Two weeks ago I said goodbye to my friends and family at home and I went off to Lusaka! I had never been to Africa before so I had no idea what to expect. 11 weeks by myself in a culture I was not familiar with, it is going to be an amazing adventure! When driving to the Olympic Youth Development Centre, I was immediately confronted with the fact that the structure cities have in the Netherlands is not how it is done over here. On the OYDC Martha gave me a nice welcome and she showed me a bit around. The second thing I noticed was that the people here are really friendly and always happy to help. The next few days were all about meeting the coaches and their programs. It is so cool that right before a training starts, you can see kids running to the field from all directions. The kids are so excited to play again and I think they also want to be the first to pick their favourite stick 😉
For me it is weird to see the kids run around on flip flops, crocs and even barefooted. When they play it seems like they are unstoppable and do not feel any pain. I know that these balls and sticks can be really painful and I know for sure in the Netherlands I would have had ten kids crying already.. but these kids just go go go! It is great to see. The circumstances are different, but it is still the same sport. So it is easy to connect with people if you take a stick in your hands as well. A little boy watching a practice with a stick in his hands that was almost as big as he was, was looking at me a bit doubtfully. The moment I grabbed a stick and a ball he came up to me to play hockey with me. For me hockey has been a big part of my life and it was always ‘normal’ to go and play, as it was to go to school. By talking with the coaches over here and seeing the kids on the pitch, I starting to understand that for them hockey gave them opportunities. Opportunities to go back to school, be active and stay away from the ‘streets’. Opportunities they maybe never thought of before to be even possible for them. The enthusiasm and drive the coaches coach and play with is incredibly to see. To see that hockey is helping them so much in there daily life and gives them hope for the future is amazing.
The joy you can see on schools when the coaches walk in, the way the coaches are great by kids while walking through the compounds, for these kids seeing the coaches means fun and that is in the end what we want to have: a lot of fun!