Former Pembroke, Corinthian and UCD man John McInroy has been keeping himself busy since completing his coaching duties with the students at the end of last term, joining up with the Stick for India crew in Anantapur.
Stick for India is a project founded and driven by Spanish internationals Andreu Enrich and Santi Freixa since 2005 and forms part of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation.
The group’s aim is to use the sport as a social development tool for the children in Anantapur, one of the poorest regions in India, giving them the benefits of teamwork, a healthy life, empathy, emotional intelligence and training sacrifices.
After three years of continuous work in the district, more than 600 boys and girls are enjoying the sport in their lives. We have sponsored schools, organized hockey camps, coached Indian trainers, created a hockey academy and improved sport infrastructures of the local centers.
McInroy linked up with the Spaniards this summer to help with the programme and bore witness to what he called their “amazing work”.
“I saw the impact this foundation is having in Anantapur with my own eyes, and met some amazing Indian children as well as volunteers (mainly from Spain) during my time living on the FVF campus.
The hockey academy as it stands comprises of 20 girls players and 30 boys chosen from the rural area and its surrounds, along with two full time Indian hockey coaches. The girl’s academy is only a recent development and the kids range from age 11 -17.
And its effects, McInroy says has been impressibe: “It was incredible to think that most of these girls had only been playing hockey for two months! These kids really could play and the benefit of four hours training per day, six days a week was plain to see!
“I don’t know many international hockey players who train this much, and if they ever do, the amount of complaining would be crazy. Not these kids! Their desire to learn and make the most out of every opportunity that presents itself is truly inspirational and energising.
“There is also a strong level of planning in their weekly programs to ensure they do not burn out; often playing other ‘fun’ alternate sports to change things up and develop other skills, strictly resting players when they are tired or sick, continually trying new things to keep their learning fresh.
“I really was impressed to see the effort and thought that goes in, and of course the kids also benefit from the various international players – like Santi, Andreu and Quico Cortes who were there at the same time as me – that spend time at the academy when their schedule allows it which is crucial in developing the players and coaches with the latest ideas from further afield. And certainly it sparks much excitement amongst everyone to do with the project.”
One of the aims of the academy is to develop future Indian hockey stars and its next big drive is to lay an Astroturf for the academy.
McInroy continues: “Having seen the level of the children I have no doubt we will see an Indian international player from Stick for India in the not too distant future.
“However, the more far reaching impact for these kids and overarching goal for the project, is to provide these rural Indian children with a sound base to believe they can achieve something in their lives.
“The kids here are educated through the academy and have strict academic expectations they must meet, and living, eating, learning, playing a team sport together really gives them the opportunity to learn some valuable life lessons that will serve them well in the future.
“Some of these children are not even guaranteed three meals a day in their family homes, so this, together with their attitudes really makes you see how special this project is.”