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‘Mixed’ hockey club Nairobi

Level, age, competition, equipment and what about coaches, trainers? I didn’t have a clue about what to expect.
One thing is for sure. Nairobi can be called a real ‘mixed’ hockey club.

A really motivated mixture of players, both kids, girls, boys and seniors of which some are internationals are playing together on the red gravel of the schoolfields or the gravel fields of the private hockey clubs in Nairobi.
At the end of 2004 I shipped second hand sticks, balls and goalkeepers equipment from Rotterdam to Mombasa. Via the Dutch magazine ‘supporter’ I got in contact with a sport journalist of the Nation (newspaper in Kenya). We had discussions about the hockey standard in Kenya at this moment and the need for good equipment. Not because it is unavailable in Nairobi, but simply because some people and schools can’t afford it.
Since most Dutch hockey players own one or more sticks, a small collection was easily made. In less than two weeks I couldn’t enter my room any more because of all the donated sticks!
Unfortunately at this moment, three months after loading this equipment in Rotterdam, It has still not arrived there due to a very long delay in getting a tax waiver for the goods.
Although the goods didn’t arrive in time and the equipment is still waiting to be used by their new owners, I did meet my contacts in Nairobi.
As planned they had arranged a clinic on Saturday and a Nairobi “hockey tour” on Sunday.
To take part in this clinic was a very nice experience. It gave me a clearer picture of the hockey development in Kenya.
Around 30 ‘mixed’ hockey players were attending the clinic, which took place at the gravel pitch of one of the  high schools. Some players came a long way (50 km) on this Saturday morning. We started to play with the total of 7 balls which where brought by some of the participants. I had actually planned to train with at least 60 balls. But those were still in Mombasa, with the shipment.
I started to rearrange the program in my head. After looking at the first moves, the first practices and games with all types and levels together I noticed a big drive, technical skills but a lack of the essential tactical basics.
Because designated coaches and trainers are hard to find (the best player will lead the team) they learn by watching and doing.
The feeling with the ball is great…
Explanation of tactics, how to get the benefits out of one-to-two situation is hard to learn by just looking and playing games.
So that is were we started.
The curiosity and eagerness in assimilating information and tips from a foreign coach were overwhelming. We have been playing for more than one hour in three subgroups before ending with a game. After the clinic and also discussiions with the players and people from different clubs I concluded that the clinic had been a success and that it is really worth to go back again.
The whole days clinic was recorded by digital pictures and also on video film by Nation journalists.
At the end of the day it became national news on television and also there appeared articles in the newspaper about the clinic and the visit.
At the end of this clinic and my experience , I was left with a very positive feeling about Kenyan hockey and it’s future. But a lot needs to take place before they can appear on the international circuit again. Actually I believe that besides the need for more and better equipment the lack of qualified trainers and coaches is the biggest constraint in their future development.
There is no doubt that qualified trainers and coaches will bring hockey in Kenya to a higher level.
What is very exciting is that there is plenty of talent and ambition!

Jeroen Stol

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