First Coach's Clinic and December Classic

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Flag of Rwanda  ,
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hello all,

Isa and I are gearing up for the upcoming school break – where we will have complete access to kids for our camps. First let me say that apart from being an awesome crowd to hangout with, my team, UGB has been a great resource in terms of the Shooting Touch vision. From top to bottom, UGB has helped Shooting Touch immensely.  All of my teammates are either connected professionals who know somebody for everything, or young people like Isa and I who have a desire to coach in the future.  For example, one guy, Maurice, has been huge in assisting our court-building projects.  In fact, he introduced himself to me and told me straight up "I'm going to help you build your court" without me even asking.  In just three weeks of knowing him, he has directly put me into contact, and aided with the process to get two quotes on our court building project at Mburabuturo Primary School.   Two other players, Dennis and Master P, have attended our coaching clinics and may serve as coaches in our camps.  And of course, the coach, Jacques, has been instrumental in guiding us to meet good basketball people and serving with us in our camps.  As much as things tend to not work on time here, the people are awesome if you get to know them and are very helpful.  They are all friendly and will help you out with, as they always say “no problem.”  A bunch of people always ask us what were doing here, and even recognize us even when we don’t carry our ball, by just saying “basket” (pronounced bah-skate)– what they call basketball here.  Even when I picked up a package from FedEx, the young woman asked me for my email so she could participate in our program in some way.  This gives me hope that Shooting Touch will blow up in Rwanda. 

The coaching clinic – held at Gatenga school, our numbers fluctuated day-to-day, but the most consistent participants – 12 guys – really put forth the effort and soaked up everything we had to share.  This is basically how the camp worked – Isa and I would either take smaller groups or take the whole group together and teach a concept or a terminology, run through a drill that emphasizes the concept or terminology, and then have the coaches-in-training teach it back to us.  It was great to see how enthusiastic they were, and I was confident by the end of the session that they could teach kids without us there.  We also had a solid group of onlookers every day, and young kids who would steal the ball and go shoot at another basket. 

We covered the lines on the court, violations, fouls, defensive stance, deny/help/man defense, boxing out, outlet passing, triple threat, bounce pass, overhead (what we call football-) pass, chest pass, shooting form and follow through, down screen, flare screen, and up/back screen, It was kind of a weird experience for Isa and I to teach basketball from the very beginning, we kind of realized how much we knew about the sport.  I think the guy's favorite part was screaming "ball! ball! ball!" when we showed them closeouts and ball, deny, help in shell drill.  The onlookers thought this was just hilarious. We plan to hold another clinic either next week or the week after as a refresher and “next-step” course where we would teach more advanced concepts like zone offense/defense, motion offense, and individual moves.  We plan to use Coach Hurley's DVD's to show the coaches during the refresher court (thanks for sending them Justin!).

At the end, we taught a life lesson about HIV and to “always ask” before having unprotected sex.  We had designated one person in the group to have a “secret handshake” (the creepy one where you scratch the other persons palm with your middle finger) and if you received the scratch, you had to scratch all other people when you shook their hands.  Eventually, everyone had the scratch, and we debriefed, saying that the scratch represented HIV contracted through unprotected sex.  We then had the coaches-in-training do a similar exercise, but instead of just shaking hands, they had to show their hands before shaking, to check if the other person had the scratchy hand shake.  If the other person did, they were instructed to not shake their hand.  After debriefing, there was a huge “ahh” moment, the “ahh” that you say when you understand something, and that was HUGE.  We debriefed again and had some of the coaches explain the exercise, and run it themselves.  Needless to say, these CHRISC coaches are great, and they got it.  We felt confident enough to tell the CHRISC coaches that they now are associated with us, as we are associated with them, and when they are working Shooting Touch events, they need to teach the kids exactly how we taught them.  They were excited about this, and are pumped to rock ST gear.

After the clinic was over on Wednesday, it took Isa and I 40 minutes to leave Gatenga because all of the coaches were asking for more pictures with us, and people had to put their names and email on our mailing list.  It was a pretty special feeling leaving there with all the coaches so thankful for what we shared with them.  Luckily, we got out of there before Hurricane Sandy’s twin came and rocked Kigali.

