A packed earth field in the middle of Arua provided the venue for our first venture into Coach Education in Uganda. With a total of 26 teachers taking part in the 4 hour session our aim was to give them the skills not just to deliver cricket coaching at their schools but also use those lessons as an opportunity to include key messages around the ABC and T of HIV.
We were lucky to have an enthusiastic and engaged group of teachers drawn from schools across the local area. While their base level of cricket knowledge varied widely all of the teachers came with a willingness to learn.
In the morning we particularly focused on how to structure a session to engage all players regardless of their ability, gender or any other factors – making sure introductions and demonstrations were brief, moving around the group to give attention to all students, and using lots of praise and feedback. As the teachers took their turns to wear their “coaches hat” and deliver a session in small groups it gave myself, Lee and Emmanuel the opportunity to work with each person to identify what their strengths were and what areas they might need to work on.
Our afternoon start got off to a less than auspicious start as the heavens opened on us, rendering the field unusable. Plans were hurriedly made and we co-opted an empty classroom in the nearby school to run through the basics of batting, as we all took turns to have a go at the front foot drive in a narrow corridor between the desks. Fortunately the weather turned and we were soon back outside, whacking balls and learning lots of small sided games to use with their classes, games that required very little equipment and could keep lots of children involved and happy!
While the environment was certainly different to my usual fare of tarmac-ed playgrounds and sports halls of north London, I’ve never had a chicken loose in a session in Tower Hamlets! What was more telling was the commonalities – the mix of abilities and motivations of teaching staff, the combination of remarkable dedication and world-weariness of over-worked educators, and the laughter and camaraderie that developed as the group learnt together and messed up together!
My particular highlight for the day: we’d talked a lot about how the bat was akin to the Condom of ABC – you use it to protect your stumps and body. As we got stuck in to the Lord’s game one gentlemen completely demolished his stumps in the execution of his shot. To my right a member of the fielding team piped up: “that is what happens if you do not use a condom correctly!” – what a perfect moment, as we all fell about laughing we were able to link so naturally into the HIV messaging in a way that was going to stick with us forever.