High Altitude Training of Arizona
1. What brought you to Kapchorwa and why did you make this your home?
Previously, I worked for Ndejje Sports University (north of Kampala). That’s where I met Fred Cherich, a sports science student by then. He told me positive stories about his home area, Kapchorwa. Stories about the beautiful nature (i.e. Sipi Falls) and the conducive sports environment. As I was already planning to travel to Kenya and Tanzania, I decided to pass by Kapchorwa. What followed was a week full of spontaneous encounters with athletes, youth and leaders (August 2014). I will never forget the second day when we went for a hike to the Teryet High Altitude Center, a 10km. climb. It was raining a lot that day and everywhere along the road we got invited for African tea and chapati. Also at the home of Joshua Cheptegei in the village of Kwoti, where I met Joshua, his uncle, grandma, and coach. Joshua had just become world champion 10km. juniors in Oregon. We shared interesting ideas about sports development. I was impressed by the friendliness and openness of the Kapchorwa people.
From the first moment, I loved the stunning beauty of the place (fertile lands, caves, viewpoints et cetera) and the fresh mountain air. Healthy place! I also met a few coaches and athletes who had a similar ambition to start a project for young sports & running talent.
The next year I came back to do an action research of five months: finding out more about the culture and needs of the people in sports. In 2016 we started Home of Talents, our flagship-project, and later in 2016, I settled at a place just outside Kapchorwa Town where we now have our Home of Friends Guesthouse and our From Coach to Coach Sports Skills Center.
2. Discuss the ideas and inspiration behind your initiative to found From Coach to Coach
Knowledge sharing is a key to success in sports and life. In my first year in Uganda, I discovered that sports coaches are afraid to share their knowledge, because the other team or athlete may win. In my action research in Kapchorwa I found out that a lack of unity is the major cause for the failure of sports initiatives and projects in general. I also found out that there’s a lot of desire in the young generation to become successful in sports (majorly running). Kapchorwa’s first champions (Kipsiro, Kiprotich and later Cheptegei) brought inspiration and hope to Kapchorwa youth. Yet, all these champions struggled on their own in their young years. The first support (i.e. a car or house) came in after they had won their first medals. This is what we call the ‘upside-down pyramid’ of talent development: a supportive environment at the grassroots is lacking, all attention are resources are going to already arrived athletes.
With From Coach to Coach Uganda we are trying to:
• Create a supportive environment at village level for young athletes (6-15 years) to discover and nurture their talents
• Boost unity through locally designed sports events, workshops, and courses whereby talents are exposed and knowledge is shared
• Inspire youth to become exposed and self-driven leaders who share their experience with their younger brothers and sisters
• Encourage and support young athletes and coaches to go for competitions, scholarships, and courses
In the long run we aim to create more jobs for our sports youth. In tourism, sports, and farming (the golden triangle). So that even if they won’t become a world star in running, they will still be able to become self-reliant by applying the leadership skills they learned along the way.
3. Describe your organization and how it operates
We are working in three Communities surrounding Kapchorwa: Kween, Sipi, and Kapenguria. In each of these Communities we have 8 to 10 adult Community sports coaches who frequently train children (6 to 15 years), organize events and who are trained in doing this. In football, athletics and fun games for unity and leadership skills. In two Communities, the adult coaches are assisted by youth leaders. These youth leaders are (based on their interest) nurtured into coaches, officials or event organizers. We organize our own workshops (utilizing the knowledge within), but also send adult coaches and youth leaders for courses in Kampala (with partner sports organizations).
Our coaches and youth leaders work largely voluntarily. We try to place passion (and the value of exposure, practical skills, and new connections) above and before money.
Community coaches make plans on what events and competitions to participate in and can request for support from Coach to Coach. This is always a top-up on the time, materials, food or finances that are brought in by the Community. We have different sources of funding as From Coach to Coach: private donations from the Netherlands (and a few other countries in Europe), proceeds of our Runners Experience (link: https://fromcoachtocoach.com/en/uganda-runners-experience-4/), donations at our Guesthouse, Guesthouse revenues and support from companies in Kapchorwa region.
We are aiming to become a fully sustainable organization, with all funds being generated through local business initiatives in sports, farming and tourism.
4. What specific programs are you implementing now?
Our major program for 2019-2021 is a national Kids Athletics League. The mission is to lift grassroots athletics talents and to instill leadership skills. We are implementing this program together with partners in Kampala, Masaka and Bududa. We have been organizing two Kids Athletics events so far: in May 2019 in Kapchorwa and 11-12 September in Namboole National Stadium, Kampala.
Currently, we are having a athletics training camp in Kapenguria Community, whereby young athletes train in preparation for the MTN Marathon.
Beginning of December, some of our youngest athletes (U12) are going to Kampala for an athletics training camp, educative activities/exposure visits and a Queen and King of the Hill race.
In these last months of 2019, we are also mobilizing and training U15 football teams from our Communities. Just before Christmas, we will organize a two-day regional tournament.
We have been training our Community sports coaches as athletics officials. Twenty coaches graduated in July 2019. Five of these officials were heading the aforementioned Kids Athletics event in Kampala.
5. What impacts do you hope to achieve through the programs?
The most profound impact we hope to create is a mindset change: youth and coaches who believe in their own potential (and the beauty of their region), know how to take action on opportunities and train and inspire others to become successful in life. With sports as a source of unity and inspiration.
Secondly, we want to help youth and coaches to become more self-reliant. By creating jobs in tourism and sports, i.e. by becoming sports masseurs, running coaches, cooks, waiters, tour guides and running guides. Or by creating new businesses i.e. campsites, organic farms, tour operators, restaurants et cetera.
We hope to create more unity and collaboration, as trust and good relationships are the keys to social and economic prosperity and to success in sports.
6. Do you have ideas for expanding the programs?
Yes, we would love to improve the quality of our training for Community sports coaches. For 2020 we are planning to focus more on business development and practical skills training in sports tourism and professional youth running and football coaching courses. We only work with coaches who are highly self-motivated and curious to learn (quality above quantity).
Secondly, we want to let more children benefit from the Kids Athletics movement through ongoing events and training camps in different parts of Uganda.
Lastly, to achieve our ambition of job creation, we want to mobilize more experts and entrepreneurs, from inside and outside Kapchorwa region, to inspire and boost business development.
7. How would you like to get others involved?
International athletes, coaches, and tourists can be involved and contribute in various ways:
a) Train youth leaders and adult coaches in football/athletics coaching, talent development, and practical sports tourism skills
b) Participate in our Runners Experience
c) Join events and training and learn from the focus, resilience, and joy of our coaches and youth
d) Provide guidance, inspirational talks or practical skill sessions
e) Create a social business that can boost youth skilling and employment
8. What are your future goals for the organization and in what direction do you want to grow?
In 2025, we want to be the no. 1 center for youth talent development in East-Africa. In 2030, we want to have coached and supported 500 youth and coaches towards self-reliance. The focus is and will be on Kapchorwa region (Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo District). To make this happen we not only need to develop human capacity, but also our infrastructure (think of a professional running track, demonstration, and practical skilling labs, football pitch, gym et cetera).
The Kids Athletics movement becomes the biggest platform for talent identification and development in East-Africa, with hundred of kids benefiting from it.
9. Where can people go to find out more?
Do you have more ideas or do you see a way we can work together?
Contact me directly via [email protected] or +256(0)780548202 (WhatsApp)