In order to make basketball in Rwanda as popular as football, it has to start at the grassroots level by training both youth and coaches alike.
Several basketball coaching camps are being conducted in different towns by an international basketball coach, Ryan Turcott.
The United States Embassy in Kigali and the Ministry of Education is funding the programme. The objective of this programme is to develop the basketball skills of young Rwandans, regardless of their gender.
In an interview with The New Times, Coach Ryan Turcott said that he was probably going to stay longer than he had earlier planned.
“I came here about seven weeks ago with basketball development priorities. For several weeks now, I have worked with local basketball coaches and secondary school basketball teams. It’s imperative that the youth understand the basic fundamentals of basketball,” Turcott says.
The 28-year-old coach has participated in many international basketball camps such as, the FIBA Children of the World as Camp Director during at the FIBA World Championship 2010, in Turkey.
During the 2011 International Basketball Sabbatical, he travelled to New Zealand, Turkey, Palestine, Australia, Israel and Romania. He organized and directed numerous coaching camps with the basketball governing bodies of the mentioned countries.
So far, he has conducted coaching clinics and basketball camps at Green Hills Academy, IFAK, Lycee de Kigali, Kimisagara Youth Center and other schools across several towns upcountry.
Israel Cyabukombe, Captain of the boys’ basketball team at Green Hills Academy said Coach Ryan has trained him three times.
“We did more physicals compared to what we do on a daily basis and we have perfected what we already know. With his training, I think I have become a more focused player physically and mentally,” Cyabukombe acknowledges.
Coach Turcott also said that he is working closely with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Sports and Culture and, is taking on project by project.
“Eventually we want to have a programme that will develop cultures. We will need to have a basketball academy with budding coaches and players,” Turcott emphasises.
Regarding the challenges he has met during these past few weeks he said, “Our biggest focus is developing a basketball culture, we want this to be a long term programme. The biggest challenge so far is the lack of knowledge where the basics of the game are concerned. Most coaches don’t even know the basic basketball drills such as ball handling, passing and shooting.”
Additionally, he said that the limited basketball facilities, especially when it comes to equipment are a major hindrance to developing the sport.
Turcott says currently, “it’s the youth in secondary schools who will benefit from the programme, however, primary school students will also get trained eventually. I have noticed a definite interest in the youth to learn.”
According to Charles Mushumba, Technical Director of High School Athletics, Turcott’s presence in Rwanda is highly beneficial to the basketball fraternity.
“His skills are impeccable and he loves what he does. His focus while training the youth is superb and he easily blends in with them. As technical personnel, I really acknowledge his skills because of the training he passes on to both the coaches and the players,” Mushumba said.
Mushumba also helps Turcott with translation at the basketball clinics.
At 28, the global basketball coach, is very eloquent. He is also the last child in a family of three with a sister and brother for siblings. His father Gary Turcott was head basketball coach at Carroll College in Montana for 19 years but is currently retired. His older brother is a coach as well.
“I was born into a basketball loving family. There was a basketball in my crib! My father and brother are my role models. They have been very influential; they taught me how to play basketball. My older sister, who is also my best friend, played soccer in school. Basically, athletics has always been important in my family,” Turcott said.
During his time at Pacific University, Oregon, he played point guard. He also played American football while growing up but quit after suffering a bad knee injury during a football game.
“It was really hard to balance both sports and school. But when I got the injury, I knew that if I continued to play American football, the situation would worsen. I decided against it and continued with basketball because there are less chances for injury plus basketball is my true passion,” he explains.
“My childhood dream was to play in the NBA (National Basketball Association) but it’s very hard to get in if your height doesn’t suit the association. I knew from a very young age that I would become a coach because my family comes from a long line of educators so it’s in my blood to teach and coach,” Turcott revealed.
“I love helping others more. I always look forward to turning ordinary players into great ones. I enjoy what I do because I’m making an impact on the lives of these kids. Some people say that basketball is dead here—I want to change that,” Turcott expresses.
For the seven weeks he has been in Rwanda, he has learnt a few words in the local language, which he uses sometimes.
“The most common word I use is Akananwa (Chin). When I say it, I grab the ball and hold it with both hands below the chin because that is a very strong basketball position. Even for a rebound, no one can get the ball from you. If I stay here longer, I will definitely learn more,” he explains.
Dish: - Mexican food
Colour: - Blue
Music: - Hip-hop
Quote: - ‘If it is to be, it’s up to me.” Gary Turcott (Ryans father)