Men in Skirts

Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi (left), Caster Semenya of South Africa (Centre), and Wambui Margaret Wambui of Kenya at the Rio Games in 2016. Image source: CNN

During my second year of high school, a rumor spread like wildfire about the apparent men that masqueraded among us at night. Being a single-sex school, the fear that gripped us was enormous. It was either a tale brought up by some dark humor lovers or by some girls who had “trans-nighted” and masterminded the account. In reality, the Men in Skirts was the school warden. She used to jog as early as 4:00 am wearing a long skirt, but her masculine looks deceived us that we had a man in a skirt on the compound.

I wonder for how long our girls/women shall be referred to as men just because of their unique appearances and genetic blessings. The Olympics came to an end but missing in action were the likes of our fast cheetah ladies, the likes of Caster Semenya from South Africa, Francine Niyonsaba from Burundi, Margaret Wambui from Kenya, and Negesa Annet from Uganda. A week or two from the Olympics, a former Polish sprinter filed a complaint targeting the 18-year-old Christine Mboma of Namibia because her construction, movement, technique, speed, and endurance can’t be for a woman! In 2016, at the Rio Olympics, the 800m podium had Caster Semenya with Gold, Francine Niyonsaba with Silver, and Margaret Wambui with Bronze, who have all since been banned from participating in the 800m run at the international level. The ban on participating in the 800m came with an offer of 1500m….1500m, such a hefty exchange for 800m!

It so happens that the rules governing the athletes under the World Athletics Testerone rules have been modified over the years, which has arguably been believed that these rules are systematically targeting a specific group of individuals. In 2018, the International Association of Athletics Federations released new rules for the eligibility of women to participate in races which focused on; the athlete to be recognized as a female or intersex (or equivalent), reduction of blood testosterone levels below 5nmol/L with continuous assessment, and maintenance of the testosterone levels below 5nmol/L. At puberty, testosterone levels for men can go as high as 31.8 nmol/L and as low as 9.8nmol/L, while in women, testosterone levels lay between 0.3 – 2.4 nmol/L. Testosterone is an androgen hormone responsible for developing the testicles and prostate glands and promoting secondary sexual characteristics like increased muscle, deepened voice, body hair, and stronger bones. So what is the case? The likes of Caster, Negesa, Wambui, and Francine have their testosterone hormone levels above 5 nmol/L which has seen some writers or analysts refer to them as hermaphrodites, a rather disparaging term.

Annet Negesa of Uganda who underwent an irreversible surgery because of her naturally high levels of testosterone and has never been the same on the running track. Image source: BBC

Micheal Phelps is the most decorated Olympian with 28 medals. He was celebrated for the unique genetic differences that offered him an upper hand in outstanding performance through this career. He may be considered the greatest swimmer of all time thanks to his double-jointed ankles that give him an unusual range and his cells that barely produce lactic acid. Lactic acid is produced in our bodies while at work, building in the muscles and causing tiredness resulting from sore muscles or pain. Its production occurs temporarily as you engage in vigorous activities. His uniqueness was celebrated and praised at the tables of the highest order!

There has been a total twist of events with the inclusion of transgender people to participate and compete actively. It’s a great idea as inclusivity and diversity are essential. However, it questions the authenticity of the rules and laws set by these governing bodies. During the transition process, a lot goes on with the body hormones in pursuit of shaping them to the desired wants. A lot of hormone therapy takes place, such as woman to man; hair growth, muscle growth, voice deepening, metoidioplasty, and masculine characteristics are catered for in the hormonal therapy one takes on. This clearly indicates that the testosterone and progesterone hormones are evolving and getting redefined. It is vital to note that as transgender, one can still compete against fellow women as their birth sex is considered over their identity regardless of the alterations.

This leaves me questioning the inclusivity and diversity that we are talking about. If we are speaking of inclusion, why can’t the naturally endowed “African” women compete? It just so happens that no other race has had its participants get banned over the testosterone law. Could it be a systematic racial target? Why were these rules and regulations developed when the athletes created dominance in the sports? Why can’t these women be left to engage in sporting activities freely? It baffles me as the so-called hermaphrodites identify as women and have maintained their birth sex.

