December 26, 2013

Year in Review

It has been another great year for the Suba Lakers on and off the field!

Here are the 2013 highlights:

Off the Field Success

- Working with 20 students in primary school and 40 students in secondary school impacting them physically, socially, academically and spiritually.

- On last year’s Primary School National Exams, 9 of our 12 Eighth Grade girls passed (75%).  In Mbita District less than 50% of girls pass their exams. 

- 28 of the 29 girls in the club who have sat National Exams in 8th Grade over the past three years are continuing their education in high school.
- In November, 5 more of our girls took their National Eighth Grade Exams and are waiting for their results.

- Four 8th Grade Girls attended a week-long Teen Empowerment and Life Skills Camp.

- Sponsoring 18 girls in secondary school.

- Sponsored 6 girls to attend an Academic Clinic to help them improve in school.

- Alicent Awuor had successful ACL surgery in December and is now recovering and rehabbing.   

On the Field Success

- Coca Cola Under 14 Regional Champions; Provincial Runners-up

- Homa Bay BUOP Tournament Champions

- Suba Council of Elders Tournament Champions

- KYOC Human Rights Tournament Champions

- CRADLE Tournament Champions

- 2nd Place for Society Empowerment Project (SEP) Tournament

- 4 Primary School players selected for Nationals- Lavenda (3rd time), Teresa and Winnie (2nd time), and Lillian (1st time).

- 10 Secondary School players competed in the Regional Championships, 4 finished in the top four, and 3 were champions.

- 3 players (Raisha, Leah and Alicent) led their team (Jera) to Secondary School Nationals where they finished 3rd in the country.

Even though these highlights are impressive, our main goal is to give each of these girls,
"Hope for a Better Future!" 

December 19, 2013

Facing The Giants

Finally, we have broken through!  After fighting for many years, the Suba Lakers defeated our “Giants” and brought a big trophy back to Mbita!  Perhaps not large in size, but huge in prestige! 

Even before the Suba Lakers Club officially began in 2009, we had been taking some of the best girls from around Mbita and competing in tournaments in Kisumu (2.5 hrs from Mbita and our nearest city).  Back then, the top teams would normally beat us 5-0 or even 8-0.  Our young girls were all in primary school back then and they were learning and growing by facing the strong competition.  The top teams like Galactico and Kisumu Youth Olympic Club (KYOC) had players who were in their late teens and twenties, some of them even played for the National team of Kenya.  Our young girls never gave up through the challenges and disappointments, and we never gave up on them.  For the past six years we have stuck with them, training on a regular basis and competing in various tournaments.  There were even a few times we managed to lose to those top teams 1-0 or 2-1 and once we even played to a draw, but we had never defeated them.  Until now!

Kisumu Sports Ground
It’s not as if we haven’t been successful in those years.  We have won several tournaments including SEP in Oyugis, KYFA Under 14, Coca Cola, Sakata, AMUT and the Constituency Championship.  Even in the tournaments with those big teams, we competed well and had even defeated the Galactico Junior team to win one championship.  But we never had a breakthrough against their best players.

In December we headed to the Human Rights Tournament sponsored by KYOC.  Fortunately for us, both KYOC and Galactico were not in our preliminary group.  They were forced to battle it out in their group because only the winners of the two groups would advance to the finals.  Our group was definitely the easier group, though it was not a cake-walk.  We played the Eaglets of Shaurimoyo first.  Though we dominated the match, we only managed a single goal in the dying minutes of the first half.  It was a great left-footed shot from outside the box by Emily Auma. 

Since there was only two other teams in our group, winning the first match put us in a great position to be able to top the group.  The Eaglets played the other team, Kasagam, before our final group match.  Kasagam was also leading the Eaglets 1-0 in the dying minutes.  We were hoping Kasagam wouldn’t score another goal, otherwise they would hold the tiebreaker over us if we drew our final game with them.  When they got a late penalty kick awarded to them, our hopes were dying.  Fortunately for us, they missed the penalty and the game ended 1-0.  Coach Joe told our other coaches, that the penalty kick they missed might be the one that puts us into the finals.

