A member of the Zambian men’s hockey 5s side that competed at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Nanjing 2014, Samuel Tagwireyi returns to YOG duty in Buenos Aires next month as coach of Zambia’s next generation of young hockey players.
Many athletes make the move from competition to coaching towards the end of their playing careers. Samuel Tagwireyi, however, is an exception to the rule – despite being just 21, he will take charge of the Zambia hockey 5s team at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018 in October. Tagwireyi still plays hockey for the Hotspurs club in Zambia but, since March 2017, has also been coaching the country’s most talented teenagers. Under his regime, Zambia qualified for the YOG after finishing as runners-up at the African Youth Games in Algeria earlier this year.
“I haven’t really found it difficult to switch from playing to coaching,” he says. “My experiences in Nanjing have helped a lot because I learned so much from my fellow competitors from all around the world. To be part of the YOG in China has been hugely beneficial to me as both a player and now as a young coach. The biggest and most important challenge I believe is to be a good role model for my players. It is a big responsibility to be in charge of a national team and represent our country at the YOG.”
Tagwireyi admits his return to the YOG four years after Zambia reached the quarter-finals in Nanjing will be poignant, and he is eager for his young charges to make the most of their experience both on and off the pitch in Argentina. “I woke up every day in 2014 with a smile on my face,” he says. “It was the most beautiful thing to be part of the Games and learn and share with fellow players from so many different countries. It was amazing because I also learned much about life outside sport. My advice to my players this year will be to make the most of their opportunities at the YOG. It is perhaps only once in their lives they will have this chance to interact with so many diverse people in this environment.”
The Zambian players booked their place after reaching the final of the African Youth Games in July, the match ending in a dramatic penalty shootout defeat against top seeds South Africa. Tagwireyi concedes there were mixed feelings after the result, but is confident his side can take positives from the performance.
“Our main objective in Algeria was to qualify for the YOG, so we were happy to have achieved that,” he says. “But we were of course also disappointed to lose. It was not easy to play the highest ranked team in Africa, and it was hard to lose on penalties after we had dominated the match. The boys were upset, but they are eager to correct what they did wrong. Our target at the YOG is to perform well on the same platform as the best teams in the world. It’s important we play well on behalf of our country and our continent, and we will enjoy whatever success we achieve.”