So many unanswered questions, little unsatisfying responses. Lest we understand, these are not men in skirts instead uniquely endowed women!

PS: The author is not transphobic or racist, and neither has any intention of malicious purposes but seeks to understand the discrepancies surrounding the testosterone laws and what feasible actions are being taken to support these women beyond the option of alteration of their natural hormonal levels.

Priority not an Option

A few weeks ago, I was in so much desperation and rage because our National Women’s Basketball Team had been informed that it wouldn’t participate in the FIBA AfroBasketball Qualifiers Zone V. I wrote down a heartfelt piece that yielded no results other than sympathy. 

A few weeks down the road, to have our U16 National Basketball Teams, both the girls and the boys, participate in the U16 Basketball Championship, it had to be first tabled by parliamentarians. This left me wondering whether this was necessary. Get me right! Sports is a whole sector in the country with Ministers, State Ministers, and officials attached to it, but, unfortunately, athletes have to cry out to receive even a drop of the funding.

Jr. Gazelles singing the National Anthem at the recently concluded U16 Basketball Games in Egypt. Image source: FUBA

A fortnight or less down the drain, the Silverbacks are now faced with the same situation. Same talk again. The government has no money to fund you! The FIBA AfroBasketball games are taking place in our neighboring country Rwanda. A stone throw away, but the government and the concerned stakeholders can’t afford to throw the boys over. 

The last time we checked, Ssekitoleko informed us of how he financed his way to the Olympics. The best I know, these boys have worked hard with little or no support from the concerned stakeholders. Uganda has all the money and resources, but its priorities set, don’t favor sports. With all due respect, it’s disheartening to watch our leaders jubilate when our athletes win. Their success ends in just being celebrated with a presentation of what merely contributes to long sustainable solutions for the sports industry. Sports is one of the most underrated sectors in our country, yet it is one of the most developed and economically growing sectors globally.

A few weeks ago, the basketball fraternity was jubilant over the signing of a Ugandan to the Toronto Raptors, making him the first Ugandan in the NBA. It was of least concern to me because this is a young man who has not lived the true Ugandan life of an athlete. Let’s build on this. We can’t compare the facilities and support of an athlete who has lived all his life in the States with one who has grown his game through playing pick-up at pool court. We are happy for you, Mr. Wainwright, but we need to be realistic. I would be jubilant if our own Enabu or Drileba were invested in by his own country and given a right to display his talent at different International tournaments competitively. We are quick to celebrate what we have not invested in. 

The performance of the U16 National teams should be the nudge to the concerned stakeholders. Young enthusiastic players are let down by their own system. How did we expect players who camped for three days to have a competitive advantage over their opponents? Actually, it is an extreme sport to build a career in sports in Uganda. It messes with all your senses; psychologically, emotionally, physically, and economically. An athlete has to buy their own sports merch, equipment, and finance their daily sporting engagements and only will be appreciated if they successfully make it with gold or silver or make it out of the country. 

Peruth Chemutai, Jacob Kiplimo and Joshua Cheptegei at Kololo Grounds where they were accorded with a state reception and gifted cars with a promise of a monthly salary of five million. Image source: Xinhua

My articles for the past weeks have all been around this issue. It is high time we prioritized sports just as we prioritize our kidandali, kadongo Kamu, hip hop, and upcoming musicians. Sports should be prioritized, not made an option! We can’t keep running on a system of lobbying for funds each time a National team represents us. 

Promises won’t do justice to the sports sector; instead, establish systems and structures for long-term sustainability and growth of the industry. 

Silverbacks keep strong and stay focused. “Help” finally came through, but the sports industry shouldn’t be helped; it’s a whole industry not a charity case—all the best to the Silverbacks in Rwanda at the Afrobasketball Games.

