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Coach Ray Batchelor and his 'Athletics Revolution at the Coast'

By Cyprian Fernandes*  in SYDNEY Australia -- At the heart of the British colonial plan to the build the American funded Jeanes School at Kabete, just outside of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, was a conspiracy that had "noble aspirations" towards the enhancement of the colonists in the country.

The school was named after an American philanthropist Ann Jeanes who had done much work in helping African-Americans in the US. One observer described the noble conspiracy as:

"The school trained teachers who were to be change agents, acting with tools of the social sciences to radiate social transformation throughout their communities.

"The target of the Jeanes School intervention was the rural villages of Kenya Colony’s Native Reserves.

"There, Jeanes’ teachers would not merely teach the "Natives" the "3Rs (reading, ’riting and ’rithmatic)," but also the "4 essentials" of civilization—industry, health, recreation, and domestic life.

"To these essential needs, the Jeanes Teachers would adapt education, making kinds of students who would become agents of change themselves, carrying social transformation to all corners of the colony until all Natives were uplifted and social progress assured."
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The plan was all members of the colonial provincial and district administration, chiefs and sub-chiefs, headmen, headmasters and teachers would be trained to become change agents to perpetuate the presence of the British in Kenya.

Provincial administrators, District Officers and teachers would also be encouraged to introduce sport in schools.

In the Rift Valley, where young students ran anything up to 20 km to school and back, the introduction of athletics was given a high priority.

In 1949, the Arab and African Sports Association, recognising the growing popularity of athletics in both urban and rural areas, asked the colonial government to appoint a colonial sports officer.

A.E. (Archie) Evans got the job and he quickly set about organising a system of athletic competition beginning with schools, local, divisional, district, provincial, national competition.

Also planned were inter-territorial athletics meetings for East Africa and other British territories.

One of the teachers to be put through the Jeanes School system was called Daniel arap Moi destined to become a leader in the battle for Kenya’s independence and Kenya’s second Vice President and President.

 

 THE ACHILLES Athletic Club formed in Mombasa is seen in a 1956 | Coastweek

Coastweek -- THE ACHILLES Athletic Club formed in Mombasa is seen in a 1956 photograph with the many trophies that they won. They are (back row, standing, from left) Albert Castanha, Pascoal Antao, Laura Ramos, Ray Batchelor (coach), Phila Fernandes, Juanita Noronha, Alfred Vianna, Seraphino Antao. (Front row, from left) Joe Faria, Alcino Rodrigues, Jack Fernandes, Bruno D’Souza. PHOTO: COURTESY JACK FERNANDES
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He, like so many of his Kalenjin teaching colleagues, quickly saw the value of athletics in the life of the natural young runners in the Rift Valley Schools.

After all, Moi served as vice president of the Arab and African Sports Association which was eventually replaced by the Archie Evans engineered Amateur Athletics Association of Kenya.

An organisation like the AAAK was required to facilitate Kenya’s participation in international events.

Setting up of the AAAK meant that competition among Asians, Africans, Arabs and Europeans was sort of legal.

Evans was the inaugural Secretary and Derek Erskine, a Nairobi businessman, the first chairman and the partnership lasted 10 years. Moi was also one of the first Kenyan African athletics officials.

Archie Evans went on to coach and manage subsequent pre-independence Kenya athletics teams both at home and abroad.

He was joined by his brother Edward, who I think worked in the Central Province, and Ray Batchelor who looked after the Coast and Rift Valley.

He was particularly successful in the coastal city of Mombasa where he coached the Achilles Club.

It is interesting that the Goans in Mombasa were considered more successful in track and field than their Nairobi counterparts and not only because of Seraphino Antao.

I think the difference was Batchelor.

Batchelor was only interested in winning the hearts and minds of sports men and women at the Kenya Coast for athletics and other sports.

He was not a civil servant or a colonial so to speak.

I spent a lot of time with Batchelor all around Kenya.

There was no room for colonial politics in his life, he lived only for sport.

Unlike Archie Evans who was not very popular with African athletes, Batchelor was very easy to get along with especially among the Goans.

The Goan High School, the Sir Allidina High School and others as well as the already established football clubs like Feisal and Liverpool played their part in keeping the Coast at the forefront of sport in Kenya

Archie Evans was also a principal of Jeanes School which later became the Kenya Institute of Administration and played an important role as country came to grips with the challenges of post-independence, especially in the need for well-trained people.

In those pioneering days, competitions were restricted to first past the post because nobody could afford stop watches and the long distances were run on the mud roads close to the athletics venue.

Everyone ran in bare feet.

We all did.

Oh, except the children of the rich and white kids.

Ironically, it is an accident of British colonial conspiracy that really gave birth to Kenyan African athletes and laid the foundation to country which would go on to dominate the World, Commonwealth and Olympic scene.
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  It was not long before Nyandika Maiyoro, Arere Anentia and Lazarus arap Chepkowny were flying the Kenya flag on the world’s athletic stages.

Antao would win the Perth Commonwealth Games sprint double, Naftali Temu would become the first African Kenyan to win an Olympic Gold Medal at Mexico 1968, Kimaru Songok would win a 400 metres hurdles bronze in the 1966 Commonwealth Games and Kipchoge Keino would rewrite the record books and astound the world with his charismatic front-running style.

