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National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) Strength and Conditioning consultant Geoffrey Kimani has been helping Federations keep tabs on the fitness of their players during the COVID-19 shutdowns. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

coronavirus

Coaches improvise to keep athletes fit and sane in COVID-19 pandemic

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 8 – The COVID-19 pandemic has presented quite challenging times for sportsmen all over the world, and even bigger responsibilities for their coaches who are now forced to watch and monitor from a distance as their sportsmen train at home.

Kenyan sports coaches have been sailing on the same boat being limited to only receiving video evidence that their players have trained and sending routines to them on messaging platform WhatsApp.

From spiking on walls to using books in bags as weights, coaches and athletes revealed their bizarre ‘Train from Home’ regimes on the second day of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) athletes conference on sports during the times of the pandemic.

Moderated by BBC Africa’s Lynne Wachira, Malkia Strikers head coach Paul Bitok, Kenya’s 100m champion Mark Otieno, Kenya Lionesses star Sinaida Aura and NOCK Strength and Conditioning Consultant Geoffrey Kimani delved on the delicate issue of training at home.

Kenya’s Mark Otieno during a training session at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani. PHOTO/The Star

“It has definitely not been easy but at this time we need to improvise. I had to talk to my coach and I went to the welder and made some plyometric boxes, I also use 5litre bottles with water to do my core work-outs and drills. You have to think outside the box and improvise,” Otieno, eyeing a place in the 2021 Olympic Games stated.

Malkia’s Bitok who is preparing the girls for their return to the quadrennial games says he has been monitoring his players via WhatsApp and has sent them training programs tailored for their respective positions.

“We have tried to address the issue of skills and try to improve the players individually. Depending on where they are at the moment, the training has been different. For those who are in the village and can access space, we have advised them to go on long runs and try use any fields available to do ballwork on their own,” Bitok explains.

“For the setters we have sent them programs they can use to improve their setting while sitted, standing and jumping too. We have also asked them to draw circles for their accuracy training. For attackers, blockers and liberos we have asked them to use the walls to practice their drills. We are also working on their movement and we have different programs for sidestep, front step and back steps,” added the tactician.

Malkia Strikers head coach Paul Bitok celebrates with players after winning the All African Games in Morocco

While training has been easier for Otieno and other individual sportsmen, team sports has suffered and the usual camaraderie of training as a team having been swept away, they have been forced to draw inspiration from within to ensure they don’t lose much of their fitness.

“As athletes you run on a program and a calendar and with the whole situation of COVID-19 it has been difficult. Training alone requires a lot of mental strength more than the physical bit. It also takes much more discipline and effort,”

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“It becomes easier when you have your teammates around to get motivation. The team environment plays a big role,” Aura who expects to be part of Kenya at next year’s Olympics disclosed.

But, Kimani, who is also Team Kenya’s fitness consultant has urged coaches to continue being innovative to ensure they keep their athletes grounded and fit during this period.

“If you fix the physical, then it becomes easier to fix the mental. Coaches should take leadership in this because this is their role and with the situation we are in, they should be more involved and innovative. You don’t need to push the athletes excessively, but ensure they are keeping fit,” Kimani, part of the Kenya Sevens team that won the 2016 Singapore Sevens stated.

Kenya Lionesses player Vivian Akumu avoids a tackle from Ann Goreti and Janet Owino during a past training session. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Even as they continue training, one area that continually becomes tricky is the diet. Being at home for most part of the days can bring some huge measure of temptation.

“It is hard because now everyone is at home and the chapatis are coming in from all round but I am trying. I have to be careful with what I eat. I take a lot of water and eat lots of protein with minimal carbs,” Aura said.

Otieno added; “I can’t treat this as an off season with eating cake and all that otherwise I will end up gaining weight. I have reduced carbs and taking in more proteins.”

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