No country for old men

Daveys blog, Cam date 26th October

So here I am in Buea, Cameroon, many years a cricket coach but a CWB and Africa greenhorn and the old man of the Roonies. Some impressions. Get used to early rising. We need to start at 7.30. We are on the same rough playing field as for coach education last Saturday when I was surrounded by some large cows with long horns when bringing back a kit bag. Expect many kids! Here we have 180 raring to go after their breakfast. They don’t want to be in lessons! After a week together the team is a fast-moving, free-thinking CWB cricketing machine. Six stations set up in 3 minutes! Welcomes and the HIV messages introduced, short, clear and fun. Last week was almost all in French. This week English but not as we know it in Devon! Then off we go. Here I am running catching. Wave after wave, 30 kids at a time, basic coaching points, fun connection to ABC, loads of activity, heat and dust, croaky voice, shouting and high fives, games, a catching snake to the wall and back. “Oh no, the snake is going to eat me” as I lie on the ground, do the wobbly legs dance over to the batting station, back for more kids. All together for the Rapid Fire game, balls and kids everywhere, wrap up quick, kids back to lessons, coaches back to the minibus, water, sun cream, Strepsils. To the next school!

Same again? Of course not! 60, 70, 80 kids now (they just keep coming) in a space a fifth we had before. Quick thinking. Catching in a little space here, walls to bowl and bat against and some high catching. Improvise a warm up to buy some time! The two storey school is an amphitheatre round the tiny playing space with other kids watching from the balcony between lessons or ambling through. An enthusiastic teacher but he does get in the way a bit! Smile and stay calm. 80 kids in 4 consecutive bowling drills. Two rapid fire games. My voice is going. Swamped by kids who want to high five. After 2 hours the long process of protocol and photos as various teachers emerge. Tired but stay patient. Smile and wave boys, smile and wave. Back on the bus and a well earned lunch at 2.30. Pace yourself old man, four schools on Wednesday!

An orphanage in the afternoon. Just ten kids and some still asleep after school (they are up at 5 for prayers and to do their household jobs). We play catching, bowling, throwing and batting in a tiny sloping stone and mud alley beside the single floor building. We see their small, simple rooms and where they cook. Bernadette who runs the place looks so tired. We leave 50 kgs of rice, some soap and a tennis ball for each kid, treated like large green diamonds. Our thanks to Summer Devine, Lawrence and Johnson for making the visit possible.

What do I think. Hey coach, leave that manual behind. Your cricket nous is vital but get stuck in and make it up as you go along. Give them lots of fun, make a fool of yourself, anything to get the kids engaged. Cricket is the joke, but HIV awareness is our punchline. You will find, as I did today and other days that as another session goes on its madcap way, you reach a kind of ecstasy, and you might never want to stop. Who can resist that? Leave it all on the park.

4 comments to “No country for old men”
  1. Sounds an “awesomely”unique experience and so so different buit look forward to seeing similar when you get back! Keep up the good work- a child taught is a generation safe.

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