Article by Elizabeth Kisolo || Twitter: Big_Foot115

You Reap What You Sow

It has been a crazy 2021 with a number of sports events taking place over a short period of time due to the unavoidable Global situation that had previously halted sporting activities. For sports fanatics, we can’t deny that the past months have been quite entertaining. From the Men’s FIBA AfroBasketball Qualifiers to the inaugural Basketball Africa League, Women’s FIBA AfroBasketball Qualifiers Zone V, European Championships, the Tokyo Olympics, and just ahead, we have the Men’s and Women’s FIBA AfroBasketball, the Summer Paralympics, English Premier League and currently the U16 Africa Championship Basketball games. Uganda has been part of the competitions and missed out on some of the sporting events due to a couple of reasons. 

Participation for the U16 Gazelles and Silverbacks in the U16 Basketball Championship was at stake not until it was tabled in the parliament of Uganda. This motion saw the Junior teams finally have a three-day preparation before the games in Egypt. The resilience and determination shown by the youngsters at the tournament can’t be undermined as their performance surpasses their preparation.

U16 Gazelles in action against Gabon at the U16 Basketball Championships taking place in Egypt. Image source: FUBA

At the start of the tournament, it was devastating to watch our players performing as just participants rather than as competitors. It wasn’t applaudable to watch the U16 Gazelles and Silverbacks lose their first games terribly.

In their first game against Egypt, the Jr. Silverbacks played a scoreless first half, two quarters down, conceding 37 points to Egypt. I patiently waited till the end of the second quarter with hopes that we could miraculously try to recover. If disappointment had a face, I would have been its expression. The U16 boys spent the whole first twenty minutes running from half to half. Actually, it looked like a training session, and the boys in red had been summoned to perform suicides! I looked at how brave these young boys were to continue playing without having the scoreboard, which read 130:30 by the end of the game, getting to their minds.

The U16 Gazelles game against Mali wasn’t exciting either. Turnover after turnover. What I felt is actually indescribable seeing our girls’ possession become a steal converted into a basket each time Mali set its grip on the ball. Mali must have questioned if it had been presented with the right team to play against…92:12!!!!!!

The comment section under the official posts by the National Basketball Federation and the YouTube live totally accorded no respect to the players and the coaches. Attacking the coaches and the players for their poor performance was such a belittling act. I doubt any of the above set their foot on those courts intending to lose.

Context. For every year, just like we have a Financial year, there is also a Sports year/calendar, and all activities taking place will strategically be geared towards the success of the planned events. Unfortunately, the Jr. Gazelles and Silverbacks were prepared for an International competition two or three days before the event! The U16 Gazelles camped for 3 days while the Jr. Silverbacks had non-residential training before the games. Their performance goes beyond their circle of influence as they didn’t have the right resources available to them in time for the tournament’s preparation.

The U16 Silverbacks playing against Team Gabon in the U16 Basketball Championships. Image source: FUBA

Although all hope is not lost as the players managed to have comebacks in their progressive games and are potential contenders to play in the semi-finals, we should not downplay the loopholes that the tournament has exposed. Preparation is crucial for a team to have a fair, competitive advantage. Basketball is a game where practice never lies. Three days of preparation sounds like a total mockery to the sport. What has happened can’t be changed, but the future can be changed. Sports teams representing the country are performing a national duty and deserve to perform it with due diligence. 

It’s high time sports as an industry is given priority at the National level, and attention is accorded to the enabling factors given to the athletes. We need to tackle the issue of sports from the grassroots level, whether it’s sports leadership or skill development. The coaches’ and players’ performance is as good as the resources available to them. 

Otherwise, congratulations to Chemutai, Cheptegei, and Kiplimo, who also managed to bring home Gold, Gold plus Silver, and Bronze Olympic medals, respectively. We are still proud of the Olympians who didn’t perform as they expected because you represented Uganda at the highest accredited games competing against fellow world-ranked athletes. 

Prioritize sports!

Article by Elizabeth Kisolo | |Twitter: Big_Foot115

Young Promising Athlete

Ssekitoleko’s story is just a perfect example of what is on the ground for the young promising athletes in Uganda. Just 21 years of age, most probably facing a youthful crisis coupled with the frustration of an economy that barely supports the professional field he is building a career in. Having borrowed money to purchase food supplements as he prepared for the Olympics and leaving his pregnant wife with UGX 150,000 (USD 42), the least he needed to hear was his disqualification to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. I don’t want to imagine the sweet promises he made to his wife as he proudly clad in the truck suit embroidered with the Uganda flag and hopped on a “bodaboda” en route to the meeting point for the journey to the airport.

