Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sports, Sports and More Sports

The boys at KSEDO are very athletic, and love to play sports.  They were probably happy to have a male volunteer to hang out with, since over 90% of the volunteers are female. But they already play a lot on their own.

We played soccer several times over the first two days at the placement, in the 95 degree F heat.  We don't have any photos of the outdoor soccer games, because the photographer was busy trying to avoid getting embarrassed by Mesa's fancy footwork.

Playing crab soccer was the only way to slow the kids down

Volleyball, surprisingly, is the national sport in Cambodia. About 80% of the population consider it to be their favorite sport.  And they play the game well.

The best of the 14 - 16 year-old boys, including Mesa, Savy, Da and a friend, are really good.  They serve twisting line drives, set the ball with technical precision, and spike it with panache.  Any of them would be competitive in a 2-on-2 beach volleyball game with kids their own age on the ultra macho sand courts of Manhattan Beach (So Cal).

Here are some photos of the boys in action:

Da serves it overhand with a powerful flat trajectory
Savy sets up Mesa as Da and Kakada prepare to defend

Mesa winds up for the spike.....
.....and follows through with power

The kids were not too familiar with most American sports, other than maybe basketball which we did not have the right equipment to play.  It was a shame that we didn't have an American football, given their proficiency at singing HTTR.  But over the course of two weeks, John taught them several other sports that American boys play at the same age.

The new sport they enjoyed the most was kickball, which we played with a volleyball.  They are already good with their feet, and liked the chaos that ensues once the ball is kicked into the outfield.

Savet runs to first base as Sokly heads home

I figured this would be a good bridge to baseball, once they understood the similar rules of kickball.  If you've ever tried to explain baseball for the first time to anyone, even a native English speaker, you know how difficult that can be.

Samet rolls the pitch, with left center field gate behind

The different rules that apply to fly balls and ground balls aren't at all intuitive, although you learn them by repetition as a young boy.  Explaining how a force out applies when multiple runners are on base, and where you should throw the ball, is especially challenging.  But the KSEDO kids picked up most of the rules pretty quickly.  The universally most fun thing about kickball is, of course, throwing the ball directly at the runner to get him out.  Who needs a force out anyway?

Samet has Kon in his sights, and doesn't care about first base

The games were high scoring and exuberant.  The longest we played was three innings, and the score was something like 23 - 16.  Running around under the blazing sun, I was close to heat exhaustion.  Luckily, the post-game activities included getting a group fan treatment from 5 of the boys and girls, while lying prone on the tile floor.  What great kids!

Kon legs out an infield hit
Savy eases up as he crosses home plate
Vakim dances off of third base, then decides to come home

Kimpo rounds third base with pure joy on his face

The four youngest boys relaxed and watched the action.

View from behind the first base dugout

Kakada, Kakadah (there are three), Somnang and Pre watch

After a few days of kickball, we tried baseball.  Based on the level of interest, batting practice was usually sufficient.  Savy had carefully fashioned a bat a few days earlier from bamboo, smoothing it out with a hacksaw and a machete.  The feeling of solid contact between bamboo bat and tennis ball was as good as anything a Louisville Slugger can provide.

Savy liked baseball the most, although Mesa could also hit it over the fence.  Despite frequent instruction, many of the other kids often swung with a not-exactly-textbook overhand motion, reminiscent of Pittsburgh Pirate catcher Manny Sanguillen c. 1970.

Savy keeps his eye on the ball as the pitch comes in

Kakada follows through on a base hit to left field

Da lines an opposite field double in the right center gap

In CLB play, you have to retrieve your own foul balls

We needed a slower paced game to keep some of the younger boys occupied on a particularly hot afternoon.  The solution was.....croquet!  We used a tennis ball or red rubber ball, five sets of bricks for wickets, and a wooden pole for the mallet.  The kids really got into it, once they figured out that a gentle touch was generally more effective than whacking the ball as hard as they could.

Sokly is about to hit the ball through the first wicket

Another popular new game was bowling.  We mostly played indoors in the main activity room.  We used 3 - 6 water bottles of various sizes, sometimes filled with sand.  They were few rules on ball selection:  volleyballs, tennis balls, basketballs, whatever.

The only photo of bowling we have is of this modified outdoor version, created by one of the kids after croquet one day:

Take the Khmer kids bowling, take them bowling

The boys digressed into their own private sports whenever the mood struck:

Da knows ballet?

Apsara baseball for Savy?

Hopefully at least a few of these sports will continue to be played at KSEDO long after our departure.

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