Monday, May 30, 2011

WE WON THE PROVINCIALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't tell you how excited I am! The boys trained very hard and persevered! Months of hard work paid off in adverse conditions! Won all of the group games 8-0 against Lamu's Hindi, 54-0 nail biter against Kikoneni, 8-5 against Mwavumo and the climax, 0-0 tie against Shimo la Tewa, a team we lost to (barely) in our first tournament of the season... then a huge 6-3 win against St Georges (one of the teams to beat that beat us in sevens) and then 5-0 win in the final against the reigning champions Waa!!!!! I honestly still can't believe that we made it!

It was the goal we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season... to make it to the nationals. And after a lot of hard work, literally blood sweat and tears, we made it! Thanks to everyone that supported us! Now this weekend the boys are in Meru for the National Championships where they are sure to get creamed, but hopefully this will be a learning experience. Normally, the Coast representatives at the Nationals loose by at least 60 point margins. Up country teams have rugby cultures, all the equipment, and the ones that make it to the nationals actually recruit for rugby players, handing out scholarships etc to physically gifted and talented athletes at nationally renowned schools. Tough for us to compete against, but we'll try! But hopefully we can keep that margin down and use this as a stepping stone for next year, and see if next year we can make it again and maybe even win a game!

Thanks again for all of your support!

Monday, March 7, 2011

District Champs!

After a bit of struggling... we manage to make it. Yup, unbeaten in the four game round robin tournament to take the District Championships. I'm proud of the boys, the played good rugby throughout, incorporated some kicking into the mix, played great defence and above all protected the ball and won! It was boiling hot, and I'd prepared a coolbox with 9-1.5 litre bottles of water and some ice for injuries. After a nervous first game against tough Muyeye, we put in some bigger stronger forwards also to avoid injury to our more skilled players, we won 7-0. Our next match was a 21-0 win against a surprisingly fast Galana. Our biggest test was against Barani who had beaten us in the last tournament, and we managed to stay disciplined and win 7-0 and then I put basically the second team against Gede and won 19-7. We again overcame some pretty poor refereeing... but that seems to be the norm... All in all a string of good results, one step closer to the goal. Cheers to everyone who pitched in!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New boots, new outlook!

I know it must be getting tedious, but I managed to figure out the sizes we need and got 7 sets of new boots for the boys yesterday. It was exciting to have most of the boys in the scrimmage actually wearing decent kit! Thanks to Tara and Wild Fitness! I think everyone feels a bit more prepared for the districts on Monday.

Another nice thing is that everyone seems healed up and rested and ready to push for the tournament on Monday. It's great to be able to have options for the first team, as I wrote earlier, in the last tournament my selection was limited by injury. I think the new boots will help with this too. I've been pushing the boys pretty hard in practice with respect to fitness, and we've worked on being more deliberate about how we move the ball inside and out. I also joined in a few times to challenge the first team, it's been really fun to get in there and get my hands dirty. Feeling pretty fit these days!

A nice surprise is that I see a lot of the second team players stepping up and challenging the first team in the games I have them play against each other. I think selection will become a lot more difficult! Lots of little things have improved as well, kicking, set plays such as lineouts and scrums. I really hope we can put it all together for next monday.

Another nice piece of news is that Reuters apparently has commissioned a feature piece on the team, so we will have another camera crew at the tournament on Monday and a professional photographer... hard work is paying off! :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lots of news! Wild fitness and Barani tournament

Right, well have been quite busy over the last week, helping with organising the music festival, rugby and figuring out what to do next! Lots of news since the last post. First off, we managed to get some support from Wild Fitness from Watamu who managed to drum up 10 000 ksh in sponsorship which we were going to use for balls, but in the end decided on, yes, you guessed it! BOOTS! That will buy us a bit more than three pairs, which might mean we won't have anyone playing in socks at the district championships! Thanks Tara!!!

Secondly, we participated as expected in the Barani Tournament, we had quite a few injuries so had to play some of the smaller and less experienced players. The skill level was significantly lower than Shanzu and the pitch was tiny, with 2 metre try zones with casuarina trees growing in them! A major bonus was being introduced to Twaha who is the rugby development official for the coast. Hope if things get rolling that we can work on something together to get rugby properly up and running in Malindi. He seemed like a great guy with a good knowledge and love for the game!