Team Uganda on arrival at the residential hotel in Osaka, Japan. Image source: STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP

Let’s come back home. Daphine (not real names) is a promising young basketball player. I met her during the 1st lockdown in 2020. Throughout her education system, she has leaped from school to school, willing to cater to her financial-academic needs. She completed high school in 2018, but her luck fell short. She had a wagon of friends who were also riding on sports scholarships from school to school. Out of the wagon, they all opted for marriage and abandoned the sport. A couple of teams have called her out to play, but her only term is to be given education in exchange. None seemed to be heeding to her term. Luck knocked at her door in 2020, with Uganda Christian University opening its doors to her for the September intake. She last held a smartphone in January 2020 and currently carries a sim card which she inserts in any phone that allows her to make a few calls. Online learning is the option the school offered her, and if this lockdown pushes to September this year, she will have to wait till 2022. She has dreams of playing in Kenya. During practice days, she uses a transport fare of UGX 15,000 – 20,000 (USD 4 – 5) to and fro Mukono. Young promising athlete indeed!

I imagine the day Daphine will have an opportunity to represent the country at an international event. I am not sure if her return is guaranteed.

We can keep pretending that all is fine, but deep down, we all know that it is not right to award someone a crate of beer after a game. It’s painful to see a player investing in the gym work, personal workouts, feeding and transport expenses, sports gear all year round, and when the tournament or league comes around, an adjustable chair is offered in recognition of their outstanding performance. If all is fine as the picture is painted, why are there stories of sports officials confiscating athletes’ documents as soon as they set foot in another nation? Ssekitoleko’s story came just weeks after a National Rugby 7’s player had disappeared while in Monaco. Begging for USD 5 a day while chasing a dream sounds sweeter than having a pipe dream with a USD 280 paycheck! It’s very unfortunate that we have ambitious athletes that are met with a failed system.

What enabling factors do our sports governing bodies have? A daily allowance of UGX 10,000 (USD 2.5) is worth a day’s transport fare, of which approximately 1 out of 10 athletes receive that allowance. After a heated training and workout, one is expected to feed well, but I will leave this issue at the nearest “Rolex” stands to the sports grounds. Have you ever wondered why a young athlete of 19 years of age in a developed country will have a performance way better than a 25-year-old in our country? Their worries are less about how he will secure his next meal, or another pair of shoes, or get medical attention. In contrast, Ssekitoleko’s worries stretch from what he will eat right after practice, or reach home, or get back to practice the next day, to if he will be able to get medical treatment for an Achilles rupture. With all that pending, Ssekitoleko and the likes of Daphine have to keep working hard. Most athletes dream of leaving the country and play in another country. Athletes who manage to make their way out, even if they play in the lowest Division in their newfound homes, are as comfortable as a parliamentarian in Uganda. I defer to talk about the infiltration of our national teams by mainly athletes who are building their careers away from the country—just wondering why our local bred athletes can’t be trusted enough (scoffs a bit).

Ssekitoleko (Blue Cap) Upon his arrival at the Uganda International Airport. Image source: Chimp Reports

Why can’t Uganda be the green pasture? The brain drain of athletes is costing the nation a significant loss. Sports is estimated to have a global economic worth of USD 300 billion and is projected to hit USD 600 billion by the end of 2021. Uganda is blessed to have the most youthful population, but it’s sitting on a time bomb if these youth are not engaged to benefit the country, and sports would be the best avenue to tap into. Let’s face the fact; athletes seeking for green pastures is not about to end for as long as their value remains as low as (or even lower) UGX 1,000,000 a month (USD 290). We shall continue to send officials each year to help in the search for the runaway young promising athletes. 

