Bristol-Kenya Coach Exchange Report
As part of the Bristol-Kenya Partnership one lucky coach took part in a Coach Exchange. This Coach was Richard Gwyn and he has wrote a report (below) about his experiances from the exchange.
Kenya Coach Development Exchange Report...
My journey to Kenya began in March when I received an email from the West of England Sports Partnership (Wesport) coach database (CoachWest) inviting applications for the coach exchange programme, in a number of different sports. I jumped at the opportunity having been involved previously with an athlete exchange programme to Kenya when I worked for England Athletics. This exchange programme through the John Rutley Springboard fund had allowed three young talented Bristol athletes and two University of Bristol student athletes to go to Dr Kipchoge Keino’s endurance school in Eldoret, two years previously. My opportunity finally arrived on 14th August where I would spend eight days working with the All African Games Kenyan sprints and hurdles squad in their training camp at the Kasarani Sports complex in Nairobi.
My connecting flight from Amsterdam Schiphol airport with Kenya Airways was delayed by four hours, however, this did not dampen my spirits. The onboard entertainment included highlights of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand. Watching this, highlighted to me, the power of sport in uniting and bringing hope to a nation in the continent of Africa.
On arrival at Nairobi airport, I was greeted by Gerald, my driver. Gerald proceeded to give me a guided tour of the city on my way to the Hotel La Mada. My first impression of Nairobi was the large volume of traffic, the result of a massive road building programme, currently under construction, with the support of the Chinese government. We drove through the bustling city centre taking in the Parliament buildings, the burial ground of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta and the impressive conference centre building.
Once we had managed to navigate the tricky diverted road system, I arrived at the hotel which was situated in a beautiful forest setting. By this stage, it was time for lunch in the outdoor dining area. No sooner than I was tucking into my food I was joined by a visitor – a monkey! The friendly waitress told me that they lived wild in the forest and were always on the look out for an opportunity with an unsuspecting guest!
After an early night’s sleep it was time to meet the Kenyan sprints and hurdles coaches who I would be working with for the duration of my stay. On arrival at the IAAF African Regional Development Centre and Athletics Kenya offices, I was greeted by Martin Oitangor, hurdles coach. We instantly built a rapport with one another as Martin seemed just as excited as me to be working with a coach from another country. Martin had previously worked for 30 years on the East African railways before taking up hurdles coaching to see him through his retirement years. We headed off to the training track to watch the World Championship Kenyan athletics squad preparing for the upcoming World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. On first impressions it was unbelievable to see so many world class endurance athletes all training at the same venue. It was amazing to see David Rudisha, the world 800 metre record holder in full flight during one of his training runs.
|David Rudisha (World 800 metre record holder) and Richard Gwyn|
Martin soon introduced me to an interesting Irishman by the name of Brother Colm O’Connell. Colm had come over to Kenya from Cork in the 60’s as a catholic school teacher at St Patrick’s Boys school in Iten. He was introduced to athletics coaching by Peter Foster, younger brother of Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Brendan Foster, and never looked back. Listening to his story filled me with awe as he told me how he had identified talent in the Rift Valley area through the schools systems. This talent was nurtured and as a result has produced two world 800 metre record holders – Wilson Kipketer and David Rudisha as well as four Olympic gold medal winners! Something was already telling me that the genetics pool in this country was very special!
I was soon greeted by Andrew Chepkwony, lead sprints coach for the All African Games Kenyan sprints squad. We too hit it off straight away in the fact that we both shared an interest in farming. Having been brought up on a dairy farm in North Somerset we had a lot in common as Andrew owns a farm in the Green Highlands area near Kericho, world famous for its tea plantations.
On arrival at the dining area of the training camp we were greeted by Dr Kipchoge Keino, Chairman of National Olympic Committee Kenya (NOC-K) and first ever African Olympic gold medallist for 1500 metres at the 1968 Mexico Games, Francis K Paul, Secretary General of NOC-K, Christine, Marketing & Communications Liaison for NOC-K, Ibrahim Hussein, IAAF Africa Regional Development Centre Deputy Director and Dr Paul Otuoma, Kenyan Government Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports.
Dr Kipchoge Keino, Ibrahim Hussein and myself were whisked away to do an interview for KBC television which was broadcast on national news later that evening, highlighting the Bristol Kenya partnership and the opportunity to further develop Kenyan sprinting and hurdling. With the formalities over with, we all sat down for lunch together, with further coaching discussion going on into the afternoon. I was picked up by my new driver, Kariuki, who drove me to my new Hotel Utalii, renowned for being a top class training school for the hotel and catering industry in Kenya.
