New Delhi: Hockey is fast becoming a popular sport in Jammu and Kashmir, especially among youngsters, courtesy of initiatives by Hockey Jammu & Kashmir and Jammu & Kashmir Sports Council.
Among several programs launched by the State Member Unit to draw the attention of youth towards the sport includes providing proper infrastructure to trainees, organising coaching camps and tournaments at regular intervals in the Union Territory. They are also promoting the sport through different mediums like social media, advertisements, etc.
Supinder Deep Singh Bakshi, General Secretary of Hockey Jammu and Kashmir, provided a detailed description of how hockey is not only flourishing in the UT but also providing positive direction and ample opportunities to young players.
“First of all, we are focusing on the development of hockey infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir. Nowadays, hockey is played on Astroturf instead of natural turf (grass) and given the fact that there was only one Astroturf in Jammu and Kashmir, hockey in the UT suffered a great deal. However, last year the J&K Sports Council decided to set up more Astroturfs in different districts of Jammu and Kashmir,” Bakshi said.
“Recently, three new Astroturfs were laid down – one in Pulwama and two in Srinagar and youngsters have already started practising on them. Moreover, 2-3 Astroturfs are under construction and will be made operational in a couple of months,” he added.
In the recent past, Hockey J&K has successfully conducted numerous tournaments across age categories in different districts despite facing challenges like extreme weather conditions and high-security situations in the UT.
In March this year, Senior Hockey Tournament (Men) was organised at Astroturf Hockey Stadium in District Jammu by Hockey J&K and sponsored by J&K Sports Council, while in April, Junior Hockey Tournament (Men) was organized in Jammu and it saw the participation of eight teams.
Notably, these local tournaments align with Hockey India’s visionary program – ‘Hockey India ka Abhiyan Har Ghar Ho Hockey Ki Pehchan’ which was unveiled recently to promote the sport in regions where hockey is not so popular. The initiative also focuses on scouting and nurturing young talents.
Speaking on the same, Bakshi said, “It’s a great initiative by Hockey India and to serve the purpose
of the same, we have decided to provide hockey coaches to schools and other institutions that are located in remote areas of J&K to impart training and skills to students and revive the sport at such places.”
Further talking about developing hockey at every level in J&K, Bakshi said, “We recently conducted some good tournaments across age groups and that too on Astroturfs. They witnessed the participation of around 150-200 players. Moreover, hockey training camps are being held regularly in Jammu, while in Kashmir, tournaments and training camps will commence shortly with summer fast approaching in the region.”
“We also organise hockey events in other districts like Kathua, Poonch, etc. We have so far witnessed participation of 600-700 players across tournaments and training camps which took place in various districts of J&K. We are also actively searching for sponsors who can help us cover the remaining districts where hockey is yet to take off,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bakshi revealed that Hockey J&K will organise a Senior Hockey Tournament (Men) at
KK Hakku Hockey Stadium in Jammu in the first week of May and it will be sponsored by J&K Sports Council. Moreover, hockey equipment including sticks, balls, and other essential items which were recently provided by Hockey India to its State Member Units, will be distributed among players on the inaugural or final day of the tournament, which will see the participation of eight teams.
Also, Bakshi highlighted how hockey is helping those youngsters who come from troubled regions of Jammu and Kashmir and are vulnerable to violence.
“Hockey is playing an instrumental role in putting the youngsters of J&K on the right track. Anyone who plays hockey has his/her mind fully dedicated towards the sport and does not get distracted by irrelevant things. To date, we haven’t heard of any hockey player from the UT involved in any kind of unlawful activity,” Bakshi said.
“Also, to make sure that hockey gains popularity in the maximum regions of J&K and to encourage young kids to take up the sport, we post advertisements in newspapers, social media, and put-up hoardings at various locations days before conducting any local tournament. These tactics are definitely helpful as we have observed that more and more youngsters are now enrolling themselves in hockey training camps and parents are also pushing their children to take up the sport. We also meet senior officials from the J&K Government every now and again to discuss the possibility of creating departmental hockey teams of various organisations which will generate employment opportunities for players,” he signed off.