Meet Coach Ndungu Njogu Alias ‘Didge’

In our weekly features today, George Njuguna sits down with coach Didge who talks about his hockey journey as a player and now coaching one of the oldest and biggest club in Kenya Wazalendo Hockey Club. He talks about how it has been for him 4 years in the club.

What names does the government know you as?

The Government knows me as Ndungu Njogu (especially KRA)

I am a first born in a family of two (me and my sister)

How did the name Didge come about?

My childhood nickname was Ndich. I don’t remember who and when it was corrupted to Didge and it stuck.

When did you start playing hockey?

I started playing hockey when I joined form 1 in a school called Kanunga High School in Kiambu

How did you know about the game?

Honestly the first time I knew about the game is when I was asked to carry a hockey stick for my high school form 1 admission. Am not sure I could tell the difference between baseball, cricket and hockey before then when I was growing up in Githurai

Tell us your hockey journey as a player

My high school was not a typical big ‘hockey school’ but I grew the passion there nevertheless. After high school I trained with the Kenya police hockey team for a while before moving and being among the founders of the KCA university hockey team which went on to be promoted from the national league in just one season to the premier league under coach Moses Cheplait.

After that my professional work took me to Meru where I was involved in coaching and forming a team called easterners (which still exists). Next I went to work in Nyeri where I was involved in coaching the DEKUT team as well as playing for them.

When I came back to live in Nairobi I joined Thika rovers Hockey team from 2016 to 2019 before joining my current club Wazalendo Hockey club at the start of 2020

Highs and lows while playing?

While playing, one of my highs was getting a promotion with the KCA university hockey team (WAZITO) mostly because of the camaraderie I enjoyed while playing with my team mates who have remained my good friends and brothers upto today.

My lows was been breaking two fingers while playing at Thika rovers mostly because recovery rooms can be a very lonely place.

When did you think of transition to coaching?

I cant remember exactly when I started coaching because even in high school I would be involved in coaching football and rugby and looking back I might have had very limited knowledge.

But for hockey coaching I started coaching when I was working in Meru where I once coached Kaaga Girls to be District and county champs. At the time I was also coaching Easterners hockey which included players from KEMU University and Meru university students

What inspired you?

I really can’t say specifically who because I draw inspiration from different people. But I would say being a football and a Manchester united fan I have drawn lots of inspiration from Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho as football coaches.
I also read many books and try to learn from different masters from different fields

Any teams you have coached apart from Wazalendo?

I had a short stint coaching KCA University as an interim coach before I Moved to Nyeri for work. In Nyeri I coached Kimathi for 3 or 4 seasons. I was involved in coaching at Thika Rovers (although I was never their official coach)

Didge having a talk with his players during a match.

How does it feel being a coach of one of the biggest and oldest club in Kenyan hockey?

Honestly I still cant believe. It has been a humbling experience to be involved in coaching at the biggest hockey organisation in the country (and probably Africa).

To have a front row seat to watch and interact with some of the best hockey talent in the country and probably this side of the continent is a big highlight in my coaching experience and probably my life. I have also been fortunate to work with some of the best trainers and coaches like the Current National team coach Mr. Kimanzi under a very organised structure that has allowed me to grow and get a better perspective of hockey as a sport and sports management in general

How many years has it been as a Wazalendo coach?

I joined the coaching staff of the club at the start of 2020 before the start of the COVID 19 pandemic. At Wazalendo, coaching is an organisation where there are team managers who are involved with training and players logistics and coaches who are involved with coaching and development. I have been a team manager before taking up the role as coach.
In my current role am basically a front office guy who you see during games but most of the work is done in the back office in training

You seem very relatable to your players what do you do to win them over?

I have always tried to relate with people on a very human level. The big part of a human being is being human and I think the person I am is able to interact with different people including my players. I do not think I try to win them over, I just vibe!

Where do you see yourself as a coach in the next 4 years?

I would not know because right now my focus is on my current role. To try to learn as much as I can in the moment and see where that takes me. Honestly, 4 years ago I did not think I would be a coach at a big outfit like Wazalendo. So who knows? I might be coach for Australia in the next four years so let us not jinx it. Haha.

What does Didge do apart from coaching?

I am Finance professional. I currently work for a non-profit organization but I have a bit of experience in the banking and publishing industries

Highs and lows as a coach

My high is coaching at the 2021 African cup of club championship (ACCC) in Accra Ghana. It is the highest level of club hockey in the continent. It was a very humbling experience to interact with the best hockey talent and coaches in the continent. Am gutted we didn’t register impressive results
My low was when DEKUT hockey pulled out from the league after putting so much preparation in the pre-season of 2019

Parting shot?

‘Simply be and appreciate being!’

Photo Credit: Tyson/Hockeybits