March 11, 2014

Preparing for Ball-Games

15 of our Primary School Girls reported last weekend for training.  With most of our Suba Laker girls now in high school, we only have about 15 remaining in primary school, almost entirely in 7th and 8th Grades.  Most of these girls have been with the club for at least 2 years, but many have even been with us for 3-5 years.  

The main purpose of the weekend was to prepare them for the Primary School Ball-Games which begin this month.  The preparation was more mental than physical. It is the favorite time of the year for our young girls, but also a very challenging time.  Currently each of them are playing for their school teams; 10 different primary schools.  Over the past month they have been competing in “friendly matches” against other school teams to prepare for the upcoming games.  During a 1-day mini-tournament, the local schools will compete against the other schools within their “Base”, usually 5-8 schools.  After that day, the best players are selected to represent the Base at the next level called Zonals.  After a few days of training, they play the Zonals matches.  The process continues, with only the best players advancing, for about 3 weeks.  These weeks are filled with 1 or 2 day tournament, selecting the best players, training for a couple of days and then another 1 or 2 day tournament.  The best players will continue to be selected through each level; including Bases, Zonals, Divisionals, Districts, Counties, Regionals and finally Nationals. 

All of our Suba Lakers have dreams of going to Nationals, but only a few will make it that far.  The others will stop playing at one of the lower levels.  This weekend, we tried to encourage the players to do their best for whatever team they are playing for and whatever level they are at, but if they don’t get selected for the next level, they should be thankful for the opportunity they had to play when so many other girls weren’t selected.  We used the example of one of the club’s best players and a recent high school graduate, Irine Achieng.  Even though she only made it to the district level in Primary School, she has turned out to be one of our best players over the last 5 years.  

We encouraged the girls to continue studying throughout the 2-3 weeks of ball-games.  Though much of that time they won’t be in school, they can still continue to study and make academics a priority over sports.  

Another advice we shared with them was to be careful of the boy football players which they will be around during ball-games.  Many of them have ulterior motives in befriending girls.  The boys are often much older and are just looking for younger girls to seduce.  We shared with the girls ways to protect themselves such as staying with larger groups and associating with boys during the daytime only and not at night.

We asked the girls about how they can show good character and set a good example for others.  Their responses included being friendly towards other girls from other places who are not part of the club; assisting the chaperone with cooking, fetching water, & cleaning; praying before and after games; not talking back to the referee; listening to their coaches and officials; and also being in the right places at the right times.  

The club was also able to give out some much needed items to the girls.  One of our officials, Bob, had brought back some items from Netherlands and another visiting team had also brought some things for the girls.  Each girl now has a good pair of football cleats which fits them well.  They all received school socks, a sports bra, a toothbrush and a sewing kit.  In addition, each player was able to pick a jersey, jacket or shorts for training.  

It was a very successful weekend in preparation for the Primary School Ball-Games.  The girls are excited for what lies ahead in the coming weeks.  In the past few years, at least 4-5 Suba Lakers have been among the 20 girls from the Nyanza Region who have been selected for Nationals.  This year with great players like June, Lillian, Winey, Lavender, & Lenser and others like Lucia, Phylice, Apeto and Mourine; the Suba Lakers are sure to have many representatives at Nationals!      

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