Moses Kagochi is a former Kenyan hockey player and an internationally renowned coach in the sport who is on first-name terms with the who’s who in the sport.
He boasts a glittering CV having played locally for a number of clubs and then, after retiring, taking up coaching at the club and national level and then going international in Europe.
However, Kagochi is the first to admit that his life could have been a whole lot different had he not got involved in hockey; a sport he says changed his life completely.
Having grown up in Ngara Estate in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Kagochi said the area, once described by a local daily as one of the capital’s most notorious backstreets, sometimes offers residents little chance of making it in life.
“In Ngara, you are either a success or a crook, and the majority of people could turn to crime. Because of the time I was spending on the hockey pitch, the sport saved me from all this,” Kagochi told CGTN.
The sport, he said, taught him self-discipline, commitment and teamwork, qualities which would later prove to be invaluable in his life and professional career.
The impression the owners of the last club he played for, Karate Axiom, left on him also greatly motivated him to see sport differently. Kagochi said the fact that the owners, who were Indians, saw him as a hockey player and not a Black person really impacted him.
“They invested so much in me that I had a job, I had food and I was able to educate myself. Hockey has made me who I am.”
This gesture made him feel he had a duty to give back to the sport and society, in addition to helping mentor up-and-coming players to reach their highest potential.
His journey to becoming a high-performance coach also showed him just how much good sport can do in terms of bringing people together.
A meeting with Allistar Fredricks, the first player of color to represent South Africa’s hockey men’s team, marked a major turning point in that journey.
Kagochi was in Malawi in 2009 attending a hockey workshop when he struck up a friendship with Fredricks that saw him get an invitation to South Africa to attend a course on hockey management.
“I went to South Africa; he (Fredricks) picked me from the airport, housed me and took me through the course, which I passed.”
That friendship led Kagochi to meet the late former South African hockey coach Fabian Gregory and Dutchman Siegfried Aikman, who coaches Japan’s men’s national team.
It is Aikman, Kagochi points out, who encouraged him to further his studies in becoming an elite coach.
“Where you are going and where you are working, there is a disconnect. You need to be in an environment where you can grow,” Aikman told Kagochi.
Kagochi went on to get an invitation in September 2016 from the Dutchman to attend an international hockey seminar and, later on, work in a Dutch club as his star shone.
He also has a job coaching the Kenyatta University hockey team but makes coaches’ education a priority because he does not want to make the success and growth of the sport all about himself.
“I feel the way I am going to make them grow is to use the same people they have, but mentor the coaches on the best practices. The best way to disseminate the information is not to coach a team but work with the coaches,” he noted.
“I am trying to see if we can develop the continent because when we develop the continent, we create a pool (of talented players and coaches) for the national federations to up their game.”
Kenyatta University, one of the premier universities in sports in Kenya, has seen the hockey teams flourish under Kagochi who, in keeping with his philosophy of mentorship, is being assisted by one of his students.
“Everybody wants to come and pick my players for their clubs. What does it tell you? We are working on educating the players, not just coaching them.”
He also runs a company, Hockeyfarm Sports, through which he devotes a lot of his time to raise the profile of the game and help players live their dream to be hockey players.
“I do a lot of pro bono training all over the country and just work with the teachers and students – some are organized by the (local hockey) federation. When I come from the Netherlands, I come with (hockey) sticks and some equipment. I look around for those players who want to grow and give them a stick or shoes and encourage them to keep on working hard.”
His efforts are also bearing fruit internationally too as some hockey players have managed to follow in his footsteps and ply their trade abroad.
“We had had two people successfully make it to Europe: one in Italy and one in the Netherlands, with me. Those are Kenyans. I have had two from Ghana, so it is not a Kenyan thing, it is African.
Encouraged by this success, Kagochi hopes to help another seven or eight players secure contracts with clubs in Europe in 2022.
“I am mentoring them not only in the sport but also on how a professional should act. That affects them not only in the sport but also as a person. The sport has activated that in me,” he said, adding that he “owes the continent” a great deal for his success.
His efforts have, however, not been without any challenges with the biggest ones being individual perceptions and insecurities.
“People do not want change. Someone will say they have seen me and know me, so what new thing will I tell them? People do not know that in the last five years I have gone through a process that has made me a different person. Not just reading but being in a different environment,” he said.
“There is no harm in trying something new as long as we are progressing.”
“People also think I want their jobs, fame, or something like that. That is life.”
Despite these challenges, Kagochi remains focused on his goal of educating players locally and regionally and raising their standards to that of successful countries, especially in Europe.
“Mine is not for self-glory, mine is a mission. Even if I will get 10 or 20 people going through my path, you have changed destinies. It is something I will do for the rest of my life.”