As a rugby member of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, I asked Ms. Yuki Nakano who is working on rugby development in Madagascar from September 2017 about past activities.
I am based in the capital; Antananarivo and my main duties are coaching women’s national 7’s team and regional patrols to support local rugby teams. In Madagascar, rugby is a popular sport aligned with soccer. You can often see children playing rugby on the street and club team competitions are held every weekend. The women’s national 7’s team participated in the Africa Seventh tournament held in May, came in fourth in eight-team-competition and ranks in the middle level in Africa.
When we go regional patrols, we work on brining the level up of local players and rugby. The reason is because there is a big gap in the level between players who play in the capital and rural areas. However, players from rural areas have a big advantage in physicality. By raising the level of the provincial level, the rugby federation is aiming to raise the level of the national team.
In Madagascar most of practice is done in game format. Therefore, players cannot master basic skills such as passing and tackling during the competition period. The national team gathers as a team about three months before the international competitions and practices three times a week. However, during the non-competition season, players work on basic skills to improve their skills.
Due to the lack of training equipment, players are not able to lift weights, however, we are trying to provide circuit style training once a week to work their physicality.
When I started to work with the national team, few players came on time for trainings, so we used to wait until there were enough players to start trainings. However, no matter what I tried, the situation did not change so I decided to start practicing on time regardless of the numbers. I also changed the practice time from 2 hours to 1.5 hours so that they can focus on what they have to do with the limited time that they were given. By making the changes that I mentioned, players started to come on time as they could not get enough practice time if they did not come on time and I could see that their mentalities have changed.
In addition, I only informed the national players about off-season practices, but non-national players heard about the practice sessions and started to participate in practices.
I feel that attitude to tackle practice is sufficient and I respect the players who voluntarily participate in practice. I feel that the Madagascar Rugby Federation is focusing on rugby development. However, due to lack of funds, practice tools are short and simply practice cannot be held.
I’ve also noticed when proposing practice ideas to coaches and players or pointing out what problems are, they have a tendency of making excuses saying they are not able to do it. However, when I often listen to their side of stories, for example, one of the causes of late arrival to practice was that there is not much electricity in general; therefore, they had to wash their clothes by hands. In other words, they have to spend time on house chores.
Understanding that background, I’ve changed my way of connecting with coaches and players and I think that their reactions have changed as well. While I am not able to communicate well with them, I feel the importance of deepening my understanding by accepting their culture and people. By doing so, I have gained the ability to inspire others.