“Ebyemizannyo,” so they call sports in most local languages! You should all stop thinking that dressing one in a new track suit and having them taking pictures while screaming “ffene” in front of a plane is enough to keep them around or enhance their sports performance.

Article by Elizabeth Kisolo | | Twitter: Big_Foot115

Beating the Odds

Are we promoting women’s sports to the right audience? 

Comparing women’s sports viewership and inclusivity in media at the start of the last decade, 2010.. and fast forward now the 2020’s, we can agree that there is a significant improvement. More sports bloggers have widened their scope of capturing sports and telling the women’s stories. Different media channels have created an opportunity for women to air their content and incorporate a lifestyle into the women’s sports fans. After I was hosted on a radio show to share my views on women in sports under the organization Score Beyond, I had an interaction with the host who told me that she had developed the idea of hosting women in sports every Wednesday on her radio show as a means to have more women involved in media. After being hosted on a television show to discuss women’s basketball, we were curious to know why we were selected to participate on the show, so we asked, why us? The host informed us that one of the visions of the media house is to strike a balance between women’s and men’s sports. Which was very impressive, right? Many more television and radio shows have impressively tried to strike a balance between women and men in sports media. 

With all the attention that is now being paid to women’s sports, are we appealing to the right audience, or are women in sports being represented the right way? Publicity comes with a lot of pros and cons, which include favorable competition for fundings, paid partnerships, sponsorship deals, and the growth of women in sports. However, it was disappointing recently during the FIBA Women’s Afrobasketball Zone 5 games airing when the comment section was filled with totally unrelated topics. Once again, as the South Sudan ladies team hustled against the formidable team of Egypt, a couple of people were busy discussing how many cows a player x is worth in their country! Such comments deprive an innocent viewer of seeing the beauty in women’s sports, and soon, their point of view will be leaning towards sexist thoughts about women in sports. We may underestimate the power of such small acts, but even the most minor evil can potentially cause the most significant damage. Sexist comments thrown around to women athletes will soon yield to body shaming, and when the worst comes to the worst, sexual exploitation of our women athletes. When asked to comment about sexist comments by fans, Coach Mavita responded, “It is a no-brainer! It shouldn’t be encouraged at all. We can’t control the fans, but some leagues have rules that punish that behavior.”

Image source: Chimp reports. Coach Mavita during the U18 women’s FIBA games in Maputo, Mozambique.

Let your intentions of watching or supporting women’s sport be as pure and clean as when you are watching men’s sports. We need to protect our women athletes from any potential abuse, whether it’s a sexist comment or a physical assault.

Nevertheless, we admire the direction women’s sports are taking both in visibility and having more women in the media area, with individuals like Usher Komugisha placing the bar high. Her role as a commentator at the inaugural BAL games in Kigali will forever be historic for sports media. Imagine we eliminated all the classism and sexism directed towards women, and we let them favorably compete and thrive in those formerly gendered fields. 

Let’s continue to show support to women in sports the right way. The airing of the FIBA Women’s Afrobasketball Zone 5 qualifiers on the Rwanda National Television and live on YouTube and airing of the Rugby Afrique women’s games on the Uganda National Television is one of the right strides women’s sports is taking. Put women’s sports in the media!

Image source: Uganda Women’s Rugby Facebook page. Samiya Ayikoru of Uganda in action against the Zimbabwe team on the 14th of July, 2021.

Elizabeth Kisolo | | Twitter: @Big_Foot115

The Dreams, The Expectations, and The Shortcomings

So apparently, the Federation can’t afford having the National women’s team, the Gazelles, participate in the Afrobasketball qualifiers (Sniffs a bit). I envy the men’s basketball. I really do envy the Uganda Men’s National basketball team. They don’t have a commission, but they have not missed out on any tournament. You see, a former teammate gifted each player a new pair of shoes the other day only to arrive in Egypt, and COVID-19 cut short their dreams. Wait, did I say cut short? Sorry I meant, gave them another chance to go home and come back when the camp is healthier and more robust. I really envy the men’s national team. I am not sure if there is a surgical procedure that will let me play on their team.