We had a tough first game against a much bigger and very low skilled Muyeye side. All accounts a very rough/dirty game which we came away with a 5-0 win, but injuries to our top three players. The next game was the worst I've seen our boys play, a 15-0 loss to Barani. Lots of panicking and turn overs galore, I was surprised and thought we'd taken a few steps back from the level we were at in Shanzu where we were destroying the cream of the crop. I think that the team got away from our strength (protecting the ball) in search of more space and creativity, but I guess it was a bit too creative. The last game against St Georges who we expected to be our biggest challenge was more of the same. Granted we only had 4 sets of boots on the pitch and lots of injuries, but again lots of turn overs and a 15-0 loss.

Not what I was expecting but I suppose it's better to get the kinks out here than at the districts or provincials. Back to the drawing board. Going to work on fitness and ball control this week. The boys were off for mid-term holidays, so a well deserved week off. Next week is the districts so we have our work cut out for us. Hope it will go well! Looking forward to getting some comments! Cheers, J

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thanks Mama Liz! :)

Just wanted to write a little note to thank Liz Hopkins who very kindly went out of her way to gather some footwear for our team, after she heard they were training in flip flops! Thank you so much Mrs Hopkins! The trainers are helping some of the boys run a bit harder in practice. Now you have to come and watch them play! :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Preparation for Malindi Tournament!

So another tournament this weekend, mostly against district competition, but will be a good test for the lessons we learnt last weekend. Hope some of the bigger teams from Mombasa also come down, but we'll have to see. I'll be happy if our second team wins some games. Spoke to some friends here and abroad about sponsoring the team so hope that maybe results for this tournament will pay off! See you all there?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The boys watch Rugby on TV for the first time!

This might have been one of the best things to have done with the team, and I wish I'd done it sooner... although I suppose the six nations tournament just started. We took them to a restaurant, begged and pleaded with the owner, bought a soda for each of them (they had to walk home for an hour afterwards!) and watched France squeak by Ireland in a magnificent six nations match. In training today I could see that some of the boys better understood some of the concepts I was trying to bring to the team. Also good for moral and chemistry building. It's a shame it's so difficult in this day and age to have boys watch rugby on tv. But the fact of the matter is, it's not a popular sport here and it's not easy to bring 20 boys (or more preferably) into a safe place to watch the match. Couldn't invite them to someone's house and as you could imagine, the school was not so happy about the idea of bringing them to a bar. I'll have to figure out a better and cheaper way! By the way, for those of you not in kenya, schools don't have TVs! :)

Shanzu Tournament, our first Test... 3rd place!

Well, all in all we had a great tournament. Wasn't sure how it was going to go at the beginning, I really hadn't prepared the team to play sevens but hadspent most of our time working on the basics. Only found out about the tournament on wednesday so spent three sessions working on basic things like sevens scrums and line outs (I think we probably won around 20 percent of those in the tournament!) and as we only had a couple of players from last year, it really hurt us!

But the surprise was great, we wen't 4-0 on the first day of the round robin with big wins against Mariakani, Kwale and Hamisi, also sheepishly beating our B-side which is an other topic to discuss here! The next day I think we were unfairly punished by the referee and lost on a penalty try 7-5 to Shimo la Tewa, the other unbeaten team at the tournament on their home ground. This set us up with a semi-final berth against Mariakani whom we destroyed the previous day, but again (and I suppose you only say this when you lose!) we had a few calls go the wrong way and we lost 5-0. For a moment there I thought we were the class of the tournament and that we were going home with the trophy. In the end we finished third, which in my mind was a huge accomplishment given my expectations at the beginning of the tournament.

Conditions were less than perfect.
It was very difficult to get the boys water or food, and of course the school is on a very tight
budget. I guess traditionally the players here don't eat anything after breakfast so on the first day they didn't eat anything at all until after all the games were finished which meant around 4:30 pm. On the second day I convinced our other coach Waweru to spring for some bananas which the boys ate after the first match. Also equipment was a HUGE issue. There were around 5 pairs of functioning boots on our whole squad. In fact our players borrowed boots from t
he other teams which meant less than perfect conditions for warming up as they had to wait for the ongoing games to finish before they could get their gear on. This is something that I'd like to remedy! Anyone out there have boots?

