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Kenya's rugby sevens 'walk the talk'

Don Fennell   Mar-14-2018

Trinity Western University business stream director Dr. George Imbenzi helped guide ‘Leading Global Teams in Today’s Competitive World’ Friday at the school’s Richmond campus. The session featured Kenya’s rugby sevens players Eric Ombasa and Andrew Amonde and coach Innocent Simiyu.

Photo by Chung Chow


Kenya’s national rugby sevens did more than talk a good game last week. They validated it.

After sharing a platform for leadership at Richmond’s Trinity Western University last Friday, ahead of the 2018 HSBC Canada Sevens Vancouver at BC Place Stadium, the boys demonstrated the values they spoke of on the pitch by reaching the tournament final.

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Titled ‘Leading Global Teams in Today’s Competitive World’, the March 9 presentation offered coaching insights on mobilizing team members, as well as players’ reflections on being personally motivated.

Named head coach of the Kenyan national team in October 2016, one of former star player Innocent Simiyu’s goals has been to take the rugby in his country to the next level.

Impressing the importance of principles such as attitude, humility, honesty and commitment—which have become the team’s stated values—have been foremost in the game plan.

“One of the first things we did was sit down and ask ourselves, 'What is our purpose?' It took over a month, but once we defined that it brought us together,” Simiyu said. “Then we looked at how the values fit into a purpose, and did we share the same values? Whenever you look at life, there has to be a bigger purpose than just doing your job. What are you trying to achieve in your community?”

Though rugby has been played in Kenya for more than a century, rugby sevens has only been around since 2003. The sheer fact there are only seven players demands the team is like-minded and striving to achieve the same goals.

“The first year (coaching) was very tough,” Simiyu says. “The biggest challenge is to get players to buy in, and see rugby as in the context of life. If you look at it as a component of life, then it fits in very well.”

George Imbenzi and Amanda Carrasco, from the MA in Leadership program, led the lunch-and-learn session.

Two players from the Kenyan sevens also shared insight into the team dynamics, and their personal journeys.

“It’s made me a better person,” said one of the players, who recently got married. “It’s helped me a lot to learn to interact with the people.”

Initially a soccer player, he said becoming an elite rugby player was not an easy process and required a considerable amount of hard work and sacrifices.

“It’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve in life,” he said. “And you have to also be ready to work for something else apart from sport.”

Simiyu said the old style of coaching, where the coach is always right, is no longer effective. He said if you’re going to work together, everyone must have input.

“All our players sit in groups and they devise the strategies,” he explained. “That way, we get consensus and ownership from the players. I think this approaches transfers to other areas (of our lives). It’s important to have plans that are relevant.”


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