It has been just over a month since I’ve been back Stateside from my time in Kenya and Ethiopia. This semester is beginning to consume me, but a brotha has it all under control *inner self laughs really hard*. I graduate in nearly 70 days and then everything changes, I think. Anyways, I’ve had ample time to reflect on the coaching clinic I did in Nairobi and this weekend I’ve found some time to write about it. I was supposed to have an ultimate frisbee tournament this weekend but my knee has been bugging me this week so didn’t go, Since I had already called off of my job and internship, I have time to write as well as prepare for a physiology exam and investor presentation for class Monday. I’m very satisfied with how everything rolled out. Very few mishaps and odd situations occurred which is really amazing considering it is a bit risky to go solo across the ocean to do a 2 week program and not really have much of a grasp of what I am getting myself into, like the matatus that drive like its real life Grand Theft Auto. Albeit they still drive better than people in Austin, Texas. It was truly a life changing experience. The coaches seemed to love it, there are good follow up opportunities, and many lessons I’ve learned. Let me tell you a bit about it.
For the clinic, I had 18 coaches show up nearly 100% of the time. Our sessions happened on Baba Dogo Field in Ruaraka, Nairobi. It’s a poor-ish/lower middle class area in Northeast Nairobi County near Kasarani stadium. It was a dirt field behind a catholic school in the middle of big industrial district where many businesses are located. Without traffic, it’s about 10 minutes to downtown Nairobi. In regards to the coaches who attended, it was a mix of largely community coaches and some premier league coaches, and many were former premier league players, some having played internationally for Kenya in the past. One attendee, Dennis, is a player for Tusker FC and just wanted to learn how to better his training. My host Paul Otieno, recruited all of these coaches to come and participate. Paul is the founder and director for the Centre of Sport Academy and Excellence and also the chairman of Baba Dogo United FC. He worked for the East African Sport Coaching Community System, largely in Rwanda, before moving back to Kenya and starting his own development organization in 2014. He has many years of coaching and is considered a top coach in Nairobi. His main focus is on community sport development and he spends most of his time working with non-elites. Baba Dogo is a regional level team 4th on a 7 layer pyramid, with the Kenyan Premier League being at the top. Ruaraka is said by many to be a hot bed of talent with players ending up playing in Europe and the Kenyan premier league.
I lived even further northeast in Lucky Summer, I mistakenly spelled Lakisama for 3 weeks because of how it was pronounced by people haha. As described by Mwashe, who let me my apartment, it’s a place where young people move to from the slum when they get an okay income, and also as I observed, a new area where people who do make okay money go to buy land for cheap. Adjustment wasn’t hard, my skin color and glasses made me stand out like a sore thumb but people were friendly, they just stared, A LOT. From what I’m told lighter Kenyans are mixed and live in the upperclass western part of Nairobi. Very few thought I was American even after speaking. I often received Jamaican, Ethiopian, or South African. I got Somali a couple times too. No issues though, as I was told, foreign “Rastas” aren’t to be messed with. One of these days I’m gonna make a blog about traveling Rasta. My locked hair and, to a lesser extent, being Black American (I say lesser because most reactions to it are confusion that is solved with a history lesson) has had some interesting influences on how people treat me unlike anything I’ve seen in the 6 countries I’ve been to so far. It’s partially perceived and partially because people outright tell me. Look out for “traveling Rasta” in the second half of this year.
Over the course of two weeks I covered a number of topics with the coaches, with a new topic every day. There was a daily athletic performance topic both weeks and then a secondary topic: injury risk reduction and sport nutrition. Week 1 we focused on injury risk reduction techniques for:
-ACL and other knee ligament injuries
-postural strength for a healthy back
For performance in week 1 we reviewed:
-revamping the warm up and training philosophy
-lateral sprinting and single cuts
In week 2 the topics were:
-macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) and nutrient timing
-how energy is metabolized in the body
-the 3 main energy systems and how to train them
-basic strength training
-reactive and planned cutting
-putting it all together when coaches created full sessions
Each coaching education session was about 90 minutes. The basic format was that I talked about each topic for 1/3 of the time at most and then I actually took the coaches through a workout to actively have them feel how a sample training session for that would go. Example, for acceleration I talked about force production, angles, drills, and the main components (strong postural/core strength and muscular strength). After that I took them through a preparation session/warm up directly catered to acceleration training and then coached them through drills and sprints that I would use in such a training session. After our session I would coach Baba Dogo United FC and coaches were welcomed to stay and watch. Language was not much of a big issue as most Kenyans speak English although I aimed to speak slowly and not get too technical about some things physiologically. Coaches followed along just fine and things made sense to them. Performance coaching like what happens in the US isn’t all too available in Kenya. The universities don’t have exercise science programs and the popular sports are foreign sports (soccer and rugby) and so most training is done based on past workout experiences from coaches playing days. The same exact thing happens in the US and many sport coaches here are clueless about how to properly (safely and effectively) train for athletic performance. Coaches shared with me some horror stories about how coaches prepared them to be “conditioned” back in the day. How proper training helps reduce the risk of injury was by far what coaches were most interested in, followed by how to get players faster.