The next day the sprints and hurdles squad for the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique, were ready for their first training session. I was introduced to the group and felt very welcome. The group performed an impressive set of drills giving me plenty of new ideas. With my UK Athletics coach education tutors hat on, I suggested to Andrew and Martin that we move static stretching to the end of the session and replace it with mobilisation exercises instead. They readily took on board the new coaching philosophy so that I demonstrated a number of mobilisation exercises for the group to try out. We then proceeded to some hurdle routines which the athletes soon mastered, so that an element of competition could be introduced. Athletes challenged one another as to who could complete the routine first. A great atmosphere ensued with everyone really getting into the spirit of the session.
|Hurdle routines in action with Moi International Sports Stadium in background|
Timekeeping for the afternoon session was abit of a problem for some of the group! I was asked to give a talk about the importance of good timekeeping. I reinforced the point by rewarding all those who had turned up on time with a Run Bristol t-shirt. From then on in timekeeping went smoothly for the rest of the week, as I had struck a chord with the group. Once the session had finished the group was greeted by Dr Kipchoge Keino, John Velzian, IAAF Africa Regional Development Centre Director and Fridah Shiroya, treasurer of NOC-K. John was a truly remarkable man who had come to Kenya in 1955 from England, hired by the British as a physical education officer for Kenya. He told me how he had invested five years of his life helping design the Moi International Sports Stadium which was built especially for the All Africa Games held in 1987. A true pioneer of athletics development in Kenya and Africa!
The next day the coaches reinforced the drills, mobilisation exercises and hurdle routines. In addition, each athlete was asked to demonstrate and lead a static stretch, at the end of the session. Once again with my UK Athletics coach education tutors hat on, demonstrations from different angles were reinforced and athlete’s understanding was checked through the use of specific questioning. This was something athletes were tasked with doing so that they could develop coaching skills for themselves.
Saturday simply involved a light training session in the morning so that the rest of the week-end was left as rest and relaxation. Andrew very kindly decided he wanted to show me his farm in the Green Highlands near Kericho, as we had spoken about it at great length. After a five hour mini bus journey across the spectacular Rift Valley, involving some close shave overtaking manoeuvres by our driver, we finally arrived at his village. We were greeted by his friend, Coco, who kindly gave us a lift down the long muddy track, on a motor bike, to his farm. We were greeted by his wife, Lynette and two sons, Albert & Alfred. I was amazed how the farm relied on no electricity! A lantern was used for light and cooking was performed using a wood burning stove. Lynette had laid on a feast for us with one of the farm chickens specially prepared as well as plenty of fresh Kenyan tea.
Next morning we woke up early to make the most of the short period of time we had left before we had to set off on the long journey back to Nairobi. The basic outdoor toilet was a whole new experience whilst the outdoor shower involved throwing water, heated by the wood fired stove, over oneself. Andrew gave me a guided tour of the farm including his pride and joy – a Massey Ferguson tractor from Wiltshire, England. He highlighted he was looking to buy a new one so that I promised to try a few of my contacts back home to see if it might be possible to ship a newer one over to Mombassa in time for ploughing in November.
The long return journey to Nairobi across the Maasai Mara National Reserve gave me the opportunity to witness some of the spectacular wildlife, including zebra, gazelle, wildebeest and giraffe. We arrived back in Nairobi ready for the my last few days.
Monday’s morning session involved starts practice, using blocks. I was able to pass on my knowledge to the coaches and athletes about how to angle the blocks and hand positioning on the bend to give maximum advantage. The afternoon session was a swimming session in the athletes hotel pool the Blue Springs. A number of the athletes were unable to swim so that I was able to give them a lesson as a qualified ASA swimming teacher. I also demonstrated aqua jogging/sprinting as a method of training, particularly useful, when injured.
My final day involved the morning training session which resulted in two athletes being awarded a Run Bristol polo shirt for commitment and dedication shown during the past week. These were awarded to Grace Kidake (400m) and Simon Kimaru (100m), whom had both competed for Kenya at last years Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Christine, Marketing & Communications Liaison on behalf of NOC-K wished me farewell alongside the coaches and athletes. As token of my appreciation, for this once in a lifetime opportunity, I presented Christine with a Bristol ruby glass paperweight, with Bristol engraved on it.
The long flight home via Tanzania and Amsterdam, ending at Bristol International airport allowed me to reflect on a wonderful experience which I shall never forget. I would like to thank Bob Reeves of the Bristol Kenya partnership, National Olympic Committee of Kenya, Athletics Kenya, IAAF, West of England Sports Partnership, Run Bristol and Bristol City Council for making this coach development exchange possible. I hope to return one day.