Remy and I held our first tournament this past weekend at the Youth Friendly Center in Kayonza where Kevin and Priscilla renovated one of their courts last year. It is a great location to have an event considering it is close to the bus park, health center, and little shops along the main road. We were able to get tents, chairs, transport, a sound system and food from local businesses which ended up employing over 15 individuals around the district of Kayonza. We were extremely happy with the way things turned out and how smoothly the tournament ran. I was prepared for the worst considering things never go as planned here in Rwanda, whether it is rain or a bus breaking down, something is bound to go wrong. However everything ran perfectly!
Our day started at 7:30am when the kids met in front of the library ready to go. When 7:40 hit and the bus wasn’t there yet I was already frazzled. However it wasn’t long after that when the bus showed up, blasting Rwandan music. We took a head count and the kids ran onto the bus singing and jumping around. The bus driver had a screen with the music video’s playing and the kids were going absolutely crazy shouting Shooting Touch and singing at the top of their lungs. This lasted for the entirety of the 45 minute ride as Nyamirama joined when we stopped to pick them up along the way. Once we arrived in Kayonza, Remy had things pretty well organized. Thankfully we had separated and organized all the prizes and jerseys the day prior to the tournament so it was easy to hand out jerseys according to teams.
It wasn’t long after that when we sat everybody down and introduced our junior coaches. We had all 12 of our coaches line up and had them come up to shake hands and take their certificate, whistle and polo shirt. It was a great way to reward our coaches for the 3 week training they underwent and to show others that they are capable of becoming junior coaches as well. I’m glad we were able to finally give them some gear, seeing as they come to practice everyday and help tremendously.
We prepped the kids on good behavior and sportsmanship before the games begun. Shortly afterwards, everyone was cheering for their respective teams and games moved along as people from around the community started to roll in. The FERWABA national team head coach along with their executive secretary showed up with Lemigo TV just after the first round of games. At this point we had everything in order so it worked out. We had our junior coaches help ref, coach, do stats and keep the kids off the court as Remy, Isa and I made sure we had things ready to go for the next round.
After FERWABA introduced themselves, we had a 3 point competition and moved onto the next round of games. We set up the schedule so that the girls, under 14 and 15-18 year olds would play once in each round, having the same teams from each division playing on that court for the entirety of the tournament.
Between each round of games we had an event planned. One being a guest speaker, Dr. Philbert, provided by RBC. He spoke on prevention of HIV and practicing safe sex. Although I didn’t understand anything he was saying, I believe he had an impact as the players and crowd were asking questions and speaking into the microphone. Throughout his discussion we handed out pamphlets and condoms to anyone who wanted it.
Around 1:30 pm (ahead of schedule) Isa tallied up the scores of all the games to see who would be competing in the semifinals in each division. Following these matches the winners went into the championship games. We had 2 refs as teams went head to head. We were all very impressed at the skill level these kids were playing at and the heart they put into the game. Although Isa and I were refereeing we couldn’t help but jump up and down in excitement as our kids did moves we had been practicing.
The tournament wrapped up with Nyamirama girls, Kayonza 15-18 year olds, and Rwinkwavu under 14 winning the championship. We gave each of the players a basketball, and FERWABA gave out MVP’s for the tournament.
On the way back from the tournament I finally had a minute to take everything in. Replaying the games throughout the day I couldn’t help but feel accomplished. Knowing that these kids had never picked up a basketball before Shooting Touch and to see their progression is an amazing feeling. Watching little Passi hit three 3’s, scoring an and 1, and showing true leadership within the ten minutes of play before Rwinkwavu took the championship for the under 14 age group had me in awe. With that being said, FERWABA took great interest in his playing abilities and will be looking at getting him to play in Kigali, possibly having him go to school out there. By building this court in 2012, and coaching these kids everyday, Passi may have the opportunity to make it out of his small village and receive a good education through the sport of basketball. Although this is just one case, every player has been impacted through Shooting Touch and will continue to be as we expand throughout the Eastern Province.