Kochi: Veteran hockey coach R Sreedhar Shenoy, who groomed some of Kerala’s finest hockey trainers and players, died here on Sunday due to age-related ailments. He was 72.
Known as the ‘Dronacharya of Kerala hockey', Shenoy’s forte was talent-spotting and giving exposure to young players. A pioneering figure of hockey in Kerala, he holds a special place in the hearts of hockey lovers for his contributions in popularising the game at the grassroots level in the state.
In a coaching career spanning over four decades, he has mentored over 35,000 children, teaching them the basic hockey skills beginning from holding the stick to ball control, passing, receiving and dodging.
Some of the prominent players to have emerged out of Shenoy’s stable include Olympian Dinesh Naik, and international players Subaida Salim, Geetha and Eliyamma Mathew.
He was involved in coaching even during his playing days at St Albert’s College in Ernakulam in the early 70s. He used to impart hockey lessons to children in around 40 schools in the district simultaneously.
“Shenoy sir was always passionate about coaching. Each day, he would cycle from one place to another to teach hockey to children in at least 10 schools in Ernakulam,” said Sunil D. Emmatty, former captain of Kerala hockey team.
After passing out from the National Institute of Sports in Patiala in the 70s, Shenoy joined the Kerala Sports Council as a coach. He played for the Ernakulam district and was the coach for the state senior and junior and sub-junior hockey teams. Under his guidance, the state’s age-group teams gradually shed their 'minnows' tag and started to give even their fancied rivals a run for their money at national-level tournaments.
After his retirement from the Sports Council in 2003, he served as the technical director of the Kerala team and chairman of the selection committee. He was instrumental in merging the men’s and women’s hockey associations and establishing ‘Hockey Kerala’.
Indian team goalkeeper P R Sreejesh said he regarded the veteran coach as a father-figure as he was always there to offer him tips and guidance.
“I did not have the opportunity to train under Shenoy sir but he was a great mentor for me. He was the coach of Jayakumar sir and Ramesh Kolappa sir, my trainers at G V Raja Sports School in Thiruvananthapuram who encouraged me to pursue a career in hockey. I was introduced to Shenoy sir by them, and instantly we developed a special bond. When I returned home after the 2005 Junior World Cup, he organised a reception in Ernakulam to felicitate me. It was the first felicitation accorded to me in my native place after I became a player,” Sreejesh said.
Shenoy leaves behind wife Dhanalakshmi and daughter Divya.