As the UK volunteers return home we celebrate the success of the second NDT tour to Uganda. So what did the team get up to…..
Upon arrival in Entebbe the team was greeted by 2 local Ugandan Tag Rugby Trust (TRT) employees Dot and Stesh. The heat was immense having left a rainy London some 9 hours earlier. The bus was loaded with our bags and we headed to our first camping ground, Jinja Rugby Club.
Due to the lack of experienced tour leaders, to prepare the netball coaches for netball week, the netball girls participated in the Tag Rugby programme in Week 1 as tag coaches. We have found this really helps familiarise volunteers with how coaching is delivered, the culture, the language, the children, and how to work with the local Ugandan volunteers. TRT is a 9 year experienced charity with over 30 tours under its belt.
The volunteers found the first few days chaotic with group sizes varying from 25 to more than 150. The tag rugby coaching programme is based on using “game sense” techniques rather than drills to get all children playing in a game situation on Day 1. The rules and tactics of tag rugby are then slowly introduced. As the week progresses what initially looks like a free-for-all, quickly becomes a game of tag rugby enabling the coaches to spot the children who make the school team for tournament day.
This year was a new challenge for TRT as coaches were ultimately training children and selecting for both a junior and senior team from each of the 12 schools for the biggest tournament it has ever held in its history.
Although most of the netball girls had no or very little tag rugby coaching it was great to see them fully involved, learn a new game and interacting with the tag rugby coaches. Day 4 of week 1 was definitely the toughest as they selected the teams for tournament day and had to deal with the emotions of the disappointed children who did not quite make the team. Day 4 ended with all the coaches boasting they had the “best” team around the camp fire.
Last year TRT adopted a strict national rule to deal with the varying sizes of children. Junior children must be less than 275 using the formula of 1.5 x height (cms.) plus their weight (kgs.). Seniors qualified if they were between 275-310 on the same ratio. This rule worked well and one NDT is considering to adopt next year in its programme.
On Day 3 of Week 1 the netball girls took time out from tag rugby coaching and The NDT Rest of the World Team played a netball match against Jinja S.S Netball Club. A club formed two years ago and run by Moses Mwanja which plays in the National Ugandan Netball League. Their coach is keen for NDT to come back next year and have his girls trained up as young leaders to help coach netball in Jinja so they can deliver the programme at grass roots level locally. The elevation of the Jinja girls and hard passing between them suppressed The Rest of the World Team who lost the game. But what was more exciting for us was talking to the young girls after the game and learning about how they got introduced to netball. It was both encouraging and sad to learn they are keen to spread the game as some of them only started playing in their late teens but lack balls, bibs and posts to do this.
The TRT Tournament on Day 5 was spectacular. It was so well organised by Tour Leaders Aiden and Huw, run over 4 pitches it ran to time with an immense crowd watching. Each school team was allocated a team manager who collected the children from their respective schools at 7.30am to bring them to the Rugby ground and prepared them with team t-shirts and ensured their team was on the right pitch at the right time to play their games. It was an electric atmosphere with lots of drumming singing and excitement. All the teams got into a semi-final competing either for the Bowl, Plate or Cup trophies.
That evening the tour party hit the local night club for a well-deserved celebration. They danced into the early hours of Saturday morning. The early departure to Mbale at 7am on Saturday was tough but the 3 hour bus journey gave most the opportunity to catch up on sleep once they got used to very uncomfortable seats and the bumps of the roads.
On arrival in Mbale, camp was pitched in the gardens of Mbale Resort which is set in the postcard scenery of Mount Elgon. The rest and recuperation phase before the start of the netball coaching week was a day out to see the Sipi Falls (one of three falls in the area) and enjoy the sights from the mountainous Eastern region. Some ventured past the falls even higher to view the activities occurring at the very top whilst others relaxed at the lodge with a soothing African coffee and cake!
On Sunday evening the tour group split. The TRT team prepared for phase 2 whilst the netball girls prepared the kit and equipment bags and met the 4 Ugandan young international netball players who were joining us to assist in the netball coaching. We welcomed back Liz and Flavia (2 girls from last year) and 2 novices Cissy and Asha.