Among the early pioneers there were names like Stephen Chelimo, Peter Francis, Anthony Ngatia, James Wahome, Kanuti arap Sum, Joseph Leresae Naftali Bon, Charles Asati, Daniel Rudisha, Munyoro Nyamau …
 

 
  Yes, it all began with a British colonial plan …

It was not long before Nyandika Maiyoro, Arere Anentia and Lazarus arap Chepkowny were flying the Kenya flag on the world’s athletic stages.

Antao would win the Perth Commonwealth Games sprint double, Naftali Temu would become the first African Kenyan to win an Olympic Gold Medal at Mexico 1968, Kimaru Songok would win a 400 metres hurdles bronze in the 1966 Commonwealth Games and Kipchoge Keino would rewrite the record books and astound the world with his charismatic front-running style.

Europeans thought he was mad to hare off like a cheetah hunting down a prey but he had the last laugh.

Among the early pioneers there were names like Stephen Chelimo, Peter Francis, Anthony Ngatia, James Wahome, Kanuti arap Sum, Joseph Leresae Naftali Bon, Charles Asati, Daniel Rudisha, Munyoro Nyamau …

The first woman to represent Kenya was Diana Monks who won a silver at the 1958 Kingston, Jamaica Commonwealth Games.

The first qualified athletics coach to work in Kenya was Geoffrey Harry George Dyson, the man who is often credited with being the "father of British athletics".

Dyson was among the first to train as coach at the now famous Loughborough College where he "learnt much about the athletics coach’s art."

In 1939 he arrived in Kenya and was attached to the Kings African Rifles in Nakuru.

His mission was to prepare men mentally and physically for battle.

He combined a regimen of physical education and athletics training to achieve this.

His stint in Kenya also improved his coaching skills.

He set up impromptu athletics training centres wherever he was posted.

He returned to Loughborough in 1945.

Another respected British coach Dennis Watts visited Jeanes School and was impressed with the athletics program.

So, long before Archie Evans, Edward Evans, Ray Batchelor and much later John Velzean, who were all Physical Education teachers in the first instance and developed themselves into athletics coaches while in the job, Kenya’s destiny into the world of international athletics had already taken many, many steps via the humble school teachers, chiefs, sub-chiefs, rural colonial administration, especially District Officers.

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The children were especially delighted with athletics because they were running naturally every morning, noon and night. Receiving small gifts for coming First or second or third was almost a freebie.

In my book, the white coaches were more motivators, providing a lot of physical training, discipline, and some advice on tactical running.

Perhaps Ray Batchelor with Seraphino Antao was the better coach.

No man can take credit for "coaching" Kipchoge Keino.

With the help of advice from the many international athletes he ran against, especially Ron Clarke of Australia, he developed a training regime all by himself.

Occasionally, he would consult a coach in Kenya.

In 1962, I asked him if there was any single person he owed his success to, and he said:

"No, but lots of people have helped me to get where I am today."

These included American 800 metres Olympic gold medalist Mal Whitfield and what he saw other international opponents doing, various exercises, for example.

Whitfield who was based in Nairobi at the time, John Velzean, British long distance runner Mike Wiggs (who was training in Kenya at the time). Naturally, his favourite long distance star was Australia’s Ron Clarke.

At the time in Kiganjo, at the Police Training School, his routine was:

Each morning he runs 10 to 14 kilometers, helps stay in trim while concentrating on extending his stride.

Monday – Warm up exercises for 10 minutes and the same for other evening sessions; 8X400 metres interval training, around 64 seconds each, about 2.5 minutes rest between laps.

Wednesday – 4X800 metres, 2 min 10 sec each, five minutes’ rest, 30 minutes exercises.

Friday - Warm up exercises for 10 minutes; 4X750 metre laps, 3 min 25 sec each, exercises 30 minutes.

Archie Evans was a product of the colonial era when whites did not treat Africans well at all and interaction was limited to 'master and servant'.

He had the typical stiff-upper lip, and was a starched, staid individual.

He always wore a suit and carried a briefcase with him wherever he went.

His great skill was forward planning, vision and organisation.

He was not particularly good with people nor did he enjoy talking to the press.

He was not a media animal by any stretch of the imagination.

Arere Anentia and Nyandika Maiyoro spent some time with Evans but they soon tired of his dogmatic discipline.
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At a meeting in Madagascar, for example, Maiyoro missed the start of a distance race and realised what was happening when the runners were a hundred yards down the track.

He took off after the in the process disrobing much to the amusement of the spectators. He won the race any way.

Seraphino would not have anything to do with Evans and I was told that things between Batchelor and Evans were never sweet.

The first time Kenyans knew they had a potential world beater when Kip Keino finished a commendable 5th in the 5000 metres in the Rome Olympics 1960.

From then on there was no stopping him.

The good, the bad and the ugly was what took to bring Kenya on the international scene.

Now for Rio.

*This is an excerpt from Fernandes’ soon to be published book 'Yesterday in Paradise'.

 

Cyprian Fernandes | Coastweek

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* Cyprian Fernandes is a former Nation Chief Reporter and veteran investigative journalist who currently lives in Sydney Australia.
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