City children's interest in hockey is increasingly receding, which is clear from the fact that out of 30 players training at the Malwa Hockey Academy, currently; only four are from Ludhiana, while the rest are from other districts of Punjab.
Established in 2006, Malwa Hockey Academy, Model Gram, trains players to participate in the under-14 and under-16 category tournaments, at the AstroTurf of Prithipal Hockey Stadium on Punjab Agricultural University campus.
In a bid to encourage more children to take up hockey, the academy also has a provision for students, who come from other districts to take training here, to take admission at Malwa Khalsa School Senior Secondary Model School, Model Gram, to pursue their studies. Besides, the academy also runs a hostel for these students on the school's premises.
However, despite the facilities, the academy has received a lacklustre response from city's children, which can be attributed to attitude of parents and schools, who want children to first excel in academics. Besides, the sports department has also failed to promote the game.
A hockey player, Taranjeet Singh, said, "The main reason for less participation from the city is that most trials are conducted at Jalandhar, and usually selectors prefer players from other districts. Even the coaches lack skills, and thus, cannot prepare grassroots-level players for international level. On the other hand, craze for other games is increasing among the youth, while hockey is being neglected."
Jagbeer Grewal, one of the members of the Malwa Hockey Academy, said, "We function very flexibly to encourage participation. Any city child can appear for the trials at the academy for getting enrolled for hockey, but the response in Ludhiana is very low. Moreover, the training does not affect students' studies, as the training is held in morning and evening."
"On the other hand, we have talented children, who want to pursue their passion of playing hockey, getting training here from other areas of Punjab. We conduct trials and players are selected, enrolled and further provided with best training. Laying emphasis on the promotion of certain games and leaving aside others can also be gauged as one of the significant reasons of receding interest in the game," Grewal said.
Tejdeep Singh Bhalla, another member of the academy, said, "Though the academy is merely seven years old, it has produced several players, who currently or in the past have represented the Indian hockey team. Considering the current scenario, the children of the city do not seem to be interested in the sport. The passion for the game among the youth is gradually dying, as enough momentum is not being given by the authorities."
Sukhwinder Singh, a coach at the academy, said, "There was another academy at Arya College for Men, but after running successfully for years, it shutdown due to financial crisis. We are trying to hold more trials and fetch as many players from the district as possible. We organise regular training camps to provide best training to the players."