was running aimlessly in volleyball, V.M. Ashokan decided to work on an academy with a few of his friends. The Kalloor Academy came into being.
“Wynad was very weak in volleyball, I wanted to strengthen the district,” said Ashokan at the Panchayat Stadium here on Monday. “Parents chipped in with funds and money came through other well-wishers too.”
Over 200 players were trained at the centre, near Sultan Bathery, and many from poor families landed Government jobs and admission into some of the State’s prestigious colleges. That, however, did not make Wynad a strong force in the sport. For, with colleges in Kottayam, Kannur and Kozhikode frequently grabbing the talent that kept showing up at the Kalloor centre, Wynad did not take a big leap forward.
Focus on grassroots
But two years ago, Sultan Bathery’s St. Mary’s College and School started a new academy and brought in Ashokan, a former Wynad captain, as its coach.
Girls from the eighth standard and up to plus two levels were picked, given free boarding, lodging and training throughout the year. The stress was on the grassroots-level and the plan was to make the academy as a feeder centre for the St. Mary’s College in the long run.
It is now churning out impressive results for the district too. The Wynad girls won the State junior, sub-junior and mini championships over the last few weeks, with the mini title coming at Kondotty in Malappuram on Sunday.
“It’s the first time, we are winning so many State titles in a season,” said Ashokan.
And the girls suddenly find home attractive. “Now, our children want to stay here because they see a future in St. Mary’s College and in Wynad. And the college management takes good care of them because it looks at these girls as future stars of its team,” said Ashokan who coaches 32 girls at the centre.
“Last year, 14 children from Wynad represented the State at the Nationals. The number has gone up to nearly 20 this year.”
“They don’t want to come now because of the long distance from Wynad to colleges in Kottayam and other districts,” said Anilkumar, the volleyball coach at Changanassery’s Assumption College.
Unlike colleges and schools which look for ready-made stars, the St. Mary’s centre searches for raw talent. “And we always search for girls with height,” explained Ashokan.
And it’s very clear…the Wynad girls are getting taller!