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Changing lives, one game at a time

We had a tête-à-tête with the Strathmore University and Kenya men’s national handball team coach, Peter Mwathi, to learn a bit more about the Olympic sport, handball.

What is handball?

Handball is an Olympic team sport in which seven members, six players and a goal-keeper, pass a ball using their hands with the aim of scoring into their opponent’s goal. The sport lasts an hour, with thirty minutes in each half. Handball is also the second fastest game in the world, with the first being ice hockey. Handball, by the nature of the game, improves your decision-making skills. At any given time, a player has only a fraction of a second to make a decision.

Where did your passion for handball begin?

Actually, my first sport was not handball. While in high school, I enjoyed boxing a lot. Later, I began a ladies’ netball team but quickly realized netball as a sport did not provide enough room for growth as it was not an Olympic sport. I therefore decided to convert the then netball team to a handball team. In 1992, we began playing competitively and our initial matches with Uganda were a disaster. We would return from a match having scored only two goals with our opponents having scored 45 goals. But we did not give up. We continued practicing and, by 1994, the gap began to lessen and Uganda would beat us by only two goals by the end of the match. By 1996 we overtook the then powerhouses Uganda and Tanzania and have since then remained a powerhouse. I am happy to be one of the people, by the grace of God, to transform handball not only in Kenya, but in the region at large.

I have heard about sports for education, briefly tell us a bit more about this.

I am a Chief Technical Advisor for Hand the Ball – Kenya which aims at improving the quality of life of teenagers and children through physical non-competitive group activities with the unique Hand the Ball puncture-free street ball. We have partnered with schools in underprivileged areas such as Kibera, Korogocho, Mukuru and Mathare, which allows the children to be active after class hours. Previously these children were engaged in sourcing metal objects in dumping sites for sale which would later lead to dropping out of school. Hand the Ball has been one of the activities that has helped improve the retention rate of children in school and improving their academic performance.

From these schools we have nurtured good players who have received scholarships for their secondary education. I recall four years ago, a school in Nyahururu gave Kshs. two million as a scholarship that we used to educate four girls who are just about to complete their secondary education.
I also scout for talent in high schools. We give sports scholarships at Strathmore University to talented players coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am also negotiating with other universities to provide such scholarships for talented handball players.

If I have never played handball in the past, can I begin at university?

Funny you ask, because just recently three ladies who have never played handball in their life joined the Strathmore University handball team. They played soft handball for the first time a month ago during the 2018 Strathmore University Sports Day. I approached them after the game, and while they were afraid of joining the team due to lack of experience, they decided to and are now part of us. There has been a lot of progress and they are enjoying themselves. They also cannot believe that they can learn handball! The only challenge of learning a sport later in life is that it takes a longer time to learn the tactics that are easier learnt younger. But it is never too late.

What is the work of a coach?

My work is to identify and develop talent. I go out to various places, spot potential and bring the players under my wing. I do not know if you are aware but Jackson Maloba, one of your colleagues in the University Relations & Communications Office, was scouted while in high school. He is now playing for the men’s national team.

How do I join the Strathmore University handball team?

We meet daily at the Strathmore University Sports Complex, located 100 meters from the university. One can join anytime. All you need is a sporting kit. We meet every day from 5:15pm. On Mondays and Wednesday, we do body strength conditioning at the gym and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays we practice handball.

I hear you are introducing sports for all, what is this?

We are trying to ensure everyone at Strathmore University engages in a sport. We are in the process of introducing street handball which one can play without a kit. This is still in its initial stages but you will soon hear more on this once we are up and running.

Thank you so much, Coach Peter Mwathi for your insights on handball. As he has rightly said, it is never too late to join the Strathmore University handball team and once you join you will have a lot of opportunity to grow and develop different skills such as decision making and team work. One can also explore handball beyond the university and use it as a tool to serve society and help young children bring out their best.

If you would like to join the university handball team, kindly email: pmwathi@strathmore.edu

This article was written by Anne Njoroge
If you have a story, kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu