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Santhome School, Chennai- Home to a Fine Sporting Pedigree
At Santhome Higher Secondary School (SHSS), there are not many students to be seen during the summer months. Under the afternoon sun, an employee points me towards the doors of the indoor stadium, which is decorated with a plaque, carved quite beautifully. Derek Hutson, who is the basketball coach and PE teacher at Santhome, leads me into the stadium through a side door, and inside are a group of people playing different sports, and two solitary women shooting around in the back, the ball thudding on the smooth wooden panels. This is an organization that has rented out the place, he explains, and so they get full use of the facilities that the school offers. The woman with the ball continues playing and sinks three in a row. The Montfort Multipurpose Indoor Stadium was constructed in 1996 for the purposes of the school and the students who studied there. It was in this year that it was also used to conduct the boxing and table tennis events of the SAARC Games, even though its planning and construction were not intended to coincide with the games. The wooden paneling that has been used is the still the original one that was laid down in 1996 and has been varnished over 3 different times, and it is smooth to the touch, and it grips well, and there’s not too much slippage. Additionally, the court is clean and this makes grip that much less of an issue. Two Schelde backboards imported from Belgium, hold pride of place within the auditorium. The stadium is lit by 1000 watt bulbs, and the sound- system has been updated since the construction of the auditorium. There’s also been work done on the acoustics, making it echo a lot lesser than a hollowed out structure like an indoor stadium normally would. The stadium also has gallery seating on the first level and additional seating can be arranged on the lower levels by using chairs. This gives it a seating capacity of approximately 2,500. Apart from this, there are 2 outdoor courts that Santhome School uses.
The stadium is located in Mylapore, in what is considered to be one of the major centers of the city, if not the center of the city, and this makes it extremely well connected, both by public transport and other means of transportation. Various national camps and state tournaments have been held at the venue. The All India Arise Steel Cup was played there in 2016, with ONGC winning the men’s category and KSEB winning the women’s. Apart from tournaments, Tamil Nadu team camps and even National Basketball camps have been held at the stadium. The Junior NBA camp for the city of Chennai also starts and ends at the facility. With such a variety of events that are conducted both by the government and private organizations, finding their home in the premises of SHSS it is no surprise that many significant names in the field of Indian Basketball have also made use of the venue and have been part of these aforementioned events. Nelson Isley, a FIBA trainer was part of a camp that accredited coaches in India (Derek underwent this training), and apart from this Scott Flemming and Francisco Garcia have both been a part of various proceedings at the stadium. The stadium also plays host to the camp hosted by C V Sunny every summer. SHSS, for anyone who grew up and went to school in Chennai is famous for having some of the best teams for sports, regardless of which one you pick. They would always show up at every event and do well. Derek explains that a large part of this is because of the fact that even the administration knows the importance of sports and actively encourages their students to participate in as many events as they can. An added bonus is the fact that those who win get felicitated in front of the entire school.
Santhome Higher Secondary School is the home team that plays at the court and as mentioned before, the culture of sports that is inculcated in the students of the school, means that a lot of players from the school play a role in representing their state at the national level and their country at the international level. For example, Santhome Girls have won the All-India Inter-School Championship, and did so most recently in 2015. Ria Sharon (who played at the Youth Games at Indonesia), Aravind (who played for Tamil Nadu State) and Shree Vidya have also attended SHSS and have brought various laurels back home. Apart from these individuals, four other girls have attended the National Junior Camp: Sindhuja, Teena, Ria Sharon, Nandini and Deepika. Dr. Iridyum, who is the current headmaster of the school plays an important part in how the facilities are used. According to Derek, the rates that are stated for groups who want to rent out the space are nominal at best and are decided on by the headmaster of the school. They only charge for the cost of using the facility, since running the lights in the auditorium by itself costs a significant amount. The stadium when it is rented out also allows people to use the other facilities that the school offers, like the auditorium. The facility plays host to Korean’s who live in the city, every Sunday, as they come together to play ball. The importance of the Montfort Multipurpose Indoor Stadium is the fact that it is located in a school that has taken it upon itself to be a lot more understanding of the fact that sports is an integral part of leading a healthy lifestyle. This fact, over a period of time has developed into the stadium and the school making a name for themselves as boasting of a proud basketball pedigree in the city. The Montfort Multipurpose Indoor Stadium was the first indoor basketball stadium to be built in the city and considering the success that it has been and the name that it has made for itself, it’s going to remain a stronghold of basketball for a long time to come.