For acting General Secretary of the Zambia Hockey Association Elvis Bwalya and lead coach on the Hockey ID programme Floyd Chomba, the past few months have really given them an opportunity to develop their coaching and communication skills.
Working with people with intellectual disabilities calls for a different style of coaching but the rewards for both the participants and the coaches are huge, as the coaching duo from Zambia have been discovering. Both Chomba and Bwalya are experienced coaches – Bwalya has coached the antional men's U21 team and Chomba coached the women's U21 team. They both coach across a range of teams now, from elite international to young children. But for both men, Hockey ID is a new depth of experience.
‘Hockey ID is a new way of coaching,’ says Floyd. ‘Working with children with intellectual disability is a different coaching challenge.’
After the opening of the Youth Olympic Centre in Zambia, the Zambia Hockey Association (ZHA) started to reintroduce hockey at all levels and abilities.
Among the organisations that the ZHA were working alongside was a local school for deaf people, which, says Chomba, gave the coaches an early insight into what it was like to work with children and young people with different learning abilities.
‘Elvis and another coach on the programme were an example to us because they had so much more patience than the rest of us,’ says Chomba.
‘I was used to working with junior girls who needed to be constantly pushed to work hard, so coming to ID, I realised that sometimes I was too fast when it came to pushing the athletes. It was a more aggressive style of coaching and I realised that I needed to think about things from the viewpoint of my athletes. I used to put the goals first, and I have changed that.’
Working with Special Olympics Zambia, ZHA held an event for athletes with ID, which was a big success and Chomba stressed the importance of building good relationships with other organisations to create opportunities and learning experiences for the athletes.
‘I spoke a lot with friends from Special Olympics Zambia and that was a really big help in getting things moving,’ he said.
Both Chomba and Bwalya acknowledged that they had held some reservations about whether the children would be able to cope with the challenges of hockey. There was also concerns about the availability of equipment but a show of support from the National Olympic Committee president and members of the ZHA board gave the coaches the confidence to push ahead with developing the programme.
‘Now everyone is talking of coming on board so that we can make it a programme of five sports. The biggest challenge is getting the children to the centre – transporting them from a school and back – so if we work together, we will get more support from organisations such as the National Olympic Committee.’
Bwalya explained that all the participants came from schools across Zambia following recommendations from Special Olympics Zambia. He said: ‘It is a new thing for ZHA and it is a complete learning experience for us all.
‘We quickly learnt that the key to running a successful programme is to have patience with the participants.’