TOPS Boarding School from Pokhara, recently clinched third place in the girls’ coca cola inter school football tournament held in Kathmandu.
Since TOPS Boarding School was just minutes walk from where I was staying while covering Safal Pokhara cup I had to go visit them and see what make them good in sport.
Unfortunately, half the school was shut for Dashain and Tihar festive break. But I did meet the administrative officer, Mr Chittra Gurung, who was happy to show me around.
As soon as I told him that I was sports journalist, he was eager to show me their trophy cabinet, locked up within the student housing that was specially built for athletes.
Big question is what is so impressive about a third place when Jana Jyoti Higher Secondary from Rautahat won the tournament?
You only realise the scale of work they have done in sport once you look through the list of achievements on their annual school magazine “OASIS”. Whooping seventeen pages of it.
On top of that, while Jana Jyoti had players developed by Chandranighapur football academy, TOPS Boarding School have been doing this using their own resources.
Some of the names that stick out on the list is Bimala Chaudhary who grabbed the best striker award at the coca cola inter school football tournament.
Then there’s Manisha Chaudhary, Sashi Chaudhary and Huma Kumari Thapa who were on the same football team. Turns out these girls are all rounders and achieved quite a lot in other disciplines of sport as well.
As I started talking further with Mr Gurung, he revealed the school doesn’t get any help from government sports agencies despite their contribution. Despite producing athletes like Jamuna Gurung (Nepal national football player), Punam Gurung (Badminton), Bhugol Gurung (Badminton), and Sandeep Gurung (Athletics).
So I asked why do it, why not do what most schools do? Help the kids get good grades and stop at that. This is where things got interesting.
First there was the usual comments about the need to develop kids’ mind and body that every other school harp on about. Then he mentioned some thing that I don’t usually hear from Nepali schools.
Mr Gurung said “TOPS Boarding School wants to give students another option as well as academic qualifications. That is take up sport as a career choice, because not every one can excel academically”. Which is true of course.
But given there are not many who can truly call them selves professional athletes in Nepal, it is a huge step and a responsibility to encourage kids to take up sport as an alternative path to success. Let alone develop them.
Interest in sport seem high up in Pokhara, and the plentiful open spaces for athletes to practice certainly helps. But Mr Gurung says “it’s not just the open spaces available, it’s the will to do it. We here at TOPS are willing to go the extra mile and have specialized coaches for different sport. And we are willing to spend if we have to rent out sports facilities.”
What started as a primary school two decades ago, founded by Mr Ratna Man Gurung and Mrs Bhakti Gurung, TOPS Boarding School has come a long way. It now offers education all the way up to higher secondary level and is planing for Bachelors level.
Hopefully, TOPS will produce many more athletes along with academics for Nepal and fill the void.