On the way to Gatenga on Wednesday, Isa and I took a different route, which was risky, but it paid off in more ways than just being a shortcut.  We walked through a neighborhood we never have been in before, and the kids haven’t seen us yet, so they began yelling “MUZUNGU” and chasing us.  Some kids walked with us about half a mile all the way to Gatenga school, holding my hand the entire way.  It was one of the coolest, most humanizing experiences of my life

The rest of the week was dedicated to planning and launching a huge project – the 1st Annual Shooting Touch December Classic.  Isa and I thought of this earlier in the week, and we just decided to go for it – we have made the right connections, we have a solid network of people.  Our idea is to hold three week-long camps at separate locations throughout Kigali, with each camp having an intra-camp tournament to determine the best teams from the camp.  From there, we hope to have a HUGE tournament between all the best teams at the end of the month – complete with a DJ, real referees (or just Isa and I), a 3-point contest, and a skills competition – just like the NBA all star game.  This project only got stronger when we contacted Benjamin – the guy who works for Brussels Airlines, who first showed us to all the basketball courts in Kigali in the 2nd week of being here.  The first day we emailed him, he came back with all these ideas for sponsorships, graphics, flyers, and proposals.  Benjamin works with a team at Club Rafiki and is one of the most selfless people I have ever met.  In addition to working 55+ hours/week, he puts almost all his free time into training his team.  He had already planned a tournament last year, so he knew the whole process.  He knows sponsorship contacts, how to get a radio advertisement out, and everything.  Can’t really say enough about him.  Another great thing about this program is that is that it can be replicated very easily, especially if/when these places give our proposals the OK.  Just change the dates, and we can do it again whenever. 

Over the weekend, UGB played two games, won one and lost one.  My perception of basketball in Rwanda changes constantly as I see more and more talented players.  The team Sunday was very talented and athletic, which was nice to see, even though we got blown out.  A guy with biceps as big as Ben Wallace’s dunked on one of our bigmen.  One time he flopped and I went up to him and squeezed his muscles as if to say “you’re too strong for that, hulk.”

 As for building our first court at Mburabuturo Primary School through CHRISC, our first estimate for the court was over $25,000 – something we simply cannot do.  Maurice came up big and introduced us to a different guy, who proposed an addition on to the already-existing volleyball court.  He got back to us and the new quotation is only $3,000 – which is awesome, considering some of our projected costs are going to build up once we start holding these month-long, huge tournaments.  Also, another huge relief on the budget – Isa and I are moving into a house today w/ Dominique, a teammate of mine on UGB.  He has been awesome and always offers Isa and I rides.  The new place is nice, and it is going to save us a lot of money because food is included.  Dominique has really been good to us too – he loves basketball, and wants us to help us on our mission.

So, the outlook for the next 2 weeks is to renovate like crazy, meet with sponsors, meet with radio advertisement people, meet with all the location hosts and centers we plan to host camps with.  It should be a pretty busy time, but we have to strike while the iron is hot, the kids are only out of school for so long.  It feels good to actually feel like were getting stuff done.

Another interesting cultural difference – last night on the bus, this guy was just blasting music out of his phone for the entire ride.  Pretty funny considering in America, or especially on a NYC subway, people just simply wouldn’t have that. 

There is this song that gets played everywhere, all the time.  I don’t even know if it’s a good song, or if I even had a chance to decide for myself if it’s a good song, but everyone else thinks so, so I kinda have to think it is.  Ngabo played it on repeat 20 times the other night while we were cooking.

Cost of living is extremely cheap in terms of eating here.  The night Ngabo and I cooked, I bought 1 kg of rice, 5 onions, 3 carrots, 2 green peppers, 2 avocados, 6 tomatoes, and 3 cans of sardines for under $6. 

Language oddities – “oyea” in kinyarwandan translates to “no” in English.  “yego” translates to “yes.”  The way I remember this is yego = leygo = yes, and that “oyeah” is said sarcastically to mean “no.”  Also, people don’t say “call,” and instead say “flash.”  So a guy typed his number into my phone and told me to “flash” him.

In closing – shoutout to Benjamin and Jacques for being awesome, to Paul and Ngabo for hosting Isa and I for an entire month without asking for anything in return, to UGB in general for being awesome teammates, and to Justin and Lindsey for being so supportive.
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