The journeys that teams go on is something that has fascinated me for a long time and this trip to Kenya continues to be a brilliant case study.
Take a group of nine people including a 60-year old retiree; a 21 year old social worker from the North East; a digital marketing manager from Brighton & an ex-RAF Officer. Chuck in a handful of Kenyan coaches, bind them together with a fantastic set of values, using cricket as a vehicle for good in the world, and it turns out you have a pretty strong team!
Having met for the first time just a week before we headed out, it is amazing to look back on just how far this team has come in such a short space of time.
Our first adventure into a Kenyan school was in Nairobi, and everyone was very much playing to their strengths. Previous coaches were proposing the drills, but everyone was contributing in the way that they felt most comfortable. Fast forward nine days and everybody is taking themselves well out of their comfort zones.
Team leader Sara has embedded a growth mindset from the beginning, encouraging people to stretch themselves but combining it with excellent support and daily reviews of what went well and what we can learn. On day one it was simple things like where we had left our personal water supply – to which the kids we’d been running round in the midday heat understandably helped themselves. But crucially we’ve never made the same mistake twice.
Our first week in Muranga County was a steep learning curve, going as a team into three or often four schools in a day, coaching well over 5,000 children and delivering some really effective HIV messaging. And this is no easy environment. You can turn up at a school expecting 150 and end up with 300 children. Rapid re-assessment of plans and incredibly strong teamwork is needed.
It’s been the mindset with which everyone has approached this that has made it such an interesting case study. To-a-person, people have embraced the opportunity and been keen to learn, which has meant all of us have had the opportunity to stretch and develop ourselves in our own ways.
Crucial also has been Sara’s leadership. A CWB and Africa expert, she’s often helped us reflect on those tougher times by bringing us back to our core vision. On more than one occasion she’s had to pull one or other of us out of the doldrums with “Were the kids having fun and smiling?” (yes); “Did you get across the HIV prevention messaging?” (yes); And soon you realise that no matter how hard you have been on your own part in things, we’re still achieving the mission of the charity.
But at the same time, we’re all learning ourselves. Take Luke: behind a camera on the first couple of days capturing footage for the now-essential social media and having never coached a days cricket in his life. He’s now leading coaching sessions on his own with 30-40 kids at once.
Lucy is another one who’s never coached before, but her youth and social work expertise has been a fantastic new dimension to our time here. Watching and listening to her interact with the children, particularly the late-teenagers who are most at risk of contracting HIV, has been absolutely fascinating; these interactions have been some of the most valuable of the trip.
On the flip side, I’ve had plenty of coaching experience, but have never spoken to a single child about contraception, or how to prevent HIV. And yet there I found myself, stood in front of over 120 adolescent boys, talking to them about the importance of abstinence, of being faithful to one partner, of testing oneself for HIV (regularly) and of the use of condoms. All in some way done using the analogy of cricket. What an experience!
Great teams are formed when people bring their strengths to the fore, but are also willing to learn from others and stretch themselves individually. In just a few short days, we’ve gone from a group of random people with just a set of values in common, to a team that is completely undaunted when, having set up a session for the 230 children stood in front of us, another 64 come running out of class to join the session.
That was today, just 9 days into the trip. A day in which we coached over 1,500 children (600 in 1.5hrs at one school) culminating in an excellent visit to a secondary school with some really clear HIV prevention messaging being delivered to over 150 16-18 year old boys.
So as this is likely to be my last blog for this trip, I wanted to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to every one of the team for approaching the trip in exactly the right spirit. I’ve learned loads, but most importantly, we’ve reached so many children and young adults with some really good messages about HIV prevention, while also helping them have tons of cricket-related fun. To steal a phrase from Beggie: “Good job by you, team!