Hockey in Odisha is not only a game. It is a passion and way of life. Seventy one-year-old coach from remote Kukuda village in Rourkela- Dominic Toppo has proved it again.
In the last two decades, the septuagenarian hockey coach, who never played outside his village in Rourkela district, has produced close to 100 State-level players.
Among those players, as many as 13 hockey stars have gone on to represent junior and senior national teams. The list includes recently retired midfielder Lilima Minz and Jiwan Kishori Toppo.
Dominic is among those grassroots coaches who have worked pretty hard throughout their entire lives in anonymity and without any recognition to nurture young talents. Because of coaches like Dominic, many players from grassroots and remote areas in Odisha have turned into potential international players.
Dominic’s father used to play hockey and he started accompanying him to the field as a child. Gradually, it became a lifelong obsession for him. However, his dream of playing hockey on bigger stages remained just a daydream due to lack of proper exposure and guidance.
He decided to ensure that other children do not suffer the same fate as him and made up his mind to start coaching to try and produce international players.
Subsequently, he started a ration shop. After saving enough money, he started coaching in 2000, on a dusty field in his village.
Initially, Dominic focused on coaching women players as unlike boys, they are much more disciplined. He was a self-taught coach. He picked up the finer nuances by observing other national and international level players and imbibed those subtle nuances in his coaching style.
Soon, he was so much obsessed with coaching that he had to shut his shop as he couldn’t do justice to it. He even had to sacrifice his family life. With his business shut and no other sources of income, Dominic had no other way but to mortgage the 12-acre farmland that he is yet to get back.
Despite all the odds and hardships, Dominic’s passion for hockey coaching is still burning inside him.
“It’s my passion to train young and talented kids in the hope of finding a diamond in the rough that keeps me going. I have a strong feeling that l was born to do this and I will follow my passion for the rest of my life,” said the old but determined and passionate coach.