Nakuru's sitting volleyball team defying challenges to succeed

Wednesday October 10 2018

Nakuru County sitting volleyball team in intense training at Nakuru's Afraha Stadium under the close watch of coach Florence Ofwenje on October 9, 2018. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI |

Nakuru County sitting volleyball team in intense training at Nakuru's Afraha Stadium under the close watch of coach Florence Ofwenje on October 9, 2018. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

FRANCIS MUREITHI
By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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As they slowly limp into Afraha Stadium annex, these physically impaired persons could be mistaken for a group of disabled heading to a meeting at this vast open playground.

Some come limping assisted by metal clutches and walking sticks while others arrive in creaking wheel chairs.

Those that are unable to bear the rays of the scorching sun are brought by boda bodas.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, they religiously make the journey to the venue for sitting volleyball training.

Their frailty under strain and visible show of weakness is suddenly turned into a show of strength as they put down their walking aids and sprawl into a rough and dirty court.

Not even a permanent foul smell of fresh urine from the perimeter wall next to the court could deter them from getting down to serious business.

Their bursts of explosiveness and remarkable team spirit coupled with their determination to excel in this challenging sport is worth watching.

As they lift their pelvis from the ground to spike the ball past the net slightly above their heads, their service, blocks and attacks are just awesome.

And scores of fans watching from the sidelines are treated to a thrilling moment as the training gathers momentum.

The team which comprises of 30 players has Florence Ofwenje to thank for as a coach. She is now a full time volunteer coach and the only one in Nakuru County.

The mother of four- one girl and three boys- has been coaching the team since 2011.

The 52-year-old former international and Telkom Kenya volleyball player is the fore behind the training of this team.

She arrives ahead of the team and cleans the court with a makeshift broom before the training starts and often she is mistaken as a County government worker.

“This court is never cleaned. I clean it every Tuesday. The smell of urine around the court is irritating to the players as their pelvis are constantly in contact with the ground,” said Ofwenje.

But this has not deterred Ofwenje from using her volleyball skills she gained at her youthful years to give hope to this disabled persons eager to exploit their skills amid their severe disabilities.

“Volleyball has always been a passion. I want to coach them and make them feel as a useful component of our sporting fraternity,” she told Nation Sport.

“Playing sitting volleyball is not very different than playing regular volleyball. I decided to transfer my vast experience and skills to these disabled persons as one way of giving back to the society.

Coaching these physically impaired persons is a just a feeling that makes me very thankful to my creator. It gives me a lot of hope,” she said.

Ofwenye said her decision to dedicate her time to coaching the team was the best thing could happen to her after she was retrenched from Telkom Kenya in 2007.

“I have learnt a lot from them. Their team spirit inside and outside the court is amazing. My constant interaction with them gives me full filling moments. It is a life lesson that keeps me going,” she said.

Nakuru County volunteer sitting volleyball coach Florence Ofwenje at Afraha Stadium Annex on October 9, 2018 . PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Nakuru County volunteer sitting volleyball coach Florence Ofwenje at Afraha Stadium Annex on October 9, 2018 . PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Ofwenje says the team faces a myriads of challenges among them is lack of transport to enable the players attend the training.

Besides, she has no first aid kit in case of an injuries.

“I appeal to Governor Lee Kinyanjui's administration to assist this team achieve its goals and dreams,” said Ofwenje.

Captain Fred Omondi says the venue is not conducive for training.

“There are no toilets or changing rooms and this is major challenge for us,” said Omondi who is also a national team player.

Organising Secretary George Otieno said the team is neglected and the county government has abandoned it.

“We’re preparing for the inter county sitting volleyball tournament slated for Nairobi from October 30 – November 3and we need Sh300,000 but nobody at the county is bothered,” said Otieno.

Amidst these challenges, Ofwenje’s efforts has borne dividends as four players - Fred Omondi, James Mureithi, Purity Wangare and Margaret Wanjiru are national team players.

For Ofwenje, who also coaches the deaf volleyball team, she is living her dream but she lacks assistance.

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