JUDE FELIX HOCKEY ACADEMY: PROMOTING HOCKEY AMONGST THE UNDERPRIVILEGED AND MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR LIVES
“Here’s Mr. Shanmugham P.’s story, Coach and Trustee of “Jude Felix Hockey Academy”- a Charitable Trust that uses Hockey sport as a medium to nurture life skills among underprivileged children.”
How did you get started on your philanthropy journey?
I have been working with underprivileged children since 2001. There was an organization named “Dream a Dream”, which helped the children enroll with Dhanraj Ballal Hockey Academy. The Academy was operating from a stadium, and I used to see many children coming there to learn Hockey. They aimed to train young players and rejuvenate Hockey at the grass-root level.
One day, Arjuna Awardee Ashish Ballal asked me, if I can coach the children as they didn’t have any good resource. I thought the best way to give back to society would be through what I know the best i.e Hockey.
So I started coaching those children. I continued polishing my coaching skills while training them and that’s how my journey started. I was with this academy till 2008.
One day, an Arjuna Awardee, former Indian captain and Olympian Jude Felix, came to give away Christmas gifts at the St. Mary’s orphanage. It was then that he asked me, “Why don’t you start a hockey program for the children?”
As I was already working with underprivileged children, I knew how sports could make a difference to their lives. So, I said yes. We formed a trust and started working together in 2009. Today, I have completed more than 11 years with Jude Felix Hockey Academy (JFHA).
Since then, I have reached many levels in hockey. I have been called for international coaching. I have coached the Qatar National Hockey team. I have led national camps and professional leagues. Now, I am coaching the Canara Bank Hockey team. I have been successful in the local circuits and won championships for the Karnataka state. All the credit goes to the children whom I have trained.
Please tell us about the success on this journey?
The journey was challenging. When we started this program, we didn’t have shoes for the children. One day, we received a big box with 100 pairs of shoes of mixed sizes. It was then I realized that miracles do happen. Many good people joined us and our journey continued.
I didn’t know how to run an academy, draft a proposal, write emails-letters or even conduct auditing. I started learning slowly, step by step. A taxi driver in Singapore sent me a laptop and I started using it for office work.
I used to travel around, talk to people to gather suggestions for the betterment of the children. We started distributing glucose packets and biscuits to children as refreshments. Gradually, we added a banana, and now we are giving an egg to them as well.
We work with children on developing many skills, like time management, personal hygiene, interpersonal relationships, managing stress, decision making, and problem-solving skills, etc. We believe in the holistic development of the children. We help them to face challenges and learn life skills through the game of Hockey.
We have seen the children’s passion and commitment towards Hockey. Many children changed their lives after getting associated with our academy. They learn to build self-esteem, getting along with their friends and setting goals, something which only sports can teach them.
They come from various backgrounds, like they can be children of convicts, children from run-away parents, or victims of any societal problems. We don’t reveal the student’s background.
There is a basic registration form to be filled by the student to enroll in the academy. We explain the program to the parents. We don’t charge any fees. We are not here to make money and we are clear on this. We ask them to donate as per their wish. If they cannot donate anything, we ask them to do some work for the academy related to their profession.
Also, we never differentiate between players based on their physical capabilities. We don’t discourage children who may be suffering from any physical deficiency from playing the sport. For example, one of our students has a limb amputation. So we made him goalkeeper as it requires only legs. He has started training, and we are planning to take him to the Paralympics event.
The total strength of the academy is close to 60. Around 10 boys and girls have represented the state in the junior and senior levels.
There are many success stories among our children. There is a boy named Bosco, who failed in 10th standard. We helped him continue education and complete graduation. Once, our volunteers went to play a tournament in the Middle East, and they helped some boys get recruited there. Bosco got a job there and he has been working for over 3 years. He still plays hockey there.
There is one more boy named Rajendra, he had a lot of issues with his parents. He had once quit Hockey to earn a living, but we succeeded in getting him back and continued to coach him. Since then he has played many Open Leagues and now he is playing for my Canara Bank team. Rajendra was signed up by the Racing club de France in 2019 for the second half of the French National League from Feb to May 2019. His journey is a huge achievement for Jude Felix Hockey Academy (JFHA).
If a student is not good in sports, we help them to do some vocational courses and continue their education. There is a boy named Praveen from Tamil Nadu, he is a brilliant student. He has enrolled in engineering and now he is in his 6th semester. A bright future is waiting for him.
If the youngsters like them put up the hard work, and the people around them give them an appropriate environment, then things can change. They will become better citizens and go on to help some other people.
JFHA has succeeded in partnering with St. Mary’s Orphanage, Maria Niketan School, Fiberlink and Swiss Re to promote hockey among underprivileged children.
Since 2009, the academy has touched over 1400 individuals, which includes students, volunteers, coaches, and veterans.
In the last 2 years, JFHA has trained 235 players, of which 35 players have been identified as star players.
What are your future plans?
We have understood the formal coaching process and now we want to scale up and mainstream coaching. We’re already doing mainstream coaching, with some students even coming to us from abroad.
We need good funding to own or rent a place to ensure uninterrupted training for more children. We are ready to partner with corporates or government bodies, who can help us make impact through this sport at the grass-root level.
There are some volunteers who donate on a monthly basis. We also organize fund-raising events like summer camps and tournaments for underprivileged children.
Five years ago, we participated in the TCS World 10K Marathon to raise funds. This year, again we have registered for a marathon. I will lead from the front, and the target is to generate about Rs. 10 Lakhs in order to sustain the current program and enroll new children.
We have identified a home, where there are about 20 girls between the ages of 7 to 10 years. We are looking forward to train them in Hockey, all we need is some funds.
We are planning to hire an administrator who will be responsible for management, accounts, etc. We already have a full-time coach, who is getting paid for his services. We are also looking for merchandising hockey sticks, t-shirts, etc.
How can someone work with you or join you?
The academy model is developed on volunteer participation. This academy was started with only 2 volunteers and presently we have around 45 volunteers. On many occasions, some people have come forward and helped us. But we need a continuous source of funds.
We are eligible for CSR funding as we fulfill all the requirements. We are looking for a partner, who believes in our cause and supports our program whole-heartedly.
Recently, we have been identified by Apollo CSR, and JFHA was honored in ISL (Indian Soccer League) matches on January 9th 2020. They identified 20 people or groups across the country who are making a difference in society. There was a one-and-a-half-minute video which was shown all over the world, and our program was recognized in it. JFHA was felicitated as one of Apollo Tyres ‘Go the Distance Heroes’ for positively impacting the Indian sporting ecosystem.
We have understood the sports part, and now we are learning the business part. We have a Social entrepreneurial model, where we want to make profit, which will eventually go back to the underprivileged again. We are strictly following the rules and regulations related to this.
We also provide consultation services to build hockey teams. We often nominate speakers for motivational or leadership talks in institutes or organizations. I have addressed many college students, myself.
We also offer internship programs, to give children and young adults an opportunity to work with us, learn and take back a life- changing experience.
Money is not everything to do something. If you have the passion, then start working, put all your efforts, set your dreams and find people of same wavelength, who can work with you for the cause.