Now We are Moving!

This post was written by Lisanne Comeau

Here in Rwanda, things are moving along quite well for Shooting Touch.  After a pretty slow first month in which we spent most of our time learning the ropes and settling in, things have quickly picked up. The past few weeks, Remy and I have been pretty busy organizing and planning different clinics and events for November and December. The kids are on school holidays until January so we are taking full advantage of all the free time they have.

Two weeks ago, Remy and I began a coaching clinic for our Shooting Touch coaches in the Eastern province. Since we are planning on running a youth league in a few months, we recruited three junior coaches at each of our sites and invited them to our clinic at the Kayonza Youth Friendly Center.  We have a few adult coaches, however most of the coaches are secondary school kids who also play for Shooting Touch. We figured it would be better for them to learn basketball from a coaching perspective, as that will also enhance their playing ability and they can still help coach the young primary school kids. Not going to lie, I was not sure how many of them were actually going to show up, but we have had a consistent 10-12 coaches, which was beyond my expectations.

Coaching Clinic at Kayonza Center.
Coaching Clinic at Kayonza Center.

For the first week of the coaching clinic, we focused on offensive terms, concepts, and drills, and for the second week we worked on defense. The first half of each session, we go over concepts, rules, and terms in a classroom while the coaches take notes in the notebooks we provided them. We also would show them some drills from coaching DVDs provided by Shooting Touch Board of Director member, Bob Hurley. The man is a basketball genius so the fact that people out here are learning from one of the best coaches in the US just goes to show what level Shooting Touch is aiming to take youth basketball in Rwanda!  After about an hour and a half indoors, we took the coaches to the court to demonstrate some drills they will be able to use in their practices.  During our review sessions, we decided to have some fun and set up games like Family Feud and Jeopardy to quiz the coaches on what we taught them.

Family Feud at the Coaching clinic.
Family Feud at the Coaching Clinic.

Although it was pretty hard to explain since their English is so limited, we made it work, gave out prizes, and they really enjoyed it!  Isa came to one of these sessions and wouldn’t stop saying how impressed she was with the knowledge the young coaches gained, so I guess we are doing something right!  Next week will be evaluation week and we will grade the coaches on how much they have improved in the three weeks and how much they were able to retain from the clinic.  They will be running their own practices at their respective courts and have been instructed to create their own practice plans.  One thing that we have really been focusing on is communication, thus I am anxious to see how they conduct their own practices and deal with the typical practice situations!

Coaches working on form shooting.
Coaches working on form shooting.

Aside from the coaching clinic, Remy and I have gotten the court construction at Gahini underway. After a few meetings with the different contractors and the headmaster at the secondary school in Gahini, we chose to go with Emmy, the contractor that built three of Shooting Touch’s previous basketball courts. I think it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing at this point and it is convenient that he lives in Rwink so I can meet with him easily (if need be). One thing I have slowly but surely learned is that, in Rwanda, nothing really comes easy, at all. There are always a million hoops and obstacles you have to climb through to get something done, and sure enough, that has been the case with our court construction. Everyday, I have to travel to about six ATM machines to withdraw money so that Emmy can buy the necessary materials to begin the process. It’s a tedious little daily task and its not ideal, but out here, you do what you have to do to get things done.  If that means running from bank to bank everyday, looking like a thief, then that is just what I have to do. But the construction has indeed begun and so far, Emmy’s crew has leveled the ground and put in the first layer of stones.

Court Construction day one.
Court Construction day one.

It’s interesting to see the process happen and how much harder it is to do things in Rwanda. In the US, a huge truck will come pour the cement for you, but here in Rwanda, the workers literally mix the cement powder and water themselves, so it is going to take them a few weeks to complete the project.  On top of that, the headmaster of Gahini does not want to ruin his garden, so Emmy hired about 20 men to take materials from the truck to the court site by means of wheelbarrows (ahh only in Rwanda).  Regardless of the obstacles, I cannot wait to see what our court is going to look like!

Court Construction day four.
Court Construction day four.

Another project we have going on is our 3 on 3 tournament!  It is scheduled for December 14th at Kayonza Friendly Center.  We have met with representatives from Ferwaba, including the National Team’s head coach, who have committed to working with us for this event.  This gives our kids a chance to play in front of some big names in Rwanda basketball, which they otherwise would not have the opportunity to.  Along with basketball, we have a dance group and DJ appearing for entertainment. We will also have a guest speaker, specifically focusing on AIDS/HIV, and hopefully a speaker to talk about proper nutrition.  It is important to incorporate these issues in order to fulfill our purpose with Shooting Touch and to have an impact on multiple ends. Hopefully we will have media at the tournament as Amadou Fall (Vice President of NBA Africa and member of the Shooting Touch Board) introduced us to a member of Super Sports (equivalent to ESPN here in Rwanda) who was interested in covering the tournament.

Name game with the SACCA girls.
Name game with the SACCA girls.

I have been meeting with Sacca Girls Orphanage in Kayonza once a week.  We talk about different issues they may be facing.  Last week we talked about body image.  I chose an activity where everyone was to draw herself and write three things they like about themselves.  Not all of them understood as most of them wrote, “I like basketball” or “I like school”, however there were a few that stood out.  One saying, “I like my life” and “I like my future”, this instantly brought a smile to my face.

Activities with the SACCA orphanage.
Activities with the SACCA orphanage.
Girls already using the Shooting Touch net!
Girls already using the Shooting Touch net!

Although these girls don’t have much to call their own, they are thankful for what they do have and I consider myself lucky to work with such a special group of girls.

Lastly we ran a 2 day camp with the Agahazo Shalom Village from Rwamagana in the Eastern Province.  This is a special group of kids who are extremely talented!  We had a blast working with them and can’t wait to work with them in the future.

Camp with Shalom Village.
Camp with Shalom Village.

Although the side projects have been a handful and have taken up most of our time, we make sure to continue our weekly practices at our sites. Now with our new coaches in place, I make sure to incorporate them in practices at Nyamirama and Rwinkwavu sort of like training.  Although they need some help with projecting their voice, I can tell that they are all trying.

In my spare time I find myself doing things that I otherwise wouldn’t if I were back home.  For example, I am learning how to cook (slowly but surely).  It’s pretty much necessary when you are living out in the village, unless you are content with eating an omelet every meal.  So I have stubbornly stepped out of my box and am trying different things.  I also go for runs almost everyday and often find myself at the top of different hills admiring the wonderful views (while I catch my breath of course).

One of the many views from the top.
One of the many views from the top.

It’s such a relaxing feeling to stop and hear nothing but the wind blowing past me.  If at any point I am stressed or overwhelmed I go for a run along these hills and forget about any troubles.  With this being said, I’m going to try to start an exercise class with a few women in the village.  My hope is that they not only become healthier, but will find it as relieving as I do.  I’m sure this will mean getting up at 5 in the morning, however I’m sure it will be worth it.

It’s crazy to think that we are already approaching December.  Sometimes I sit back and wonder how I was so fortunate to be chosen. I am soaking up every moment of it and wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

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