The Coach

7 May

Coach Mike 2

I can remember the first time I met Mike.  It was on a basketball court in Gulu, Uganda and he was a skinny little guy who obviously didn’t have as much talent as the other basketball players.  But his jump shot was precise.  I mean, it was the perfect L, he landed in the same spot he jumped from, he was grabbing the cookie jar at the top, it was everything that I was taught as a young kid at Hastings Basketball Camp.  I have to say I was shocked, as Mike wasn’t anything I had experienced in Gulu basketball.  For weeks I had been impressed by the pure raw talent in these Acholi men.  Power, speed, and aggressiveness had filled the court.  And Bricks.  I mean, serious bricks.  We couldn’t make a jump shot for the life of me and some of the technique looked more like an overhead soccer pass than a basketball shot.  Mike was the opposite, so I watched.


For the next hour and a half I was enthralled as Mike not only showed a discipline in his technique, but he showed a discipline in his spirit.  He seamlessly maneuvered between being a leader and a follower, a listener and one who would speak up, one who took control but also knew when to step back and push others forward.  He had coach written all over him.  But the thing that impressed me the most:  Mike was a giver.  Recently I read a tweet from Pastor Hank Fortner of Mosaic Church in LA.  Hank is someone I listen to on a weekly basis and he tweeted the qualities of a giver:  Listen, Adjust, Pursue, Remember, Offer, Invest, Coach, Invite, Forgive.  That is the core of who Mike is.

At the very end of 2012 the time Casey and I had spent in Uganda came to an abrupt end.  Of all the different programs that TRP does I had been the one really guiding our baseball program.  It was an opportunity that turned a lifelong dream into a reality, and I couldn’t bear the thought of it ending.  Mike had been a part of all the different aspects at TRP but he had latched onto the idea of coaching and leading our young kids in the sports activities with ease.  It’s hard to explain how difficult it was to leave Uganda, but I have to say one thing was very easy:  Giving full control of the day to day activities ofMike coaching TRP sports to Mike.  Everything from his attention to detail, his contagious energy as he guides young men on a baseball diamond, his always eager desire to learn more about whatever he is doing, it all gave our entire team great confidence that he would not only keep the program moving, but that he would push it further than we ever thought it could go.  But at the end of the day, it was this quality of being a “giver” that pushed us over the top.  This was what made Mike the perfect person to facilitate thousands of kids using baseball as a game to dream about being something bigger.  These kids wouldn’t be hearing a message of poverty or war, but one of hope and redemption built on a foundation of love and hard work.  We knew Mike would pour himself out for these kids, that he would put in the long hours of practice it took to push each one to their best, that he would be an example of the type of person these kids aimed to be, and that he would constantly believe in these athletes and subsequently invest in every step of their development.

Almost three years later Mike is still proving himself to us.  Tomorrow he is taking 18 young men down to the annual Uganda Little League National Tournament.  This is the third year that he has ran a league with 500+ kids involved that finishes with an all-star team from several schools around Gulu making a trip to the only baseball sports complex in the country.  I know, this isn’t a big deal for American kids, as it has almost become a right of passage to have this kind of opportunity, but I can tell you it means everything to our young boys in Uganda.  Even though we can roll a baseball out anywhere in the country and have 100 kids wanting to play in 5 minutes, they don’t have leaders who are able to facilitate the opportunity for them to use the sport to grow.  Teachers, adults, etc. just don’t invest the time or resources to make it possible.  It is almost incomprehensible to see this after living the childhood I did, and it can be downright discouraging.  But not for Mike, he refuses to let Uganda’s situation define him or his boys.  He believes with all his heart that we will eventually be watching one of the kids in Northern Uganda playing for the Cubs.  But more than that, Mike is doing the hard work every day to make it happen.

