As a coach you have many ups and downs on the court and off the court. I have been coaching since 1989 and Wednesday was one of the best days in my coaching career.....and we didn't play a game!
Our day started with a long bus ride from Dakar to St. Louis. We were told the ride could take 2 1/2 hours......3 hours.....5 hours.....the final number of hours ended up being 5 1/2 hours with a couple of stops. Here are some highlights of the ride:
- At one of our stops we came across a young man who worked for the Peace Corp who once attended SMU! Talking small world, or what???
- Mangos were sold road side all over the place
- Driving north toward the Sahara Desert you could feel the heat with each mile.....my bad....with each kilometer we drove!
- Yesterday I bought an international cell phone for Kelly to use to check on her ill mother. Today she used that phone on the ride and talked to her brother! A piece of plastic the size of a bar of soap can be used from Africa to call home in Dallas! That blows my mind!
- Tomasz bought a little drum on one of the stops and later Papa was playing the drum in back of the bus while some of the guys starting singing. Some serious team building was going on there.
- We ate a late lunch on the Isle of St. Louis, over looking the water and the first bridge built in West Africa. Mactar N'Diaye , one of our hosts, gave us a talk on the history of Senegal and how it relates to France. Senegal was a French colony before gaining independence and now the relationship between France and Senegal is strained, even as some of the people of Senegal are considered French. Interesting politics and it was a great learning experience for our players as they are taking a class on Africa. Mactar was a great "guest lecturer".
- We visited Bamba's mother at the school where she works. She gave the team a tour and we met many of the ladies she works with. She teaches home economics and math.
- We visited Papa's house and met his parents, a sister and a brother, aunts, cousins and some of his childhood friends. They gave us a nice tour of his home along with a terrific meal. It was a festive event. His mother gave me a gift of a historic picture of a market in St. Louis that I plan on hanging in my new office.
- We visited Bamba's house. His home is centuries old and has been in his family a long time. We met his brother, who looks just like Bamba, and many family friends. It was another festive event as Bamba hasn't been home in three years.
We are on the bus back to Dakar after a long day. It is 9:30pm here and we may not get back to the hotel until after midnight, but it was well worth it. If nothing else happens, today was worth the time and money put into this trip. Our players gained so much knowledge of Senegal, they bonded as a team, they got to meet the families of teammates and we all got to see the love and sense of family that surrounds Bamba and Papa and the people of Senegal. It was a VERY powerful experience!
Tomorrow we put on a clinic at SEEDS Academy where Bamba, Papa and Mouhammed attended. We want to give back and we hope this is a great way of doing that.