In our final group match against Kasagam, our girls were a little overconfident. They thought it would be easy, but it wasn’t!  Kasagam played with more aggressiveness and heart in the first half and took it to our girls.  After half-time our girls woke up and began playing up to their potential.  Neither team managed to score though there were some chances on both sides.  Since the two teams were tied in every way (thanks to their missed penalty kick in the previous game), the organizers decided to go for penalty kicks instead of a coin flip. 

In the penalty shoot-out, three of our first four kickers scored (Emily, Dorothy and Jenty), and our 7th grade goal-keeper, Lillian Awuor blocked the first two kicks from Kasagam.  It was over even before our 5th kick, and we were headed to the finals to face KYOC who had eliminated Galactico in their group. 

On Monday we had a great training day in preparation for the finals.  We had two good practice sessions and in the afternoon we showed the girls the movie “Facing the Giants.”  Our Giants (Galactico and KYOC) had been tormenting us for many years and some didn’t think we would ever get past them.  The movie helped the girls learn that with God, anything is possible and it helped them believe in themselves and have the right attitude heading into the finals. 
Never give up. Never back down.  Never lose faith.

There seemed to be something different this time around.  There was a quiet confidence among the girls and the coaches.  As I looked over the team, I could see 16 of the 18 girls had been with us for at least 4 years.  They had taken their lumps at times, but had continued working hard to improve.  They had been identified at early ages (usually in 6th-7th grade) and been trained to play football the right way.  With all of the time they have spent together, they are more like sisters than teammates.    

KYOC was heavily favored against us in the finals.  They had multiple players who are among the best in the country, playing for the National team.  They were more experienced with most of their players in their twenties and having played for many years in big matches.  On top of it all, they were playing at their home ground in front of their home fans which had packed the sportsground on a holiday afternoon.  The odds were stacked against us.    

Our girls were not deterred.  From the first kick, it was clear that this was going to be a tough physical match.  Leah Awuor made a hard tackle on their best player in the opening minutes and our striker Jenty aggressively put pressure on their back-line and goalkeeper, never giving up on the balls in the box.

Each team had chances to score.  We hit the post twice and even hit the back of the net, but it was negated by an off-sides call.  As the match wore on, our girls gained even more confidence.  The match ended in a 0-0 draw so it meant the championship would be decided on post-match penalty kicks.  Again they were much favored with their seasoned veterans including a goalkeeper who is known for being great against penalty kicks.  A little different than our 7th grade goalkeeper who no one knew!
Lillian training hard...always!
This time our first 4 shooters scored (Emily, Dorothy, Lavenda and Jenty).  Once again our goalkeeper, Lillian Awuor blocked 2 of the first 3 shots providing us with the victory 4-1.  After the winning kick by Jenty, the players sprinted to the corner flag for a celebration in which they were joined by Coach Joe.  It was a jubilant celebration that befitted a team slaying it’s Giant! 

Watch this video of the winning penalty kick and celebration!  

Celebrating with ice cream!
As the winners, we received a nice trophy, as well as sh. 25,000 in cash (~$290USD).  The prize money was divided up between the players and coaches.  Each player took their sh. 1,000 (about $12) and bought a few items of clothing in the market, a little food to bring home, and brought the rest of the cash to their parents and guardians so that they could have a Merry Christmas!   
Our coaches and players learned much from this whole experience.  Our “rural” girls from the “bush” have come a long way in the past 6 years and can compete with any team if they play their best.  We learned that “big names” and a great resume don’t win championships, but instead it is hard work, determination and teamwork.  Finally, we learned that with God, all things are possible, even slaying a Giant!
The Dream Team


December 16, 2013

Academic Clinic

The SubaLaker Way is to put academics before football.  After the school year ended in November, we took 6 of our girls to attend an Academic Clinic.  All 6 students recently completed 7th Grade and will be entering 8th Grade next year, the final year of primary school.  Some of the girls are great students while others struggle to get decent grades or even to pass.  We want to equip our girls with the skills, attitude, focus and self-discipline to perform their best in school.