Apparently, FIBA Afrobasketball qualifiers for women were expecting the Uganda women’s team, the Gazelles, to participate. A few sports bloggers who care to write about women’s sports excited us with the new squad. You see, it feels good to see your “coffee” friends make it to the National team. Since we can’t make it to the WNBA, Europa, or Italia, our greatest shot is the National team. Oh boy! Even at the National level, you still can’t get to play the leagues you dreamed of. The other day I confided in Vanie concerning my thoughts on the decision by the Federation. After a whole ranting and tongue-twisting, she smiled and said,

” You can feel disappointed but don’t be surprised.”

It reminds me of the tales. Shoot for less as a woman. Aim for the clouds, leave the stars for the other gender. The gizzards are for the boys…or that jazz. You see, it’s unfortunate that we have a group of ambitious girls. Laeticia has worked her ass off every morning for hours at the Makerere Main ground to make it to the National team. Maybe what Hope didn’t do was pick up at pool court with the likes of ….. If I am ranting too much, tell me. You see, I sweat my ass off (like literally) looking forward to the day I will wear jersey number 5 with our national flag embroidered, not printed (or the Gazelles jerseys have a printed flag…I am up for correction)…whatever…that red jersey or whatever color they will choose to customize it with…and have my name written in the books that I represented the country. But when I look at the current happenings…hmmm, best I retire my jersey and hang it in my father’s sitting room as a reminder his daughter once had a dream.

You see, when Mr. Lugoloobi was motioned to read the national budget for the year 2020/21, he came just to confirm the rumors of the 8 bn cut from sports. That must have been our share for women sports. I am not sure if women athletes are on the vulnerable people’s list for the 100,000 ugx ($27) but in case they are, kindly send my share as a contribution for the women’s basketball team.

Anyway, all the best to the Men’s National Basketball Team that has gone to participate in the FIBA Afrobasketball qualifiers. We are surely rooting for you. You see, the Federation has high hopes in you gents, the ladies can keep playing NBL or Division I…for what do we care.

You can be disappointed by my article but don’t be surprised.

Image source: FIBA Support Women In Sports

Umpires’ Cross

A conversation between two spectators at a junior basketball game, let’s call them Peter and Jose.
Peter: “Which one is your boy?”
Jose: “Why?”
Peter: “I wanted to tell him how rubbish he is.”
Jose: “You can’t say that he is only a kid; how would you like it if I said it to your boy?”
Peter: “You have done that all game.”
Jose: “Who is your boy?”
Peter: “The referee.”

Round of applause for these heroes and heroines that are least respected on the court by players and fans. Ironically speaking, they own the game because their absence would automatically mean no game played. I slapped the court out of frustration during league games as a wrong call had been called on my account. The adrenaline while in play is too much that sometimes our emotions take the best of us, and we drop our ethics. We have witnessed referees get threatened by players and fans during games with statements like that of Diana Taurasi, a famous icon of the WNBA, when she told the referee, “I will meet you in the lobby later.” If you happened to watch a few games at the Makerere Main ground, the referees were literally intimidated when it came to Makerere Men’s team playing. The disrespect that they receive from the coaches, players and, fans needs to be tamed.

When I was getting accustomed to team play and all that comes with it, our coach consistently reminded us that sports are a fair play.

I mean, the referee is human. They are probably also battling inner wars but had to come to court to ensure your game takes place and secure their jobs. After all, to err is to human, and to forgive is …… We have witnessed games where a shot is blocked, and the referee calls a foul, or a ball is stolen, and a defensive foul is called, or a travel is made, but the basket is counted valid. Fortunately, the developed systems have had VAR incorporated into the system, and a replay will be watched for a final decision to be made. However, for a system where we still depend entirely on one’s point of view, we should be grateful for the fairness portrayed in the games. Leave alone game-fixing or what will be referred to a game wagering in technical terms, where maybe an umpire or referee will be given a small fee to favor team x over team y. In most games free of that vice, we can’t dispute the fairness they try to have in the games.

