This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by kabeer arjun. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

From A Small Vizag Village To The National Academy, This Girl’s Hockey Journey Is A Story Of True Grit!

More from kabeer arjun

“You will reach anywhere if you work hard enough” – Lotla Mary.

From living in a village near Visakhapatnam called Yellamanchilli, 17-year old Lotla Mary is now playing at the National Hockey Academy in New Delhi. This is arguably the highest level a young Indian hockey player could play at in the country’s current sporting landscape. So, how did she make it all the way there?

The Journey To New Delhi

Her first time picking up a hockey stick was at her local village school in 2013. There was no coach there, but she learned the sport from her seniors. Playing for her school team for a year helped Mary realise that hockey wasn’t just a hobby and could potentially become something much bigger. Born into a family of farmers, her sister, who is also a district level hockey player, and she has taken a different path altogether. However, her parents supported her every step of the way and in 2014, venturing quite far from home, she arrived at the Anantapur Sports Academy on the other side of Andhra Pradesh.

The Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA), an initiative by the Rural Development Trust (RDT), is a development program that reaches out to close to about 9,000 children on a weekly basis and provides them with infrastructure, education, coaching and nutrition.

More than just a facility to provide children with a platform to excel at sports, ASA is an initiative that uses sport as a medium to create social change amongst rural communities in Andhra Pradesh.

Mary learned of ASA through coaches at her District Hockey Association and was successful at the selections held for the academy in 2014. In the hockey program at ASA, there are 30 girls in total, 25 from the Anantapur district and five from the rest of the state.

Thinking back to when she shifted to Anantapur, Mary said “Coming to Anantapur was a big change for me. The facilities at ASA are great compared to my school, and the coaches have taught me so much.”

Mary spent four years at ASA, not only learning Hockey but also studying at a school in Anantapur town. However, her focus has always been on hockey, and that is perhaps what has made the difference with regards to her getting selected at the National Hockey Academy. Mary’s longtime friend and teammate Saritha said, “I was her teammate at ASA for three years until she went to the National Academy. She changed a lot in this time, she’s very interested in hockey, and it has always been her priority.”

After initially getting selected for the SAI hockey academy in Bhopal, Mary was recommended for the National Hockey Academy selections by the District Hockey Secretary in Visakhapatnam because of her impressive performances at the district level.

“When she arrived at ASA, our selections were based around the physical aspects of the game, which Mary was great at. In four years at the academy she improved the technical and tactical aspects of her game tremendously”, said Hockey coordinator Laxmi Narayan on the progress Mary made at ASA.

Playing At The NHA

Mary joined the National Hockey Academy in Delhi in July 2018 and is determined to use this opportunity to it’s fullest. The level is a lot higher than she was used to at ASA, but she is slowly starting to adapt. Playing with the best young Indian players from across the country is naturally very challenging, but the toughest aspect of training at the Dhyan Chand Hockey stadium is something else entirely. Having played on gravel pitches all her life, making the transition to AstroTurf has proved to be very difficult. “The ball moves so much faster, and it was challenging to adapt initially, but I’m getting used to it now, and I am really enjoying the new pitch.”, said Mary.

Her game and fitness levels have become much better as she aims to become a professional athlete now. However, there is still a lot of hard work to be done “I couldn’t get into the starting 11 when I first arrived, but now I am playing in it regularly. The nutrition here is excellent, and I have learnt so many new skills that have improved my game. But now I have to become better physically and have been working to do that with core exercises in my free time”, continued Mary.

Her overall game has improved a lot. One of the aspects she feels has helped her ability to play better has been reducing the tendency to ‘hit’ the ball and learning to sweep it instead. This is essential when one plays on turf.

Off the pitch, Mary doesn’t speak fluent Hindi or English but is more than managing to hold her own. She is learning Hindi slowly and having lived her whole life in Andhra Pradesh; she has enjoyed interacting with people from different states. To name a few, her teammates come from Haryana, Bihar, Punjab, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Fortunately for her, there are two other players from Andhra Pradesh at the academy, and they have helped her settle in. One of them is Bhavani, also a former ASA player, who joined the National Academy a year ago.

Future Goals

Her goals are ambitious, and now that she is at the National Hockey Academy she doesn’t intend to stop there. Currently playing at the sub-junior level, she wants to make it to both the junior and senior national teams. The Indian national team starlet, Lalremsiami, who stays in the same hostel as Mary in New Delhi, is a great source of inspiration for her.

“She’s a good player I believe that if she keeps working hard in 2 years or so at the National Hockey Academy, she can make it to the Junior National team”, said Hockey coordinator Laxmi Narayan, when discussing Mary’s potential.

Family Support

The support of Mary’s parents was key to her pursuing hockey, going to ASA and eventually making it to the National Academy. Some of her teammates had similar opportunities but couldn’t grab them because of the lack of support from their families. Most parents feel that education should take the priority or are not comfortable with their children moving so far away from home. However, the backing Mary has received from her family has encouraged her to not only travel to Delhi and Bhopal for selections but also perform well and get in.

A Role Model

Mary, who recently returned to ASA for a brief visit, is now an inspirational figure for her old teammates. “The selections will happen again next year, and I am determined to join her at the academy”, said Saritha. Hockey coordinator Laxmi Narayan also believes that there are quite a few girls at ASA who, like Mary, have the skill and potential to make it to the National Academy in Delhi. She has set an example for many children and their parents, who now know that with hard work, it is more than possible to take the next step in Hockey. At ASA, the plan, for now, is to send more players for selections and the coaching staff are keen to discuss this with parents to garner their support to ensure it happens.

You must be to comment.

More from kabeer arjun

Similar Posts

By Ritwik Trivedi

By Aaditya Kanchan

By Abhishek Kumar Makhariya

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below