Kanagalatha owes her identity to this sport. And she cannot imagine not being associated with it, writes LIFFY THOMAS
On a Sunday, if the shouts of ‘kabaddi! kabaddi!’ do not die down after a couple of hours at Avvai Home T.V.R. Girls Higher Secondary School, neighbours know a tournament is on the way. They figure out that the students are hard at practice.
This school in Adyar is known for its achievements in kabbadi. For the last three years, over 30 students have been participating in zonal, district and state level tournaments and winning laurels for the school. All credit to V. Kanagalatha, physical education teacher at the school for the last 16 years and a national coach in kabaddi, volleyball and throwball.
“My neighbours are so used to seeing me in track suits that if I were to change into a sari they would look zapped,” says the Adyar resident.
Kabaddi has given Kanagalatha her identity and she knows it.
As a student, Kanagalatha was good at volleyball at YMCA College of Physical Education. By virtue of her skills as a sportsperson, she was selected to join the Police Department, but her family persuaded her not to join.
Little did she know that many years from then, another sport would help her make a mark.
Kabaddi was her passion from college: she was instrumental in her college winning many tournaments in the sport. But, after that, kabaddi was forgotten.
For the first 15 years of her career as teacher, when she taught at Maharishi Vidya Mandir, M. Ct. M. Higher Secondary School and Prince Matriculation Higher Secondary School, she did not teach kabbadi to her students.
“Kabadi is a fast and rough game and students in private schools did not show much interest in it. They preferred volleyball, throwball and koo-koo,” she says. At Avvai Home, students took to kabaddi.
As Kanagalatha found the weekly two periods allotted for PET insufficient for teaching kabbadi, she spent extra hours after school. “Being a referee for many tournaments for boys gave me more exposure. I am grateful to my school correspondent Susheela who encouraged me,” she says.
Lady luck has been smiling on her students for some years now.
“The first three years when I was coach, the Tamil Nadu team won twice,” says the teacher. In April 2013, she received the Best Woman Kabaddi Coach award from the All-India Sports Development Academy.
At the 55th National School Games in Himachal Pradesh, the Tamil Nadu team came first in kabaddi under her guidance and five of the participants were from Avvai Home. Again, at the 44th National School Games held in Punjab, she was the coach of the victorious volleyball team.
Kanagalatha has only two years of service left, but she knows her journey with sports will continue even after retirement.