After introductions we got straight into discussing the coaching plan and how the netball week would be delivered to the 6 schools incorporated this year as well as our approach to coaching girls and boys together. With an outline plan of warm up games, the skills we would focus on and an agreement to use the game sense approach we went to bed excited and nervous.
Monday morning the 10 netball girls set off in a Mutatu (local taxi) and headed to the Lawn Tennis Grounds. A public space used as a training field by the schools and sports clubs close by. With the help of the Mbale Sports Development Officer Stephen Anguma we turned up expecting 60-80 children from each of the 3 morning schools to be there ready waiting for us at 9 am. But that was not the case. At 9.30am only a handful of P6 (13-17 years) children from Maluku Primary School, 10 or so from Wambwa and 30 or so from Police turned up. After questioning the teachers it transpired that most of the children in the district were at the “Stadium” for the annual Ball Games School Competition.
As disappointing as it was because of the lack of communication the coaches got on with training. Having 10 coaches just made delivery of Day 1 very easy. The 1.5 hour session consisted of warm up games and introducing the footwork rule and playing versatility.
Whilst on the field coaching we were approached by two local sports coaches Isma Twala and Jude Mutete, who run the Mbale Tigers club. It is a NGO formed in 2003 after it was realised that there was no tapping facilities for up-country children in sports. The NGO aims to help orphans, drug addicts, local children and support them getting scholarships. It currently has academies in table tennis, football and basketball. Isma who teaches football and netball formed the Mbale Tigers Netball Club in 2009. He is enthusiastic about setting up a netball academy in Mbale and getting the Mbale Tigers into the national league. For funding reasons the Tigers only play one (yes ONE!!!) game of netball a year. Isma told us at the moment he struggles to keep the girls motivated at training.
So to assist, NDT invited the Tiger netball girls to join the programme and help/assist in the coaching. Isma spent the week with us. It was great to see a male coach teaching the game of netball.
Joining us was our youngest volunteer Isabella McLaughlan, aged 11, prior to the tour, she had entered a competition at her school in Gloucestershire. The prize being a box set of children’s author Michael Morpurgo’s most famous books. The simple essay question she had to answer was – why should you be given these books? Isabella wrote a short piece saying she was going to be raising money to come on our tour to Uganda this summer and present the books to one of the schools involved in the netball coaching. Her plan for the books would be to start a library at the school. We are pleased to say she won, and accompanying a number of the tour party she stood up in front of over 50 excited P6 kids from Maluku School and explained what these books would be for. In addition, she presented the class with a scrapbook of her life in England – the school she herself attends, her family, and some interesting facts about England. With very pale skin and striking red hair Isabella proved very popular with the children, who in all likelihood would not have seen such ginger hair before!! During Isabella’s presentation she managed to answer most questions – however, she was stumped when asked by a somewhat cheeky P6 pupil “Which government ended slavery in Uganda?”
We ended the session and headed into town for lunch at “Taufiq” hoping the afternoon session would be attended by more children.
Unfortunately the same thing happened when we arrived at North Road Primary School (our second venue for the pm sessions for the week). It was bizarre to see a school that has 3,700 children deserted and of those that were around roaming the school playing fields when they should have been in class!
That did not deter the coaches who quickly set up 3 courts with cones and commenced coaching with the small group of children who arrived from Busamaga, Namatala and North Road.
The session finished with the promise from the children and teachers that there would be more participants tomorrow as most were at Ball Games today.
The following day the coaches were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by over 200 children from the 3 schools at the Lawn Tennis ground. Coaching in effect began from scratch as most of the children had not played the game of netball before. The children really enjoyed the warm up games such as “Oh Chicken”, “Fishey Fishey” “ Mountains and Lakes” “Line Tick” introduced by the UK volunteers and “God/Goat” created by the Ugandan volunteers.
With the assistance of Isma and the Tigers the volunteers felt a massive sense of achievement at the end of the morning session. We had taught the basic footwork rule, several passing techniques, positions and got boys and girls playing a scrambled game of what looked like netball.
There was a similar sense of achievement after the pm coaching session at North Road with over 100 children.
