A Young Coach In Pursuit Of Training Best Players
Basketball in Eritrea was introduced in the 1940s during the British colonization period. At the moment, there are 13 men’s teams in the 1st division and seven women’s teams. Although a favorite sport among many young Eritreans, basketball has not shown much progress in the past three decades. In an effort to upgrade the skills of its teams, the Eritrean National Basketball Federation recently sent a young coach, Mr. Henok Amine to Semmelweis University in Hungary to attend a three-month course in basketball coaching. Shabait conducted a brief interview with coach Henok regarding his experience in Hungary and basketball in general. Excerpts follow:
Would you introduce us with your background first?
I was born in 1980 in Asmara, and studied in Adulis elementary school, Dalul junior school and Red Sea secondary school. I graduated in 2005 from the University of Asmara in Electrical Engineering. I played for Bizen basketball team and was member of the national basketball team. At the moment, I am coaching Bizen men’s team in the 1st division and Salina women’s team which is the women’s league champion for 3 consecutive years.
When and how did you start playing basketball?
My father was an avid basketball player so I could say I have just followed in his footsteps. One day I was passing through Wokma basketball court and saw a bunch of kids playing and I decided to join them. Then I joined the 2nd division when I was 14 and later on I began coaching the other teams.
Why did you choose to become a coach instead of playing yourself?
I was one of the best basketball players and a member of the national basketball team. But unfortunately I sustained a hand injury so I quit playing and focused on coaching. Besides, the late Mr. Brehane Zerezgi, who was a very devoted basketball coach, inspired me to become a coach. I do my best as a coach with the hope of one day nurturing best players.
How did you manage being a coach, a player and at the same time study at the university?
Sometimes it was difficult specially when you are coaching five teams and playing basketball and studying electrical engineering. But it is matter of managing your time and setting realistic goals. I think anyone could achieve his or her goal; all it takes is commitment and focus. I now work as an electrical engineer at the Electricity Corporation and at the same time volunteer as a coach.
Tell us about the course you took in Hungary?
The Eritrean National Basketball Federation had plans to provide training for young coaches and applied to the International Olympic Committee for taking part in its free scholarship program for developing countries. I was selected from Eritrea, which is the first time that an Eritrean has participated in such a program. Taking in to account the history and popularity of basketball in Eritrea, the Committee is considering providing such opportunities for more Eritrean coaches and players.
I trained along with 14 coaches from 13 different countries in the intensive three-month course. I was specializing in basketball so I took basketball courses and most of the time we took general sport courses related to psychology, sociology and other fields. We basically learned how to apply science in sports.
How would this course help you in your work as a coach?
I think we have a potential to excel in basketball in Eritrea, but we don’t have the knowledge of the fundamentals of basketball as a sport. Now, I have acquired a new training and I want to apply it in my coaching endeavors and share my experience with my colleagues.
How would you evaluate Eritrean coaches and players in basketball?
Basketball coaching is still in amateurish stage. Players strive to move up from 3rd to 2nd division and then to 1st division but after that there is no higher goal to aim for. Hence they loose their enthusiasm. Except for two occasions, where the juniors under 19 and the senior team went to Kenya and Sudan respectively, there have been no interantional competetions scine 1991. So we need to arrange international games.
Which areas do you think need more efforts so as to improve basketball in the country?
From most of the games I have seen, I think we need to work on our physical fitness. Our players have technical skills but physical fitness is also equally important. We need to reduce the 6-month long off-season. Besides, we should coach players based on age group as it is very effective. The begining of basketball clubs for young kids in schools should also be promoted.
What would be your future input in developing basketball in Eritrea?
I am ready to work with the Eritrean National Basketball Federation for development of basketball. I have also translated a book titled ‘Basketball for Every One’ to Tigrinya in cooperation with the basketball federation which would be published this year. The book is expected to be used as a reference.