Sport is considered a great way to bring together people from different walks of life. But for some, sport is saline, blood and the energy booster that keeps them going. Yasa Ramachandra, a name synonymous with netball in Sri Lanka, is such a character who considers sport a way of life. Even today, probably in [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Yasa – the sports machine at the BOI


Sport is considered a great way to bring together people from different walks of life. But for some, sport is saline, blood and the energy booster that keeps them going. Yasa Ramachandra, a name synonymous with netball in Sri Lanka, is such a character who considers sport a way of life.

The ever-smiling Yasa Ramachandra - Pics by M.A. Pushpakumara

Even today, probably in her late 60s, Ramachandra is very much the same person at heart as she was four decades ago. Despite being a giant of a figure in Sri Lanka’s netball annals, Yasa possesses a diverse knowledge in sports in general; having the ability to even read the nature of a cricket pitch that is prepared for a First Class game.

“Since I was a kid I was really hooked on sports. I began my career as a track and field athlete at Sandalankawa Central School, where I also took up netball. I went on to win many awards in athletics but my best achievements in sports came in netball, where I represented Sri Lanka as a player, coach, administrator, referee and a selector. I even represented Sri Lanka at volleyball. Looking back I can proudly say that I have lived my life and am still living my dream,” Yasa, presently the manager of the BOI ground facility at the Free Trade Zone in Katunayake, said.

A picture taken when Yasa became the Netball Queen for three years running

As a young athlete, Yasa was unstoppable. She took part in the 100m and 200m sprint events in track and the long jump event in field events. Her undiminished enthusiasm won her the best athlete’s award in the North Western Province, thrice each at the junior and senior national levels. A brilliant student academically, she was gifted with many other abilities. Netball was one of them.

As a school netball player Yasa led Sandalankawa Central to the National Netball Championship for the first time in its history. Even after moving to St. Paul’s Girls’ School Milagiriya at the age of 18, Yasa continued to grow into a champion athlete during her days there. After leaving school she had to give up athletics for unknown reasons but pursued her fortunes in netball, where she ended being the most successful player ever Sri Lanka produced.

With her ever-smiling face, even on the field at any given situation, Yasa managed to dominate the court scoring prolifically, and leading whichever team she represented, be it the Colombo Netball Club or Sri Lanka, to many victories. Yasa was at the apex of her career when she bagged the Netball Queen of Sri Lanka award for three consecutive years. As a player Yasa has represented Sri Lanka against many international teams. While still a young player, she went beyond the conventional by coaching young teams, which eventually helped her become a successful coach later on.

She sports a smile, even on the field

It was not the end of the road for her. In netball she found many avenues to keep her in contact with sports. She graduated to become a top qualified coach not only in netball but also in volleyball. She followed many courses in netball coaching, in Germany, Australia and Singapore, broadening her horizon in the art of teaching. She is also a gold award winner in theory and practical tests in netball refereeing. She still has the willingness to serve netball but has opted to lead a quiet life at the sporting ranch in Katunayake.

“I have been working for over a decade at Katunayake and the opening here came rather coincidentally. I worked for the Ministry of Sports for nearly three decades. I was happy there, did my duties sincerely while training young netball players with my vast experience as a player and a coach. But later on I felt depressed because of certain incidents that occurred and other external interference. During that period, somewhere in 1989, I was offered the job of head coach of the Maldives national netball team and I worked there for two years, with great pleasure which I still relish. The Maldives authorities gave me a free hand to perform my duties and the results were staring to come out. Then when I came down on a vacation, Mr. Shabeer Jafferjee got in touch with me and offered me the job that I’m presently at. I didn’t give him a word at once because I was under a contract and I had to complete the tenure. He obliged and waited for my arrival and since then I’m here at the BOI Sports Complex as the manager. And I should say I do enjoy working here too because I get to handle many sports; from first class cricket and badminton to elle and volleyball. After all, sport has become the air that I breathe,” Yasa, appointed as chief selector by the Sri Lanka Netball Association recalled.

Unlike in her heyday, the legendary netball player and coach, who possesses great administrative skills, stated that sport, and netball in particular, has been marred by selfish attitudes. This was the main reason for Yasa to avoid contributing as a coach. But knowing her accolades as a well qualified trainer many in the field tried unsuccessfully to persuade her to continue. Her track record as a coach is still an achievement which anyone would envy.

Serving eight tenures as the country’snational coach, Yasa guided Sri Lanka to many victories, including wins at the Commonwealth Games, World Championships, numerous international tournaments and an Asian Championship in 1997. As an official she took part in many international events but serving as an umpire in the 8th World Championships held in Sydney, Australia is her best achievement. Her ever-growing knowledge of the game once helped her become the Director of the Advance Netball Coach’s Course at the Ministry of Sports. She also served as a council member of the Sri Lanka Netball Association and the National Sports Council for many years. At present she heads the national selection committee for netball. “I was able to reach all avenues in sports, in particular netball. I have been a player, coach, trainer, instructor and international umpire and I have enjoyed it all. But I really enjoyed my days as a player and coach because of the joy of wins I was able to experience. I’m grateful to my family for the support they have given me and the tolerance they went through to let me continue my endeavours. I have a loving husband, a son and a daughter and I’m a proud grandmother of three,” explained Yasa while expressing her displeasure at what is taking place presently at netball.

“I played from 1956 to the late 1970s for over two decades at junior, school, zonal, district, national and international levels. I still work as a coach but I really began imparting my experience from 1968.

Coaches and players should change their attitudes and approach to the sport. Nobody can continue eternally as a player or a coach but when you are active you must be genuine in what you do. I was taught to be a good human being by my parents and I still adhere to this. It’s important to gain a good reputation as a humble character whatever heights you reach at any level. That’s also a common and an accepted norm in sports. I’ve always willingly helped Sri Lanka netball whenever my services were required. I still love the sport. But I’ve stopped coaching individual teams because I feel that I have reached the helm in this sport and I have a reputation. I really take pride in that,” she concluded, sporting a broad smile.

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