Simon Nabukwesi: Kenya’s most successful hockey coach

Wednesday May 13 2020
kamu_pix

Friends school Kamusinga hockey team with their coach and school principal Simon Nabukwesi (right) after winning the 2001 nationals held at Mangu High. PHOTO | POOL |

By ANTHONY NJAGI

Ambassador Simon Nabukwesi, the PS State Department for University Education and Research has a rich sporting background few may know.

Many may recall him as Kenya’s Ambassador to Canada and principal of Friends School Kamusinga, but who would associate him with being a hockey coach.

Well, this top government official was once a winning coach in the Kenya Secondary Schools Term One Championships hockey, not once or twice but for eight consecutive years.

Not many coaches can boast of such an achievement, but. Nabukwesi did it with Friends School Kamusinga from 2001 to 2008.

To cap it all, the school also won the first East African Schools hockey title in 2009.

Nabukwesi produced hockey luminaries the likes of Ben Mark Ekhubi, Jamrick Simiyu, Samuel Wokila, Frank Wanangwe, Denis Wanangwe and Oliver Eadike.

Others Silas Lusweti, Ken Ashimosi, Isaac Mwaura and Evans Wairimu.

Although Friends School Kamusinga is still a giant in hockey, the institution has not enjoyed such a long run of wins as they did with Nabukwesi.

HALL OF FAME

In fact, Nabukwesi’s name features in the Hockey Hall of Fame as the most successful school’s coach in the game.

Although Nabukwesi started his coaching career at Bungoma High School in 1989, it was at his alma-mater where he got into his stride and started winning trophies.

“Perhaps going back to my old school rekindled good memories and motivated me. Or perhaps it is the diligent spirit of the staff and the students. I don’t know,” said the PS as he nostalgically reminisces on his school coaching career.

He says that the winning spirit did not come easy. When he coached Bungoma High, the school usually dropped out of the hockey championships at provincial level which featured such regional giants as Vihiga Boys and Musingu High.

When he was transferred to Friends School as a Kiswahili and English teacher, hockey in the school was at best an idle pastime for the students.

Seated in his Jogoo House B office in Nairobi Nabukwesi recalls that up to the late 1970s and early 1980s, hockey was considered a game for elite schools, most of which featured Kenyan players of Indian extraction.

Even at club level thenmost players and coaches were of Indian extraction.

Nabukwesi says that for some reason in the early years after Kenya’s independence, perhaps because of historical background, games such as cricket and hockey mostly featured Kenyan-Indians and Europeans.

This, he says, was a hangover from the country’s colonial period, where the games were the preserve of Indian and European schools and professional clubs such as the Nairobi Gymkhana.

“Indigenous players and coaches only started excelling in hockey much later, and if you look around even today, it is mostly players of Indian extraction who excel in schools and club cricket,” said Nabukwesi.

Although he started coaching hockey in Kamusinga as a teacher in, success came when he was promoted to school principal.

Nabukwesi could now support hockey and other sports with more fervour.

“The school was a national giant in academics and other activities such as drama, music, but the same could not be said for sports,” says Nabukwesi.

“I sought to change this, since I considered sports a crucial part of the boys’ education.”

First, he bought hockey sticks and other equipment for the 200 boys who applied to join the hockey team. The students had observed that the new principal meant to promote the game to a higher level.

He then picked the best players for the first and reserve teams and came up with a vigorous training programme for all of them.

“I started teaching in 1989 at Bungoma High and I took the school hockey team to the national champions in 1993, 1994 and 1995.”

Nabukwesi was transferred to Kamusinga in June 1995 and started coaching the team in October 1995 to telling results.

“I took Kamusinga team to Maseno for nationals in 1997 and lost at the semi-finals stage.” Friends School Kamusinga reached the 1998 final losing narrowly to Musingu.

Then the winning started at the 1999 nations.

“Working with brilliant students and seeing them shine in class and in the field was the most fulfilling part of my life,” said Nabukweis.

He left Friends School in 2009 but the culture of hockey is still reigning supreme in the institution.