For the last two days of the clinic, I had coaches create workouts and take us through a session tailored to a goal (ie acceleration) which ended up being the test for myself, as well as them. Was I able to communicate the information effectively enough for them to reproduce? The last Thursday Yari, Chris, and Indih took us through an acceleration session and Friday Stephen, James, and Alex took us through a multidirectional cutting session. The sessions were done largely in Swahili although I could tell if they were using good cues or not since I instructed very specific cues such as “push the ground away” and other movement specifics on how to do things so I could literally see if things weren’t being done, plus some parts were in English, or contained a key English word. The delivery of the sessions were okay, some better than others as always, but I was most pleased of when I asked why we did something, the coaches had an appropriate answer! It literally made me so happy, because it meant that my points got across. We met before the session and they gave suggestions about what to do in the session and I gave guidance and feedback but limited myself from really offering any input on yes or no, but rather forced them to justify the selection. Success is intentional, so should training be.
The coaches were extremely grateful and quite engaged. They asked great questions and the information as well as the practical parts ended up being well discussed largely due to the activeness of the coaches. I text many of them via WhatsApp on a pretty weekly basis. As I mentioned earlier, the coaches were very receptive of the information and seemed to understand the concepts and motivations well. The coaches are highly motivated to get better and took a plethora of notes and we had a good time. One coach, Josiah, brought me to his place for lunch and his wife made fish, ugali, and kale. It was so good man! i actually make a lot of ugali and kale as he told me how to cook it. Ugali is basically grits with all the water cooked out. He’s largely responsible for me starting a mini garden on my patio. I’m growing green beans, nasturtium flowers, and lemongrass (for my tea and Ethiopian coffee ceremonies). Lawrence, another coach, had a customized Kenyan bracelet made for me, that is almost irremovable. Many Kenyans wear a bracelet that says “Kenya” and has two Kenyan flags around it. Mine is double layered with my name. You’ll have to see me in person to see it, or ask me personally to show you a pic. It’s pretty dope.
So what happens next? Before I left it was well communicated that something like this needs to happen again. Many coaches were upset they weren’t invited and that they missed out. Many coaches present mentioned that they want another similar clinic to occur. There’s a potential market to do large scale performance training in Nairobi as well which I am still exploring Maybe later this year I may go back and do another clinic and do more coaching while figuring out the feasibility of opening an athletic performance gym in Nairobi. That’s a slow development right now because graduation is staring me in the face with a very busy schedule so I need to figure out what is next because those school loans start knocking in November and I’m broke right now. I’m determining if I can create a large scale performance coaching business and potentially create jobs coaching in Kenya and potentially many parts of East Africa, but, my focus by necessity is on the immediate as many other business issues that I have need time, the right people, and money to figure out.
Let me be clear. I intend to do business. African countries don’t, in my observation and opinion, need people setting up a zillion nonprofits everywhere (although the healthcare and infrastructure ones are certainly needed). They need FAIR business partners. Colonialism and post-colonial European politics in Africa stifle how many economies work (especially in the natural resource department) and for some reason is completely swept under the rug and covered with it just being a poor continent. The poverty there is largely intentional. One doesn’t take over land resources and people, and then leave and put it in position to prosper, that doesn’t even make sense to do. That’s research I encourage you do on your own, I spend large amounts of my time reading about that part of history. At any rate, with fair business models (and better politicians) many countries can do much better at improving their quality of life. Revamping how athletes are trained and improving the quality of sporting, in Kenya for example, can help with one part of the economy and with business dealings. Comment or ask me personally for further insight to what I mean. We’ll see how things develop, school loans are coming for me at an alarming rate and I have much to learn.
Overall, I feel extremely positive about the program and feel I did a good job with the clinic. Many, many things can be improved upon but for a first time, it didn’t at all go bad. If I had to pick 3 of the many things I can do better for next time those would be:
- Improve the coaching pamphlet with more room for notes and better phrasing of information. In the future such programs may or may not be free so having more selection and more in-depth information in different aspects of training would be useful.
- Provide more resources for them to follow up and research information. Next time I would like to bring books to give away and sell as well as a list of online sources they can use to learn more. They were limited to my pamphlet, which although covers a lot for a 2 week intro, is still obviously pretty limiting.
- Have more emphasis on weight lifting. I went there told there was no gym but then at the end of the first week an athlete helped me clear it with a trainer to host a strength session in his small gym. I had got there late from visiting a gym across town and getting stopped by a soldier, and then spent more time than expected teaching lifts. I spoke a good bit about the benefits and weight loading schemes but didn’t get to really go over some programming specifics. I definitely need a gym next time and much more time dedicated to that.
To end this, I have to say a big thank you to Paul Otieno. This literally would not have been possible without him. Paul recruited all of the coaches, got me the deal to coach Baba Dogo United FC (more in another blog), oriented me to Nairobi, and exposed me to a lot of in regards to sports and business in Nairobi, nearly to the level I know how sports work in the US. I’m still partially astonished that this clinic really happened. And shoutout to his brother Misse, who helped me get around until I understood public transportation and got over my fear of riding a motorbike. Yes, I rode on my first motorcycle in Nairobi, which although was wild, is still safer than Austin.
Readers, please feel free to leave your feedback. It’s taken me awhile to push this post out, so I’d love to hear what you have to say.