Where There Is A Will

by | September 22, 2015, 5:54am 0

For the first time ever, Kenya was represented at the WCBU in March 2015 in the Open division after sending a team of seven Kenyan players, two resident non-citizens, and four nonresidents. This was made possible through the work of Mike “Prof” McGuirk who was living and working in Kisumu, Kenya during that time. The team was also accompanied by Mercy Mbago, the only female Kenyan player who was able to go to WCBU. She played with Currier Island, the fun-spirited national team from a fictitious country made up of players from different nations that wanted to play together in the tournament.

Competing against more established and experienced teams, and especially winning against Russia, UAE and Qatar, gave us the self-belief that we can achieve great things if we take ultimate seriously. This confidence and experience has carried over strongly after returning from Dubai. The seven Kenyan players who participated became instant celebrities upon their return, and could not help but tell everyone about their experiences in Dubai and at the tournament. It was truly an amazing experience that everyone talks about at every practice, even to this day. The level of play and commitment has risen a notch higher and the players who participated in WCBU have actually become trainers helping to develop the skills of new players.

After returning from Dubai, our first goal was to create awareness and spread the game to every part of Kenya. Players took it upon themselves to teach ultimate frisbee to friends, neighbors, college classmates, church members and family members. Within five months of WCBU, as of July 2015:

  • Kisumu Frisbee Club has doubled in size to about 30 players, has increased the frequency of practices to three times a week, and has gained county government recognition
  • With the support of the returning WCBU players, three new teams have been created and improved, and the seeds for new teams are being sown all over western Kenya and Mombasa
  • The first Lake Victoria Grass Ultimate Tournament (LVGUT) was held this month, with 8 teams from 5 different cities! Previously, there had only been 3 Kenyan teams to ever play in a tournament.

Thanks to our friends, both known and unknown to us, who contributed money and/or bought our jerseys. We were able to raise enough money to support Team Kenya’s participation at the WCBU tournament. Luckily, there was also some money left over, and it is being used it to set up an outreach program for youth and new players. We have one paid staff in Western Kenya (Mercy Mbago) and one volunteer in Nairobi (Moses Ochieng), both of whom are helping to spread ultimate to their local communities, schools, colleges, and social groups. Through Mbago’s efforts we have managed to start ultimate programs in three secondary schools in Kisumu (Kisumu girls high school, Lions high school, and Kibos secondary school) and we have started the Kisumu Young Frisbee Club (KYFC) which is majorly composed of new young players who are still in high school.

Most of the players who played for Kisumu Frisbee Club come from different regions in the country, or were students in different colleges around the country. We used this as an avenue to get the game to different regions. After playing with the team for some time (during school holidays or internships in Kisumu), players carry a disc back to their school or rural home to teach their friends and relatives. Through this we have already started pickup games and teams at Chemelil, Mombasa, Maseno Universit,y and Masinde Muliro University.

Mr. Ogutu, a casual employee at Chemelil Sugar Factory and the captain of Chemelil Frisbee Club, says “I immediately liked the game after being introduced to it by one of my friends who plays for KFC. I borrowed a disc to practice throwing with my colleagues after work. Everyone was amused by the game. After a brief explanation, we had friends coming to try it out, one after another. Two months down the road, we have a team of thirteen men and two ladies.”


In addition to the existing Nairobi and Bungoma teams, we currently have six clubs and three schools actively involved in ultimate frisbee.

In order to expose these players to competitive games, KFC organized the first Lake Victoria Grass Ultimate Tournament (LVGUT) in Kisumu on July 11th, 2015, which attracted players from all the clubs and schools. The tournament was a huge success.

The LVGUT tournament was attended by all of the six new clubs and attracted a huge crowd at the Jomo Kenyatta sports ground in the center of the city. The final game was between the Kisumu Spinners and Nairobi Teke Teke. Kisumu lost to Nairobi by a score of 8-10, and Nairobi finally avenged their painful loss to Kisumu during the annual FEAST international tournament in Naivasha.

At LVGUT, the schools also competed in the junior championships, and what a game it was between Lions High School and Kibos Secondary! The give-and-go moves from these kids had everyone standing in disbelief since no one expected such advanced skills at their age.

As usual, the games were followed by a typical Kenyan feast of “Kuku choma” (roasted chicken) and ugali (corn flour mash) and, of course, lots of fun partying later!

Mrs. Mariba, a teacher at Lions High School, was excited to see a game played by both men and women of different backgrounds and different ages. She said “I think even as teachers we should form a team since anybody can play this game.”

The next 5 years

Ultimate Frisbee has a huge potential in Kenya for a few key reasons. First of all, the sport is cheap: you only need a disc and a field to play. This makes it easier to attract players from all economic levels, and many people cannot afford to play other sports that require more equipment. Also, the fact that it is essentially a non-contact sport that can be played by both male and females, regardless of age, is a major boost for recruiting.

As a club, we have started a massive recruitment effort, facilitating the establishment of clubs across the country, with the goal of having registered clubs with proper structures within a year or two. This will ultimately help in registering Kenya Flying Disk Association (KFDA) with the national Ministry of Sport. This is an important step for the development of the sport in Kenya since it will make it easier to get support from the government and the private sector, ultimately leading to a national league. The IOC’s recent recognition of WFDF as a permanent member organization should also help us gain credibility with the government and potential players.

In the long term, having a university ultimate league is a real possibility since it is relatively easy to coordinate the sport across university administrations, and university students are already unified in a lot of other extracurricular activities. Additionally, we are looking at the possibility of working with the Ministry of Education to introduce the sport to secondary schools, which could make it one of the main sports included in the Kenya Secondary School Sport Association (KSSSA) calendar.

However, these developments are faced with challenges that need to be carefully considered. As the number of people playing ultimate increases, there is need for proper training and a thorough understanding of ultimate rules and the spirit of the game. Ultimate is not a game where one needs to win at any cost, but the concepts of self-officiation and spirit of the game are quite novel ideas here. Having a lot of high-quality clinics to train captains and teachers from schools and clubs will really be helpful for the development of the sport.

As the number of clubs increases, there is also an urgent need of discs. There are no retailers that sell ultimate discs in Kenya, and the clubs are not financed well enough to buy discs from abroad. As such, only KFC is lucky to have friends from the US who have started disc collection drives to help support the growth of the sport in Kenya. However, this is not sustainable and therefore it’s a huge challenge for the local players to find long-lasting solutions to this challenge.

In conclusion, we believe these challenges can be addressed over the next few years with a combination of hard work on our part and some external support during our growth phase. They say “where there is a will there is a way.” I see a strong desire and will in my teammates to grow the sport, so we are confident that the sport will continue to spread in Kenya.

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