The second team was another adventure. I figured since we could bring down 20 players we might as well give the younger kids a chance to play. On some levels this back fired, I think this had to do with the culture on the team. I guess the younger guys on some level didn't feel prepared, on an other were just happy to come along for the ride. Many of them after the first game (they were thrashed!) said they might sit the next game out and play in the third game. I've never come across this in all my years of coaching. But give them credit, after they saw the first team pushing hard, some of them rallied and played hard, doing better in their later games. We had a big prop out there with them, and he played the final game with only socks on his feet! Imagine playing sevens in socks on an african pitch!

All in all a smashing success for the first tournament! The first team really gelled and the second team came up with an identity, and today at practice (it was optional and non contact) I could see that they had taken a lot from their experience. We even stopped on the way home and watched the marvellous 6 nations clash between Ireland and France! There's another tournament here in Malindi this weekend. I think St Georges is coming down along with local Galana and the hosts Barani. I was hoping we would meet the perennial champions Waa this weekend, but apparently the school closed down due to riots, as did all the extra curricular activities, I'm trying to see if they might come up to play us in this tournament. Onwards and upwards! I didn't manage to get many pictures of game action as I was a bit excited, but here's a little crappy video of the big game against fellow undefeated team Tewa...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day before the tournament

The boys were pumped up today... a bit nervous. I have no idea what to expect, but I think they'll do ok. I think probably these guys would be smoked by my high school team when I was playing, but I suppose given the amount of exposure to rugby and the lack of equipment... maybe it's normal. Suprisingly it's also the sporting culture that's weak... but I digress. We tried to prepare them, we'll se how it goes. We decided to pick a first and a second team to go rather than mixing them up. I think the boys prefer it that way too. As an asside, I'm putting up the picture of the new form 1 prop! :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Game action! Preparation for Tourney this W/E

Got some great news at training yesterday. Apparently we've been invited to a tournament at Shanzu this weekend where the best teams on the coast will be competing. It's a bit early days and haven't gotten through everything I've wanted to skills wise with this team, and haven't had a game yet with this new group. But the exposure to game conditions will be great! It's a sevens tournament though and have been preparing more for fifteens. Am curious to see what the refereeing will be like and not sure how to prepare the boys for different interpretation of rules, how much flexibility they have handling the ball on the deck, how lineouts and scrums are judged etc... We had a bit of an issue this week as kids were sent home for their school fees, so training cancelled on monday and yesterday only had around 20 boys, some of them the new form ones (we have a new nice big prop by the way! :) ). But all in all excited about testing the team and getting some action in. Great passing from the tackle drill yesterday with a lot of fluidity but a bit concerned about the hand speed down the line. Tackles are great though, lots of bravery and intensity. The irony is that they love tackling but not so much being tackled! Would love to hear ideas.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Great Tackling practice today

These kids are amazing. I went through some tackling drills on tuesday and did some again today and I spotted only one missed tackle... they're brave and tough. It's going to be fun coaching them... I guess I shouldn't get that excited though, they still have a lot to learn and I haven't seen them play a game yet. I'm a bit bummed because I have to go to nairobi for work this weekend and I was really excited about taking them to watch some 6 nations rugby this weekend... oh well, I guess there's always next weekend!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Had another great training session today. Have been able to use last year as an indication of how fast/slow to go and what to expect. The boys are learning very quickly... today we worked on tackling and the boys are tough. Just need to get them some proper boots, it's really tough to push them to run hard or make cuts when they're running in flip flops! Note the american footballs we use to train... anything goes!

New Season, new outlook

Right, well, second year going training these young lads from the Coast. Malindi High is turning out to be pretty fun to coach, you never know what sort of magic we'll spin up this year... last year with minimal attention, made it to be 2nd runners up for the provincial sevens 15s after destroying the competition in the Districts... who knows what will happen this year. To be honest we've been talking about a trip to the Nationals.