Concerns have been raised about the national basketball team about recruiting foreign players and the expense of maintaining them, along with the apprehension that local talent will be killed. Society‘s Doreen Umutesi talked to Cliff Owuor, who has been Senior Coach of APR Basketball Club.
“I don’t agree with the fact that Rwanda should entirely rely on foreign players in sports. They should use more local players; however, it’s important for foreign players to participate in elevating the standards of competition,” Owuor explains.
He added that building local talent requires a lot of things, the most important being commitment.
“The question we should ask ourselves is what is being done to build local sports? I don’t think there is anything going on to help raise the standards of local talent. For instance, currently, the national basketball league is on a break, waiting for the second league to start. Ask yourself, what are they doing? Are they seated in their lounge waiting for the second league to start?” Owuor expresses.
The soft spoken Owuor has coached the APR men’s basketball club since 2006 and they have won four consecutive league titles.
“The biggest issue with Rwandan basketball players is that they fear contact because at the back of their mind, they believe they are not physically strong enough and don’t work out as often as they should in order to get that strength. If this could be implicated, then they have the potential to be the best players in the region. Everything has a price tag and extensive working out is the price to pay for any sports personnel.”
“Rwandans have the advantage of height which is the most important feature in basketball. Most of the players are 6ft something, something other players in the region cannot boast about. So with this God given attribute, I think all they need to do is work out and build their physique. I strongly believe they will be unbeatable after that”.
“There is no leap in success, you have to go up the staircase and use as much of your energy as you can. It’s as simple as no pain no gain,” Owuor emphasizes.
Born March 10th, 1973, in Kisumu, Kenya, the human resource manager by profession is grateful that he made the decision to come and be a part of building his most loved sport, basketball, in Rwanda. The seventh born in a family of nine attained a Bachelors degree in Human Resource Management at Nairobi University.
“My target is to win the African Military title. It’s something I have been working on but, like the adage goes, Rome was not built in one day, and getting there is not easy,” he discloses.
Naturally, working as a coach comes with challenges, but he refuses to be bullied by them and considers them a way of life.
“Without a doubt, my biggest challenge is the know-it-all attitude several people possess. Even when they are not sure about something, they speak with confidence unmatched and later watch things backfire! Another challenge is how some people commit to something but then fail to put it into action,” Owuor expresses.
He attributes his teams’ consecutive wins to persistence and numerous sacrifices made by the players.
“I always talk to my players and the committee about consistence. The administrative support has helped us a lot, that and the fact that we have some of the best players,” he reveals.
Apparently if he is to take on a player, the first three factors considered immediately include; height, knowledge about the game and athletic ability - basically how high one can jump or how fast he can move on the court.
Initially, Owuor’s dream was to be a great basketball player; unfortunately his continuous knee injury robbed him of that chance and he had to settle for coach.
“During my time as a player, I was the captain of my team. In the coach’s absence, I would run the training sessions. I’m still very involved in the game even though I don’t play,” he states.
Originally, he coached Kenya Christian Industrial Training Institute which won the College League four times consecutively and the Kenyan Miltary Basketball Team Ulinzi, which also won several titles.
Besides Owuor being an established coach, he is a family man, who got married in 2002. He is blessed with a daughter and a son.
“My seven year old daughter is already interested in basketball and I’m hoping my 8-month old baby boy, Kobe, will follow suit,” he says.
When asked what he would do if his son grew to love another kind of sport he said, “You cannot force children to take on a sport they don’t love. You just have to talk them into loving the game. I will try to influence my children but the decision to take on sports is theirs alone,” Owuor concludes.