Good luck Boys. Mike Coach 3

Join TRP for Our 2nd Brewery “Friendraiser” at Joyride Brewing Company

12 Feb

Join the TRP Denver team at Joyride Brewing Company (2501 Sheridan Boulevard, Edgewater, CO) on Thursday March 12th from 5:00-7:00pm to learn more about our vital work in Northern Uganda while enjoying craft beer and exploring another local brewery! This is not a fundraising event (although donations are always welcome), but rather an opportunity for old and new TRP supporters to get to know each other, sign up to hear about future events, and get updated on our programs and their impact.

Story Trees

7 Feb

Once again, we were happy to invite one of our special groups to the forest for a 3-day camp.  These 17 children, born under captivity of the LRA, continue to inspire us and show us what it looks like to overcome tremendous adversity.  Our program was designed with two goals: “Knowing Yourself” and “Creating Friendship”.

One of our favorite activities is called “Your Story Tree”.  We tell them, “The next activity involves every tree in the forest”, and with wide eyes they listen to us explain that they are supposed to find a tree that “represents them.”  Afterwards, each child finds a camp counselor and explains why the tree says something who they are.





“I picked this tree because one day, I’m going to be big and strong” – Amos







“I picked this tree because my mother died at a young age, and I need to take care of myself” – Mercy




As part of our wrap-up, we asked the children “What change do I want for myself by the time I return to the next camp?”  Here is what some of them said:

  • I want to be healthier
  • I want to have more knowledge
  • I want to be more social and interact with others
  • I want to be less fearful
  • I want to be more forgiving of certain people
  • I want to be more happy
  • I want to share more
  • I want to be self-reliant
  • I want to be more trustworthy
  • I want to cooperate better with other people
  • I want to be more courageous
  • I want to be less shy
  • I want to be without anger

Reflections on a visit to TRP

31 Dec

TRP Board Member Brad Cornish and his wife Marcie came out to visit our programs in Uganda, here are some of their thoughts and reflections from their journey.

Our trip to Uganda in late October/early November was a blast, and reaffirmed our belief in the wonderful work of Ready to do relay racesThe Recreation Project!  Besides some wonderful time spent with Ben and Holly, we both had the opportunity to share some parts of our lives with our other new friends in Uganda.  This is a great over-simplification, but we found the events that The Recreation Project hold to have a lot of similarities to a Young Life camp in the United States. 


Marcie drew upon her eight years of Young Life leadership by conducting a half day training of The Recreation Projects wonderful facilitators.  Besides having a lot of fun in the new games and activities she taught, Marcie was able to share how these can be used to teach life lessons.


Brad has coached softball for 16 years, and was able to use that experience to lead a two day baseball clinic for sixty 10-13 year olds.   Many of the boys have played for a few years through TRP’s Waveland Academy, and they already have some impressive skills.  The Colorado Rockies could use some young Ugandan arms in their bullpen! Working on the rug Teaching the boys enthusiastically participate in new drills and seeing them compete in scrimmages was a thrill.


It was rewarding for both of us to be able to find what God has had in our lives for so many years be transferable to our new friends in Africa.  And again, we came away with a renewed respect for the how The Recreation Project is dramatically changing the lives of Ugandan youth and young adults.   Ben, Charles, Irene, Mike, and all of the other leaders/facilitators:   Keep up your remarkable work at TRP!

The 12th Day of Transformation

24 Dec

For our 12th and final Day of Transformation, we’re celebrating the story of Odong Norbert Mao whose life has been transformed through TRP Sport’s Waveland Academy.

Since the first time Norbert put on a baseball glove there’s been no turning back for him. After only six months in Waveland’s program he became norbertone of the first boys to make it onto Waveland Academy’s all-star team from Gulu Primary School.  In his entire life he had never crossed the boundaries of Northern Uganda, so travelling with the team to the national competition was a dream come true.  Norbert is so proud of being one of the pupils in his school to travel for a competition and feels that earning the right to represent the school proves that he can do anything and become someone important in the future.  Although he was soft spoken at first, he has made friends within the team, and his teammates have learnt to believe and look up to him.

Help more kids like Norbert experience the transforming power of outdoor adventure and sports by supporting TRP.