Meet our coach series: Meshack Senge, Hockey coach
Meshack Senge is the big man behind the success of the scorpions and gladiators, ladies and mens hockey teams respectively at Strathmore University. Both teams have excelled beyond the Kenyan borders, East Africa and even the continental scope, bringing home many trophies over the last 3-4 years.
He joined SU in 2009 as replacement for the late Eric Shiahale (May he rest in peace), the founding coach of both the Gladiators and Scorpions. On joining, Meshack picked up from where the late Shiahale left. It was not easy task, but with his love for challenge and hockey game, there has been no looking back, Scorpions are currently ranked 2nd place in the continent.
Meshack has a background in IT, he holds a network administrator position in an organisation, and how he combines this with hockey is his big secret. Having been the captain of the school team in Kisumu Boys, he was identified for the Kenyan national team back then, rose to captain of national team, a position he held for 7 years, had been coach of the Kenya U-21 team, and is currently the national mens team coach. Knee injuries put a stop to his active hockey playing.
No doubt, Meshack is passionate about the game of hockey, his face lights up when he discusses hockey; it gives him an opportunity to train and mentor as a way of giving back to society. Back then, he played professional hockey for a club in Italy for 6 years, and when he mentors players who get opportunities to play at international club level; it gives him a sense of pride and accomplishment. So far, he has seen 6 of his mentees become players in clubs out of the country.
On coaching the Strathmore teams, Meshack admits that it takes an intricate balance to coach the mens team and the ladies team; he applies different tactics for both teams and especially on communicating instructions, pushing for results whilst ensuring that he does not crush team members, encouraging and disciplining too. Scorpions are indeed a unique team he confided. Talent scouting trips in high schools do not always yield pedigree players, and players are sometimes new to the game when they first join scorpions, but through determination and sheer hard work, they have so far not disappointed.
Gladiators are a force to reckon; they are current champions among Kenyan universities and the Kenyan hockey league, top among East African universities as well as 2nd position in the continental hockey league. In the Kenyan national team, out of a total 25 players, 17 are current Strathmore students and alumni. This contribution to the nations talent pool is quite commendable.
Meshack acknowledges that support from the University has been great towards establishing and maintaining strong teams; sports scholarships, sports kits, medical cover for sports injuries, equipment, accommodation and transport, all contribute to making strong teams. He however notes that competitors in leagues have very high monetary incentives from their organisations and this tends to drive competition to extreme levels and can lead to intimidation of students teams.
Challenges are never far, especially in a quest for greatness and excellence. Retention of players after they have completed their studies is the biggest challenge; top players from Strathmore are poached by the clubs with more money on offer and other incentives. Another major challenge is that SU does not have a proper training field for hockey, and this has been greatly felt by the teams. Even with this challenge, it has not stopped both teams from bringing home national and continental trophies.
Currently, all sports are competitive and extremely commercial as organisations fight for top slots. Strathmore sports teams are a good brand and are driven by different values, however Meshack argues that SU teams needs more aggressive marketing to attract corporate sponsors, which would see the SU teams rake top slots in both national and continental sports. These sponsorships would ease the burden of supporting the teams and may provide the much needed incentives for players to stay with Strathmore after graduation.
In the future, Meshack dreams of forming a centre of excellence. Through this centre, training of new talent by seasoned players would take place, and there would be sustainable growth of sports talent in the country. He envisions seeing olympic athletes and players in Kenya drawn from University teams, and specifically from centres of excellence, as is the current trend globally.
Meshack believes that when he gets involved in any activity, he has to give it his best; he is not one to walk away from challenges and live with regrets. Being a competitive person by nature, he reckons that God presents opportunities for a reason; he believes that his role is to impact hockey players lives positively. His values of hard work, ethics, discipline and winning the right way have all gone onto making him the great coach he is today. He wishes to leave a legacy of strong hockey teams even after he leaves Strathmore.
Meshack is married and has one son.