On top of the coaching clinic, I spent two weeks in Nairobi coaching Baba Dogo United FC. I did the clinic with coaches from 3:30-5pm and then had Baba Dogo from 5-7p. It feels weird seeing those times because people primarily use the 24 hour clock so I’m used to thinking about being done at 1900, not 7pm. One big lesson I walked away from coaching here is the understanding that coaching is coaching and athletes are athletes. There were some differences but it just felt like I was coaching in the city back home all over again. We had a pretty good time and shared a lot of laughs. I’ll share a bit about Baba Dogo’s team, how I planned to coach them, and some final thoughts about it.
As I mentioned in the prior blog, Baba Dogo United FC is a regional level team in the Kenyan football hierarchy. The region is known for being a hot bed of talent with many athletes playing the higher ranks of Kenyan and even international football. Teams are based on skill and not so much age, although age does largely drive the hierarchy as one needs to get more experience to be better. Players get picked up from lower teams and promoted to higher teams. Athletes, to my understanding, can be paid at any age as Baba Dogo offers stipends to players for playing and they are 4th teir. A large number teams, at all levels, are owned by businesses or the military in which jobs are provided to players through these companies to pay for them to play and provide employment, such as KenAfrica in Nairobi, a shoe manufacturer. Larger premier league sponsors, like Tusker FC, act similar to corporate sponsors in the US which helps pay large salaries along with ticket sales.
Baba Dogo United consisted largely of athletes that were between 15 and 19, although there were a few in their early 20’s. They were quite skilled and most of them were pretty athletic. I met many of them during my first weekend in Nairobi as Paul had me as a guest of honor at a couple of championship matches that these guys played in. Pretty fun kids and during the end of first week and during the second week we had a few premier league guys who are Baba Dogo alumnus come and practice with us. They were a lot of fun to train with and learn about Kenya from. It didn’t take long for the confusion of my being an American to come upand how black people are Americans in the first place. It’s a frequent conversation I had in East Africa. Not everyone learned about the Atlantic slave trade depending on their level of schooling and Obama is Kenyan in their eyes since his dad is a Luo from western Kenya. That is on top of the fact many have met Americans but none that looked anything like me. It was an interesting cultural exchange for many reasons. Although I grew up pretty poor in US terms, when talking about college and traveling to Kenya, it was an oddly humbling experience to be reminded of my American privilege to travel but also while in school, and even have multiple jobs. They were rather curious on my upbringing and about Black people in general which made for interesting conversation and all of us learning things. Due to many assuming me Jamaican, reggae always came up as reggae is extremely popular in Kenya and many were kind of upset that I don’t listen to it much. In every country I’ve been to I’ve been called “Rastaman” and I’m only now vibing to it, mainly due to being Ethiopia which opened me more up to it. On the last day of our training, I taught them a dance step my friend Mike created for my other friend’s, Myke, wedding. I had made them that deal the first week because I have a bunch of weird mannerisms when coaching, slightly dancing being one of them.
In preparation for the coaching, I had put together a rough plan of attack. Given that it was only for 2 weeks, I couldn’t exactly change the world. I decided to spend my time improving their ability to accelerate across the field, improve their postural strength, and put them on the path to improve their short sprint endurance. Since their coaches were in the educational clinic, I wanted make sure they saw the integration of the training blocks which is part of why doing this right after was so good. On the first day we tested but that went badly. I played it off well, but it went pretty bad. I was expecting 15-20 athletes that were 17-20. There were on average 25-29 every day and many were 17 or under. My issue was mainly because I had too many tests than necessary but also because order was hard to keep due to numbers, and the coaches had no idea what I was doing. I improvised to get through it, but completely scratched the prospect of post testing as my data was unreliable. It went uphill from there as I focused on training and my confidence in the system. How the next 9 training days were organized were as follows:
Monday – testing
Day 1 (Tuesday) – high intensity, linear acceleration and short sprint endurance focus
Day 2 – moderate intensity, max velocity, strength training, and long sprint endurance focus
Day 3 – regeneration, I brought tennis balls to do some myofascial release (self-massage lol), hip mobility, and taught them how to play ultimate frisbee
Day 4 – high intensity, multidirectional acceleration and short sprint endurance focus
Saturday they had a match but I didn’t find out until Friday. I was going to go to Iten in Eldoret (Rift Valley) to see the distance runner heaven and visit a performance center out there but decided to stay in Nairobi to go to their game and just attempt to explore Nairobi. In retrospect, I should have went to Eldoret after the game instead of exploring Nairobi as I ended up kind of wasting the day. They won the game 3-0 and really looked good out there, after most of the players showed up about 30 minutes late to the match while the other team was ready 30 minutes early.
Day 5 (Monday) – moderate intensity, multidirectional acceleration and patterned/reactive cutting
Day 6 – high intensity, linear acceleration, strength training, and short sprint endurance
Day 7 – regeneration, self-massage, hip mobility, core/stability strength, and ultimate frisbee
Day 8 and 9 I had coaches Yari and Indih take over the training sessions. Yari did an acceleration session Thursday and on Friday Indih had a normal soccer practice and then short sprint conditioning to follow. Given that they are soccer coaches and not performance coaches, I wanted them to run practices and incorporate the training techniques into their practices the way they see fit and find what works for them while I was available for feedback.
The players and I had a good ol time those two weeks. We got a lot closer when I was at the game they won and did a lot of bonding there. That’s when they learned about me because although I typically joked and chattered throughout our preparation phase I wasn’t able to after because it gets pretty dark once we are finished. I was able to get to know some of the athletes much better as well. They understood the intent in the training and enjoyed the training which is of the utmost importance. They never worked on speed before nor strength or short speed endurance so they really enjoyed the change of style and the opportunity it offered to get better. Coaching is all about caring and as important as the technical side is, it won’t matter if you don’t show concern for the athletes.
It was great to be able to coach Baba Dogo United FC while doing the clinic. The coaches who stayed to watch really got to see the full integration of the training. It was great for me proving that I can once again go somewhere and coach, but this time stay for multiple weeks and be a much better coach. The athletes and I bonded well and we all learned a lot. It’ll be good to go back again in the future. I didn’t take a bunch of training photos, as I was busy coaching and typically don’t. Paul took some and they are here. The next time I visit Nairobi, we will build much higher upon the foundation that has been laid.
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