Making Progress in Kayonza District

This post was written by Lisanne Comeau.

After three weeks of teaching, evaluating, and testing, Shooting Touch officially has 12 new coaches in the Eastern province, ready to take our program to the next level. This past week, we finished up the coaching clinic with a post-clinic test to see how much they remembered and how much they have improved. It’s funny because they were trying to be slick and cheat off each other when we were not in the room, like we weren’t students once, trying to cheat on tests.  We also went to each court and evaluated the coaches as they ran a full practice on their own, taking what Remy and I taught them in the coaching clinic the weeks before.

Junior coaches running practice.
Junior coaches running practice.

We explained what was expected of them, such as having a practice plan ready, being vocal, and demanding respect from the players, so they can come prepared. Being that most of our coaches are young, I knew they would need some encouragement and time to gain the confidence it takes to lead a group of peers, but I will say, I was impressed with their retention, preparedness, and effort during the evaluation.

Coach at work.
Coach at work.

I understand it is not easy taking charge of a group of peers, so the fact they were a bit timid was not a surprise, but they definitely held their own, and I know they will only get better as they continue coaching alongside me. For their hard work and completion of the clinic, we will present them with a certificate, whistle, and a polo shirt at the tournament next week.

Another project that would be the first from Shooting Touch out here in Rwanda was an all women’s exercise class.  Being that my previous job was a personal trainer, Isa and I figured it would be a great way to get the women to live a healthier lifestyle and also to feel like they are a part of the Shooting Touch family.  Of course, there were many concerns; for one, we weren’t sure who would show up.  Secondly, we knew that whoever did show up would most likely be in long skirts, so the exercises we could choose from were limited, especially since we have no equipment.  Lastly, the concept of working out isn’t practiced amongst the majority of the women in Rwinkwavu, so we knew it would be a challenge to get them out of their comfort zone.

Push ups with the Shooting Touch Abagore (women)
Push ups with the Shooting Touch Abagore (women)

When Isa and I showed up to the court there were a few teens watching timidly from a distance. It wasn’t long until we started and ran a class with a total of 11 girls/women!  I remember telling Isa that I would be happy if 5 showed up, but we had a great turnout for the first day.  I was surprised at how fast they got into things. They weren’t afraid to get dirty with assisted push ups against the mound of soil, or get on the ground and do planks.  Although they struggled, and most of them thought their ankle long skirts could hide their knees being on the ground throughout planks, they gave it their all.  Isa and I did a circuit style workout, where they had some rest in between exercises.  My favorite was the infamous Mama Lucy who showed up in a hoodie and a long skirt.  She was sweating like crazy and complained about how sore she was after 10 minutes.  However, at the end of the workout she said she would workout even after I left Rwanda, and that was all I needed to hear to put a smile on my face.

Yessss! Planks!
Yessss! Planks!

To keep all the women coming back and not just Mama Lucy, we told them that after attending 10 sessions they would get a Shooting Touch t-shirt, hopefully I will be able to get them some shorts as well.  The next class we had 15 people attend with ages ranging from as young as 3 years old up to 43 years old who were all just as eager as the first class, and 20 the following class.  I am excited to see improvements as time goes on!

The ladies after a great workout.
The ladies after a great workout.

This past week we also started testing the kids skill level and strength in order to track improvements throughout the year.  Thus far, Rwinkwavu and Nyamirama have undergone testing completing a total of 5 tests; a 1 minute lay up drill, elbow to elbow shooting, free throws (make vs. miss out of 10), max number of push ups, and timed sprints. Thanks to my new coaches we were able to test each player and plan on testing throughout the year to see improvements.

Most importantly we are getting ready for our 3 on 3 tournament that takes place this Sunday!  Being that this is our first tournament I am extremely nervous, not sure who will show up, if it will rain, or any other obstacles that may be faced.  Yet I am extremely excited!  We have extended our invitation to the mayor of Kayonza, along with representatives from immigration (considering we are there on a weekly basis) and members of the community.  FERWABA, the national basketball federation in Rwanda, will be attending and has helped with getting a TV station and journalists to cover the tournament.  Now that we are an official NGO it will be a great way to show the community what we are all about.

Besides 3 on 3 play, we have a doctor representing the HIV division from RBC (our new partner) that will be a guest speaker, RBC has also provided pamphlets on prevention of HIV that will be handed out at the game.  From the entertainment perspective, we will have a dance crew, a 3-point shooting and a skills competition.  We have many prizes, games, snacks, and water for the crowd and competitors so I’m sure it will be a fun day!

Umuganda with my future class!
Umuganda with my future class!

Aside from Shooting Touch business and taking a look into my personal activities, it has now been almost two and a half months since I left home and created a new one here.  Everyone in the village has been extremely welcoming so I decided to give back.  The last Saturday of every month is called Umuganda, and throughout all of Rwanda people take part in community service.  Whether it be fixing a house or cleaning the roads, volunteers dedicate 3 hours to helping each other for the good of their village or city.   When I showed up everyone looked at me as if I had 2 heads but I was quickly welcomed with a hoe and an area to start working in.  After about 20 minutes I was already exhausted.  It seemed like I was the only one sweating, my hands were red from the soil, which soon covered the entirety of my jersey.  My technique was terrible as I pulled way too much dirt with the weeds; I was probably doing more harm than good. I couldn’t figure out why it was so important to take weeds of the dirt roads, however Rwandans are big about keeping their streets clean.  So for the next few hours we pulled the weeds and cleaned, I have to say my hoeing skills improved drastically throughout those 3 hours. With that being said, I have a new respect for the people who do this day in and day out in the hot sun because I had enough after that morning.

By taking part in Umuganda I made a stronger connection with my community and was able to bring up the idea of exercising.  With that being said, I have learned that it is important for me to step out of my comfort zone.  Just like the women in my class, I am new in this and have much to learn.  Everyday there are different obstacles that I face, but I feel that they have made me stronger and that I am growing as a person.

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