Muscat: Indian School Al Mabella is home to Oman’s first all-girls hockey team.
Having been formed about three months ago, the 13 girls who make up the team are hoping to blaze a new trail for sport in the region, and they’ve certainly got the right person overseeing their development.
The squad is being coached by Varsha Sen, a former state-level hockey player, who hails from the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. She’s been working with the team for the last five months, and says the only way for hockey in Oman is up.
“When the school got in touch with me, they said they wanted to start a girls’ hockey team in Oman and there was nothing like that in schools here, so I was very excited to be a part of it,” said Varsha, speaking to the Times of Oman.
“Because of this, the future is very bright for hockey in Oman and there is so much potential for girls here,” she added.
A proponent of hard work, Sen said it was important for her to condition the girls on her team to play the sport—physically and mentally—before they learned the basics of hockey.
“Since I’ve begun training these girls, a lot of their parents have come to me and asked me how they can help improve their daughters so that they are able to play the sport better,” she explained. “My response is always the same: I will not give them a hockey stick until they have the right stamina and conditioning.”
“It seems to have worked because the girls are a lot more active these days,” added Sen. “The problem here in Oman is that people are surrounded by air-conditioning wherever they go. When you’re in the car, you switch on the AC, when you’re at home you switch on the AC, and both at school and in shopping malls, the AC is always on. That is why I tell my players to work hard and become active, because if you don’t work hard now, what will you do in the future?”
Although Sen might be breaking new ground with the formation of her team, she is aware she might face some prejudice from more conservative corners of society. She isn’t letting that get her down even in the slightest, though.
“When I first began playing hockey, my relatives told my father not to allow me to go outside and play with the boys because I was a girl and my place was at home,” recalled Sen, who played for her state for 13 years, and has three sisters back home in India.
“He told them to mind their own business and supported me wholeheartedly because he realised that this was my passion and he wanted me to pursue it,” she added. “Even when I decided to come to Oman, my parents were very proud of what I was going to do and are happy to see me come here.”
Her parents aside; Sen’s team has already taken part in two local tournaments and also has the full backing of the school’s Principal, P. Prabhakar.
“I am really proud to have a girls’ hockey team in my school,” he revealed. “We are very happy to have a person as qualified as Varsha coach our hockey teams here, and all of our physical education department teachers are selected this way.”
“We also have a coach from the Oman Cricket Association oversee our cricket team,” added Prabhakar. “Hockey is the national game of India, and the parents are very happy to see their daughters play hockey.
“What we want to do now is have other schools visit Indian School Al Mabella to see our hockey team and then create teams of their own so that we can have inter-school tournaments and help the sport grow in Oman,” he said.