For some of us, basketball was an important part of our lives in school. Morning, practice on the court. In the games period twice a week, practice on the court. Evening after school, practice on the court. Saturday mornings, practice on the court. We’d even skip the mandatory Moral Education classes to practice on the court!
Good facilities offer opportunities to become good sportsmen. With dedicated coaches through the years, Baldwins was always among the leading contenders in the inter-school basketball scene.
At Baldwins, basketball coaching started in Std 5 – when we moved from primary to middle school. I say moved because we literally did. A different block of classrooms, a different school uniform, longer school hours – Std 5 gave us new responsibilities and new opportunities. A professional basketball coach used to be employed by the school, with no charges to the children. There was this announcement usually made at the start of the year – that selections would be held, especially for the new middle school entrants. Anyone could go for the trials. One was not expected to know anything about basketball. Just athletic potential, which I had, having won the primary school athletics championship.
We used to watch the senior basketball players on the court every evening after school. Some of them had already played for the state. I was looking forward to the trials, and possibly join them. There was this gentleman Raja who was the coach at that time, who was short-listing the girls. I remember the trials. There were many girls, mostly from Std 5. He made us stand in a circle with himself at the centre, and he threw the ball to each of us. When it was my turn I dropped the ball. I hadn’t expected it to be thrown so hard. “Out”, he said. I was out of the trials. No second chance. I went home and cried. The rest of the year I played a bit of kho-kho. Bounced the basketball and shot baskets now and then, during the games periods. And there was athletics that I was good at – running and skipping and jumping. It was the Baldwin Centenary year 1980. I won the individual championship and best junior athlete at the combined Girls School-Boys School Centenary Sports Day held that November.
By the following academic year, Raja was no longer the coach. (Why, was not discussed.) So our school games teacher, Mrs Roby managed to convince her daughter, Judith Roby to coach the team. They lived close by, so it was convenient. Judy had been playing basketball for the state and was quite young herself. She was bubbly and would often join in the practice. I went for the trials again. Then there was no looking back.
As any sportsman would know, the coach plays a vital role, but it’s in a different way in a team game vs an individual sport. Talent and hard work aside, a coach can spurt or stunt your growth. For me, it was a most rewarding five years of basketball in Baldwins, with the state camps in the summer vacations.
Apart from the school team, there were house teams (we had seven houses) which would each comprise of school team players and a few others to make up the numbers. Annual inter-house matches used to be held over a couple of weeks, very competitive, backed by full-scale cheering by students and staff.
After Mrs Roby retired, Ms Joyce Nathan took over as the senior games teacher. She recently sent across a team photograph that she found. It was the Baldwin Girls’ basketball team, winners of the inaugural BPL-sponsored tournament held at our very own basketball court in February 1986. BPL was the famous electrical appliance company in Bangalore. Through some contacts we had got in touch with them and they agreed to institute the BPL Cup for this inter-school event that would be held annually.
A few of us were in Std 10, and the tournament was held a couple of weeks before the ICSE board exams. Earlier that year, we had redesigned our uniforms. We opted to move away from the school colours, the traditional blue and white uniforms, and chose grey and pink instead.
By this time we had had Mr Muniappa, a former India player, as our coach for two-three years. Our seniors had continued to do very well with him as coach. “No one can beat this team”, he would say. Given the local standard of basketball, our team was quite exceptional. In fact, so good that we could field two teams for this tournament. Frank Anthony School was the other school in Bangalore that had a strong U-16 team. Most of the finals used to be between us. Frank Anthony didn’t enter this tournament as most of their good players were in Std 10 preparing for the exams.
This was the first inter-school basketball tournament held in the school premises, so everyone was excited. It’s a unique sort of joy to see children in other school uniforms walking around in your school. Playing in your home ground is so encouraging. You know the court in and out, and you have a whole lot of schoolmates for support. The finals were against Bishop Cotton Girls’, which we won. And the Baldwin B team got the third place.
This was almost 35 years ago! Hope that the basketball court is still active at Baldwins, and more than anything, that the girls have the opportunity of dribbling and shooting baskets.