Guiding young ones to fame
M.K. Devarajamma has shaped the future of many a young hockey player from the State, specially girls from rural Karnataka
photo: Bhagya Prakash K.
Showing the way M.K. Devarajamma
Guiding the fortunes of rural girls was a passion for her, and M.K. Devarajamma has helped many attain the National and State colours in hockey. After a string of postings Devarajamma was posted to Gadag as Assistant Director, Department of Youth Services and Sports (DYSS) and did yeoman service both as a sports administrator and social services leader. During the floods that ravaged Gadag, she and a band of volunteers helped the victims and was felicitated for her selfless work.
The 47-year-old has now been forced to be “just a hockey coach”, she claims, upon her request for a transfer back to Bangalore.
Going for gold
Devarajamma took to hockey after a stint with athletics and kho-kho in a school at Somwarpet in Kodagu district. After some good performances in high school and college (Mangalore University) in 1983, she made it to the State team for the nationals held in Bangalore the next year. At the Coimbatore Nationals in 1986, she was part of the gold-medal winning Karnataka team.
After the Sangroor (Punjab) and Thiruvananthapuram Nationals in the next two years, she gained a berth in the India camp ahead of the second Indira Gandhi International tournament in New Delhi. After that experience the centre forward chose to do her NIS at SAI South Centre on the advice of friend and coach Prabhakar. Devarajamma passed with flying colours and was inducted to coach the junior Indian team in 1989 at Lucknow.
Coaching soon became her focus and she joined the Youth Services Department as coach and took charge of the Sports School Kudige (1989-93) boys' team. “A.K. Kavin, Sunil Benjamin, M.B. Bopanna and Pursha were all part of the first batch that I coached and went on to represent the State and few were even selected for the India camp,” says the coach proudly. Kudige even played in the Junior Nehru Cup and won her the ‘best coach' award in 1991.
In 1994, Devarajamma came to Bangalore Rural (S.S. Vidyanagar) and it is a time-frame that she recollects as a ‘fruitful period'. “The girls in rural Bangalore had no initiation into hockey and I started residential camps at a few centres, which became a hit. The players were provided with kits and shoes through the department, which attracted many more players,” she says. “With talent emerging from these centres I was given another five year term (1999-2004), which I utilised to give the players sound practice. I got the players to Bangalore City for exposure on synthetic surfaces, which enabled them to perform at the National level. Players like Munirathnamma emerged from these centres,” she adds.
“If the two terms in Bangalore Rural was fruitful, the shift to Gadag in 2005 was done with enormous responsibility and my tenure was blissful,” Devarajamma recounts. “During the floods there, I mustered a good workforce to help the poor. I also got a 400-metre track in the district for athletics, which was highly appreciated. A hostel for women, a full-fledged multidiscipline gym, were all add-ons during my stint there, which was in the role of an Assistant Director. For my social service in the district and adjoining taluks, I was honoured,” she says.
“However, some family compulsions forced me to return to Bangalore; the transfer came through without a hitch. But little did I realise that it would be a demotion as I was retained as a mere hockey coach,” she says.
Devarajamma took it as a challenge and soon was guiding the fortunes of the State hockey team to the title finish in the South Zone championship at Tirupathi and a fourth place finish at the Bangalore Nationals in April this year. “I am confident of fulfilling the responsibilities bestowed on me, but now, barring the hockey team, there is nothing challenging enough to keep me focussed," she signs off.
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