Nevertheless, I won’t guarantee that respecting them will stop one from yelling at them or calling them out for a play that didn’t go your way. That whole adrenaline rush while having a power drive intercepted with a foul neglected by the referee will most probably cause you to gesture angrily or smack a lip. If only we could master self-control. Luckily enough, reactions are under your circle of control, which can affect the referees’ behavior towards you as a player or as a team. Just avoid getting yourself into those compromising situations.

The next time you go for pick-up, volunteer to ump the game. I am all ears for whatever story you come back with.

Support Women in Sports

Jack of all Positions

When I joined a Rwandan team as a shooting guard/point guard I was very frustrated by the fact that I was pushed to play as a small forward regardless of my effort to prove that I was a great player as a shooting or pointing guard. During Covid 19 lockdown, my personal training aimed at growing my skills as a point guard/shooting guard with little input for a forward when posting. However, even with joining a new team, I was still pushed to the forward position. This made me get into conflicts and arguments some times with my teammates as I occasionally pointed the ball, leaving the person in charge useless on the court. Slowly by slowly, I adjusted to my new role, and I am doing great. When the game gets tough, I am still trusted to point for the team once in a while. A friend reached out to me and he was very frustrated with his coach. He felt like he was being made to play the coach’s game, not his game. He believed his performance wasn’t as outstanding as when he played his game. He is told to post and rebound all game, yet he believes he can do the driving.

This frustration is actually a normal feeling that happens to every athlete. We all believe we can explore our potentials best if left to play certain positions. During my active football days, I played as a midfield center back, but if faced with a team with poor defense, I would be pushed to play as a striker, while when faced with a solid striking I would be moved to the defense. I believe this happened per the game situation and the game reading of the coaches and her allies.

A couple of times, we shall face this kind of situation while trying to fit in our respective teams. It will definitely cause you frustration and conflict with the coach as you both have conflicting opinions about which position you should play. There is always a comprehensive view that the coach has about you which is completely different from what you view yourself as. However, remember, one of the great attributes of a great player is to be coachable. The era of playing basketball where the tallest automatically plays the big man, and in descending order, the shortest is the point guard is gone. We are in an era where efficiency is treasured over comfort. Whether you are six feet and above you are expected to shoot, drive, post, and rebound. If you have mastered your game, a switch in position shouldn’t worry you as much. Rather it should be embraced that you have a quality most players lack; fitting in any position on the court. It is actually an opportunity to grow your game and increase your versatility as a team player. Just like a coin has two sides, most definitely this may not apply to all positions, such as switching a striker to the goalkeeping position. Or we can’t get Denis Rodman as our point guard and push Curry to the forward position. However, the post moves used by a big man can definitely be applied by a forward. The coach has a rich experience about the game, and him/her trusting you with the position to which, she or he is pushing you to bring out more of your potentials. If you are not performing best in that position, chances are high that you can be switched to the position you most definitely will benefit the team.

TIP: As a player, refrain from the language, “my game”, as it will mercilessly destroy your profile. The coach will field you and give you enough playing time if you play as per his/her instructions. Keep “your game” for pick up days.

Support Women in Sports

The Other Side of Sports

The past two weeks have witnessed a bold move by the world’s no.2 best tennis player Osaka who withdrew from the French tournament to favor the restoration of her mind. Her decision was fueled by her attempt to not attend to any press media after any game played which caused the organizers to place a 15000 USD fine per press missed. She opted out of the tournament. Such a bold move, huh! The essence behind all this is for her mental well being. On the local scene, we may not have the press conferences after our games but the pressure that comes with each game as a team or individual is also grave enough to distort one’s state of mental being.

A few weeks ago, I reached out to a friend whose team lost all its games since the start of the league. Team plays can be crazy with each individuals contribution adding up to the whole team’s performance. Apparently he was the individual who cost the team its first prospected win. In the last seconds, he turned over the ball and capped that with a foul leaving the opponents with two free shots. Two days after the aftermath, he was still locked up in his room most probably trying to recreate the moment a thousand times with an if clause. He joined the other players on his team who were always blamed for the losses of the games which left him nervous to face his teammates. This wasn’t the first time the team had blown its win as 90% of their games would be leads from the first quarter till the last 2 or 3 minutes. He was mentally disturbed. If self hate was a person, he would redefine it.

