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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

From rock climbing to artificial turfs for hockey: How Mumbai schools train aspiring athletes

Institutes in Mumbai are no longer going old school, but investing in modern sports facilities

mumbai Updated: Sep 26, 2017 17:35 IST
Shreya Bhandary
Shreya Bhandary
Hindustan Times
St Andrew’s High School, Bandra, has four FIFA-approved football turfs.
St Andrew’s High School, Bandra, has four FIFA-approved football turfs.(HT)

While students at other schools are usually in their classrooms by 7:30am, St Stanislaus High School in Bandra allows its pupils get their uniforms dirty at the ground, playing hockey, basketball and volleyball.

At the school, one of the giants in Mumbai’s sports circuit, students start the day with sports, followed by regular classes only after 9am. The institute aims to give students the best of coaching in a sport of their choice.

“At our school, sports is on par with academics. Our children are introduced to various sports as young as eight and nine, to give them a chance to find a sport they like,” said Anna Correa, principal.

Founded more than 150 years ago, the institute, which is one of the oldest in the city, is investing in modern sports facilities. With its 2.2-acre playground, it is one of few that have the space to accommodate sporting activities. As such, it spent lakhs of rupees to replace a grass field with artificial turf for students to play hockey. An artificial turf uses synthetic fibre made to look like natural grass and is commonly used by hockey and football players. The turf is encircled by a running track, which caters to athletic students. The school’s basketball and volleyball courts are set to get a facelift with the installation of slip-resistant flooring, on par with international standards.

However, even for a school known for its sporting prowess, this did not come easy. “We had to convince our management. They soon agreed that this was what was best for our students,” added Correa.

The school has produced national players such as Francis D’Mello, Marcellus Gomes and Viren Rasquinha, and will continue to do so, she added.

The institute has now started work on a hockey ground, the top of which will be ready in a few months. Following this, reconstruction work on the school’s basketball and volleyball courts will begin.

“The safety of our students was the prime motivation behind our shift from a regular ground to an artificial turf,” said Radhika Sinha, principal of Aditya Birla World Academy, Tardeo, set up in 2008-09.

She added that the school introduced the turf in 2015 to reduce the chances of injuries. The school also tries to encourage unconventional sports such as rock climbing.

“The artificial turf beneath the rock climbing wall ensures that our students are safe. As the turf is flat, students who use it to play football say the quality of their game has been enhanced,” said Sinha.

One of the first schools to invest in modern sports facilities was St Andrew’s High School, Bandra. In 2016, it created four FIFA-approved football turfs, each 5,400 sq feet each. The move was aimed at facilitating a variation of football that has five players on each side. A smaller pitch and an FIH-approved 11-a-side hockey turf of 24,000 sq feet were imported from a firm in the Netherlands.

Goregaon’s Oberoi International School boasts of a multi-purpose court for older students and three smaller playing areas for the younger kids, all made of acrylic cushion system flooring. “We aim to provide state-of-the-art facilities so students benefit. The ground is a seamless, flat surface, which reduces abrasions and wear and tear,” said the school spokesperson.

As the concept of an artificial turf is still new to city schools, beginners find maintaining these fields challenging. While gardeners can use mowers or weeding machines to maintain a grass ground, artificial turfs require professionals to keep them in shape. Schools said it gets easier to maintain such turfs with time.

“It is definitely easier to maintain an artificial turf than it is to look after a real ground. The turf retains its durability and colour over a long time. There is no need to mow it or eradicate weeds. It is eco-friendly as it requires no electric-powered equipment or pesticides,” said Sinha. She added that as it as an all-weather material, it is ideal for use during the monsoon.

First Published: Sep 25, 2017 13:07 IST

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