Day 3 of coaching started to focus on spotting the girls and boys who had picked up the game and selecting 5 boys and 5 girls who would represent their school on Tournament Day. Although selection was important, equally key was the continuation of coaching to all the children. So it was fantastic to see the individual coaching groups organise themselves with different duties – one looking after the children who had been selected another focusing on teaching those who were struggling and the third organising game play and spotting the more talented players. The UK and Ugandan volunteers were really working well in their teams.
Due to the heavy rain the afternoon session at North Road started in the classroom delivered by Hannah and Monica. After an hour the rain stopped, the children were back out on the 3 courts and play commenced.
On Wednesday afternoon the NDT volunteers got to exhibit their own netball skills in a game against the Mbale Tigers. Watched by the strong crowds of North Road the Tag Rugby coaches also came down after their sessions to encourage and support.
Due to the large number of children from North Road and Police school it was decided that two teams would be selected from each to take part in the 8-team tournament.
The night before tournament day the volunteers sat into the late hours of the evening preparing the kit and equipment we would be donating to the schools whilst Hannah and Julie prepared the Tournament Table, scorecards and Referee Schedule.
On the morning of tournament day the allocated team managers provided a one-hour training session to the 5 boys and 5 girls selected for the school teams. With the help of Isma, Jude and the teacher at North Road (Rose) Monica spent the morning scouring the market for stakes, nails, lime, buckets, brushes and string. The courts were marked out with a lime and water mix, stakes inserted into the ground to fence the expected crowds, trophies put on display and last minute running around to collect the home-made captain arm-bands (trying to find an Iron in the whole of Mbale was a real test!) Monica ended up in the home of Jude and meeting his extended family of 10 plus members who live in 2 small rooms.
The tournament commenced on Thursday afternoon and what a sight it was! Each school team was donated a team strip/kit (which NDT collected via the various kit amnesties and donations prior to the tour). Although we never expected to see the boys wearing the skirts we had taken it was incredibly funny to see some of the boys putting these on over their shorts!
Lauren did an amazing job running the tournament table with the assistance of time-keeper Isabella. As the tournament pool games were played and we got later into the afternoon the crowd grew larger and larger as school broke out and the tag rugby volunteers came down to support.
The atmosphere was electric with the screams of encouragement from the supporters and pitch invasions at least twice! The event also attracted teachers from schools not involved in this years programme but who had heard about NDT and want to be included next year.
All 8 teams reached a semi-final. The winners ofthe two trophies were:
Plate Winners – North Road 1
Cup Winners – Namatala.
An added difference to this year’s tour was the presentation of the Thandi-Lawson Shield. Donated by Symone Lawson who volunteered last year and still cannot stop talking about NDT to her children at school. Namatala was presented with the trophy as Cup Winners 2011. This travelling shield will travel to Mbale each year showing the history of winners.
At the end of an exciting final two matches NDT took a moment out to have all the participants, teachers and spectators gather for a presentation. It was a great pleasure to hand over the new equipment kindly donated by Gilbert, Harrods, the numerous netball clubs and individuals across the country. We also made a special presentation to Isma and Mbale tigers for all their efforts and support throughout the week.
With words of encouragement and the donated kit and equipment NDT hopes the children of Mbale will continue playing netball and hopes to return next year to see more attending the newly set up academy at Mbale Tigers.
After the Tag Rugby Tournament on Friday we headed off on a long 6 hour bus ride back to Kampala. Hot showers and beds awaited and having camped for 2 weeks the volunteers could not help being excited at seeing porcelain toilets, cupboards and a kettle!!
Saturday was a pure R & R day. Some of the group went to the crafts market or had their hair braided and others to a nearby African coffee shop and a stroll to the rugby club to watch Uganda v Kenya.
A TRT and NDT presentation evening at the club allowed us to say a little thank you to the numerous people who help make our tours successful. In particular NDT was proud to present the Ugandan Netball secretary Annet Kismose and the Ugandan team with a set of netball dresses, training tops and tracksuits kindly donated by Superleague team Loughborough Lightning.
NDT would also like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to TRT for all the logistical support it provides not only on tour but behind the scenes throughout the year.
The night was then spent dancing away in Bubbles bar!
So if reading this has made you want to experience a tour….get in touch with us and sign up for one of our future tours.
Monica & the Uganda 2011 Tour Group