Urs Haenni (mentor), Elijah Samoei (coach) and Rev. William Kosgey (pastor), photo by Justin Lagat/Kenyan Athlete.
Water being purified naturally for drinking, photo by Justin Lagat/Kenyan Athlete
This is Justin Lagat’s column about a unique training centre in Kenya. We ask Justin to provide us a column, once a week, on an aspect of Kenyan running culture that will help us understand the sport in Kenya. We are always appreciative of his views from Kenya.
In this warm, dusty and dry weather across most parts of Kenya, I could hardly believe the changes that I found by simply driving 26km out of Eldoret town this Wednesday (18th January 2017) to Kaptagat’s relatively new training camp.
Athletes doing laundry outside their dormitory, photo by Justin Lagat/Kenyan athlete
The air coming from the adjacent Kaptagat forest was amazingly cool and refreshing. “This is one of the reasons why I come here almost annually to spent my holidays and mentor the young athletes here,” said Urs Haenni from Switzerland. “Nowhere else in the world can one find such an amazing weather.”
Mentor-ship is one key area that the Complete Sports management focuses on very much. Of the three officials I met at the camp, one was a coach,the other was a spiritual pastor while the third was a mentor.
And, there is usually an extra room for any mentor to come and spend some time with the young athletes, be it athletes who went through the camp in the past and became successful, or any other individual who value and exercise the core values being impacted to the athletes here aside from their physical training namely; responsibility, excellence, integrity, unconditional love for others in community and forgiveness.
The camp enrolls athletes who show some talent in running and come from poor backgrounds. They are provided with everything they will need in their training for free, from accommodation, food, to training gears.
Within a year, almost all the athletes that were enrolled get opportunities to join sports managements, get sports scholarships in universities and join the military. The success rate is very high given that out of the 18 athletes enrolled last year, 17 of them got opportunities to go out of the camp. There is no time limit on how long one should remain in the camp and if one is not successful in the first year, he joins the new ones after every year. The bed capacity in the camp is 18 and so 17 new athletes got enrolled this year, and already -barely a month – three of them are being offered some opportunities; two for scholarships and one to join an athletics management.
“At first when we began this camp, the community around here were a bit concerned that the athletes may influence the children in the neighborhood negatively. But, the same parents who had concerns are the ones who are now requesting for spots for their children in the camp after witnessing the transformation that the athletes go through here. Some of the athletes in the camp even attend the local churches around and preach,” Rev. William Kosgey said. He is the pastor that stays most of the time in the camp with the athletes.
Besides training, the young athletes are taught self-reliance skills like keeping poultry, farming a small garden and are advised on ideas to start small businesses so that their lives do not defend entirely on their performances in competitions. I could see the models of a poultry house and also a garden as Rev. Kosgey and Urs walked me around the camp.
“When you plant a tree, you do not pull it up to grow fast; you just provide it with everything it needs and let it grow at it’s own rate. It is the same with this camp. It started about six years ago and the results so far are quite impressive, but there is still more to be done to accommodate more athletes, perhaps to set up some more farming structures like a dairy for the athletes to get more practical skills on self-reliance, among others.” Urs said.
This camp which seeks to develop young athletes wholly; physically, economically, socially and spiritually is surely a remarkable venture by Bernd Breitmaier, the founder, and many of this kind ought to be set up across the world.