Liam Sharpe - After School Sports in Ghana
I stayed in Cape Coast between 12th of June through to the 9th August. I began my journey from Heathrow airport where I flew directly to Accra airport taking around 6 and half hours, and from there traveled 3 and half hours on a local mini bus known locally as ‘tro tro’.
I arrived shortly before lunch time at a local family household where I would be staying for my duration. I was introduced to the mother and father of the house and their small child. I was introduced to another volunteer from Norway; who was also staying in the same house.
My First Day!
On my first day I was given an introduction tour where I was taken around Cape Coast by a local man named Eric, who worked for Projects Abroad. My first impressions were somewhat shocking, with the heat and humidity, busy streets and noticeable poverty with street food, tin shack houses, homeless people and open raw sewage at the side of the streets. I felt an initial culture shock which was quite hard to get used to for the first few days.
On my second day I was introduced to my boss who represents rugby in Cape Coast and I was also introduced to the sport council at the local stadium. I was very excited when I was presented with an extremely busy rugby schedule which consisted of roughly 6 hours a day at local schools, colleges and local sides.
I then took to my first training session at Cape Tech institute where I met the other rugby volunteers. This initially consisted of 1 English and 1 French lad whom had been out there for a month prior to me arriving. In my second month we were joined by another female volunteer from America. On this same day we took a rugby session of around 25 children aged 10 – 16 in which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Time to socialize
Every Tuesday night there was an organized quiz night for all the volunteers; in which people are involved in many different projects. There were roughly around 30 different volunteers, continuously changing as new people arrived and old people left. There was a very tight friendship between the volunteers and we would often all go traveling at the weekends, as these were the only 2 days off from the placement. We traveled to places such as Cape 3 point whereby we stayed in a large dorm and we visited landmarks around the area such as the lake situated in the most southern part of Ghana.
My rugby placement
In terms of my rugby placement, we really did have hectic days traveling from different places. The best way to travel was through shared taxis which you would flag down at the side of the road and were extremely cheap to use. I had a number of schools in which I coached, but I was also assigned my own side which I trained solely on my own. This team was Adisadel College, consisting of male students between the ages of 16 – 18.
When I first entered the college the lads had never seen a rugby game let alone every played it. As soccer is such a dominant sport, my first few weeks were difficult to say the least; to coach a sport they had never heard of. I started with easy games such as bull dogs charge to try and introduce certain aspects of the game whilst also creating an element of fun. Over the 9 weeks with this team I trained them every Tuesday and Thursday when they had finished college whilst increasing the complexity and intensity of training sessions. I can confidently report the transformation from week 1 to week 9 was unbelievable.
In my final week I organized a competition whereby my side played another local side; coached by my rugby boss. Alongside this game we had a few of the junior teams playing each other prior to the main game. I am happy to say my team won, and the pride and excitement afterwards was extremely rewarding.
What did I learn and take from my trip?
Whilst out in Ghana, I made a lot of lifelong friends from all around the world as well as getting to know a lot of the local people who pride themselves of being extremely friendly and a very proud country. I loved the way of life whilst out there “extremely laid back” but the only thing I am not missing, now that I am back home is the food. There is only so much I can take of goat meat and white rice!
I found this trip extremely rewarding, and the enthusiasm the children showed on a daily basis for a sport that is relatively new to them was very encouraging! Many of these children would turn up on a daily basis to the local team I coached called Cape Tech, with determination and enjoyment, even when poverty was so apparent and many would arrive barefoot or having no money for water or food.
On leaving I provided a number of pieces of equipment to help the cause carry on developing which included clothing, rugby balls, whistles and medals for the children. This was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I have ever had the opportunity to participate in, and I know one day I will return to Cape coast also known as the “gateway to Africa”!