Scripture Union of Kenya held the Academic Clinic in Kisumu with the theme: "Influencing Attitudes towards Excellent Performance.”  While the clinic contained a few practical skills to improve their academics, a large focus was placed on their attitudes and motivation.  The facilitators discussed the importance of setting goals now, at a young age, to ensure their futures will be better.  The attendees wrote down their career goals. Throughout the 2 days, they came back to this goal and were reminded that their attitude is the biggest barrier in academic success. They were challenged that whatever their goal, whatever they hope and desire, they should commit it to The Lord.   

Through a variety of fun and interactive teaching, the students learned many valuable life lessons.  From a children’s dance competition, they learned the importance of self-confidence and that cheating (or copying dance moves) only provides temporary success because you’re not achieving something with your own knowledge. From a video of a man who has no arms or legs, they learned about overcoming obstacles. The leaders discussed that many obstacles will come in their lives to keep them from achieving their goals and dreams.  Some obstacles the girls are unable to control, like being an orphan, or their home environment.  However, there are some things they can control, such as: staying away from unhealthy relationships, listening to parents, accepting criticism/correction, and being well behaved.   Finally, they were reminded of the true source of success, God their Father.  If they commit everything to the Lord, when the challenges come, God will provide them with the wisdom they need to make good choices.

They watched the movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story and discussed the life lessons they learned from this true story of a poor child, with only a mother, who became a renowned brain surgeon. They learned about working hard toward their dream, never giving up, trusting God, and asking God for wisdom when times are challenging. They also learned the value of having 'cheerleaders' to encourage them along the way. For our girls, that's one huge benefit of the Suba Lakers football club; encouragement in life!

Before finishing the clinic, the students wrote down their recent grades for each subject and then wrote down their realistic goal.  They calculated the difference so that they know how much they need to improve, each year, in order to reach their goals!  We as a club were able to record these goals so that we can follow up with each of the girls!  They also learned how to create a good personal schedule to include appropriate study time for all subjects, not just their favorites!

Lillian and Lavenda thinking through their goals for next year's grades!

It was a valuable clinic for these 6 girls. They enjoyed the experience and we hope this will challenge and encourage them to work hard once school begins again in January!

Check out more of the great work by SU Kenya!

December 4, 2013

Suba Laker Day

Friday, Nov 29th was our Suba Laker Day.  After every school term ends, we invite all of our Suba Lakers for a day of training together.  During the school term, most of our activities are centered around the primary school girls because the secondary girls are in boarding schools.  This one day together gives us a chance to see each of the girls, collect their report forms, train a little and try to encourage them. 

This was one of the best we have ever had!  Most of the girls came on time, and even some came early.  Perhaps, after being on vacation at home for a week, they were ready to get out of the house and do something they enjoy.  In the morning session we invited a special guest coach.  Paul Deilah is the chairman of the Mbita branch of the Kenya Football Coaches Association (KFCA).  He led the 37 girls through different drills and was impressed at their skill level and ability to learn quickly. 

We took a short break to eat lunch together while.  While they were finishing lunch, we shared with them about how to use their time wisely in December when they are not in school.  We also shared about setting goals for their future so that they know what they are striving for.   The students who showed good improvement were rewarded with different prizes. 

In the afternoon, we selected three captains to choose teams and had a mini-tournament.  Though many of them haven’t played much during Term 3, several impressed us with their energy and effort. 

The 37 girls who attended had a great attitude and really enjoyed reuniting with their teammates.  Some of them have known each other for so long that they feel like sisters to each other. 

We even took some updated team photos!

December will be a busy month as we plan to participate in the KYOC tournament in Kisumu and the Suba Sports Council tournament in Rusinga.  We have also been invited to play an exhibition match against another top team in the county for the Jubilee Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Kenya’s Independence. We’re looking forward to some great football, but, more importantly, mentoring and encouraging the girls.