As an athlete if mentally unwell, your performance can’t be as a good as a new broom. The mind is the control button while on court. There are so many attributes to why one can lose their mental state and the game in itself is inclusive. Registering a loss in a row, fumbling with the ball or turnover at a critical time, low playing time, poor performance as an individual, the audible fans among others can all affect your state of mental being. Talking of fans, these can pass as a replacement for the media press on our local scene. Keep your mind locked to the match least you will get into a fight with a fan who barely knows you beyond the court.

The games and all that comes with them can get frustrating. It’s actually fine to feel this way. Depression is even probable. Just for emphasis; its actually fine to feel this way and you may have felt this way consciously or unconsciously. And it is also fine to keep off the pitch or court until your mental well being is restored. Reach out to someone and have a chat over the occurrences. Talk to the coach or confide in a teammate who witnessed what happened. Normalize feeling vulnerable and get the right help!

Finally, just to say: sports teams, Stop sacrificing your teammates for a loss! Go study what went wrong as a team and work on it. Correction is different from judgement. You can reprimand what they did in the game but don’t build negative energy for your teammates. Remember for as long as you have had an opportunity to play, you have ever made a turnover. Stop making someone feel like they have done the unseen.

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We were never warned …

..that the transition from high school to league basketball is just a crazy phase, and the probability that you will drop out of sports is high at this stage. I asked a friend what really has challenged her ever since she started playing league at the university and she reverted that the pain of ripping away her high school stardom has not been easy on her.
To be honest, personally the same pressure developed over time and only to findout that almost everyone experiences it, is a little bit consoling huh.

We used to crack jokes in Rukiga, “Okulya entebbe” direct translation meaning “Eating the bench” and literal translation to mean “benched” on the game day. This is a sick reality that hits you hard and slowly eats away your emotions, if not careful, your decision-making will be based on this reality. When I got signed into playing for a team in Rwanda, I was very excited; you know, first time out of high school, all the excitement of joining a team in the league. Little did I know that I would never get to play a single game not to mention a friendly. I was as useless as the g in lasagna. My mind started playing hockey so I was all over the court, increased my training time and tried to learn Kinyarwanda (I had fears that the coach wasn’t fielding me because I could barely comprehend the language beyond amakulu) all in self denial. Weeks down the road, my spirit was shattered like glass and had I not returned to Uganda due to COVID 19, I would have dropped the sport. A month into Uganda, I decided to pick up my broken pieces from the floor where I had left them to hit the court once again. I could barely make a push-up or recall how to handle the ball but I was at the top of my workouts by end of the year.

It’s crazy how in high school, one is on the team’s starting 5; the team’s clutch, captain, the commanding voice of the team but ooooops, the league will slice your confidence significantly, primarily because of the high expectations you have carried. Uganda Basketball League games are on; the NBL, Division I & II, and it’s pitiful looking at young talent get frustrated over getting one minute of playing time. Players turn up with high expectations, “I was MVP in high school,” “I was never benched in my high school,” “I was the best shooter in my high school,” but alas!

Let’s not lose FOCUS. A number of people have run away from the sport because they can’t stand the sight of themselves on the bench. Isn’t that what they call running away from your fears? Yes, that’s giving up!
I am not sure what a friend did in a week, but her playing time miraculously shifted from 3 – 5 minutes to approximately 20 minutes. She may have prayed, but her defense drastically improved, and the coach couldn’t think of any better player when a defensive play was needed. Most probably behind closed doors, she was working on her sliding and defensive play. Put in the work! It may not reflect in the next game, but practice never lies. You can’t keep riding on old glory like one of the EPL teams. Wake up and develop a competitive spirit. If your shots are the problem, get to the court an hour before the rest of the team and shoot your hands off. Giving up has never been a solution. Work hard at it, even in the face of sitting on that bench.

Just to say; Sometimes the only and best thing to do is give up, and that would still be okay, but what is the ideal outcome of this situation for you?

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