Loving Your Children To Greatness-Raising Stars. A Father’s passion.
I have followed @alfgachaga on IG for over two years now. His account is one of those that make me marvel at the beauty of social media as it delivers inspiration in small doses sporadically right into my comfort zone. Don’t get me twisted, he is no Eric Thomas. In fact, his captions are always pithy, hardly more than eight words long. I remember when I was first introduced to Alf’s world via his IG account. It was New Year’s Eve in 2014. We were in Nairobi for the first time in years and had no clue what Nairobian’s did to mark new year’s celebration-or rather what they did that would accommodate our situation as parents to a two-year-old. Luckily, a friend who had just moved to a new house in Westlands graciously put together a last-minute soiree and invited us and other parents facing a similar predicament over. All the guys in that click were bankers and golfers. Naturally, when they were not discussing how high interest rates were hurting their clients’ profitability, they were fussing about their handicaps and sijui how tough hole number four at Windsor is. I will have you know (at the risk of being reviled by my friends, and Alf) that bankers who are golfers are the most boring bunch of people at any social gathering. Especially if you don’t share the same interests.
So on this night, just before the clock struck midnight, I had heard enough of handicaps and stroke index and fairways and swings-until someone showed us a clip of this young girl not a day over 9 years old, delivering the most amazing golf swing from what looked like a backyard. I quickly took note of the account and sat in silence for about five minutes combing through it- stalker, much! I was awed by the prowess of these two young girls as I watched them hit balls from this minuscule golf practice area that their dad, Alf, had created in his backyard where he sometimes trained them from. Alf’s commitment to his kids’ training was remarkable.
Over the years, I have watched his daughters perfect their game and win countless medals both locally and internationally. Seventeen-year-old Kellie Gachaga is the top golfer in Kenya. She won the Kenya’s Ladies MatchPlay last year and finished third in US Kids international tournament held in Northern Carolina. Her younger sister twelve-year-old Jamie Gachaga won the most improved player of the year last year. The most inspiring thing about the Gachagas is that their dad, who is the Head of Compliance for Retail Banking at Stanchart Bank is their coach! How about that?!
Here is Alf’s story.
By Alfred Gachaga.
Kellie and Jaimee or K and J as we fondly call them, have grown from bundles of joy to all sort of mixes of personalities with various strengths and comical weaknesses. K cannot get into an elevator without screaming bloody murder and the creaky ones are a no no. J is bit more composed however an erratic story teller. You have to watch out for her “and then” which prolong an otherwise short story to a long-winded story.
But their comical sides aside (pun intended) they are talented girls who are yet to reach their best. K is older, about to turn 17 and J is 12. K was always an athletic able and interested kid starting with swimming and tennis. However, at the age of 7 we started hitting balls on the range. She was a natural.
As their mentor and coach, I fell in love with the game first, then K and J followed suit. My older brother (Charles Gacheru) was the captain of Thika Golf club and inspired me to start the game in 2009. He has always been an influence in my life and it was easy for me to pick it up given his involvement. In golf, you mainly play against yourself and as Jim Flick, a renowned golf instructor rightfully put it “Golf is a game which is 90% mental and the remaining 10% is mental”. Because of this characteristic, it’s a life shaper like no other and hence our decision to push our daughters in the game.
The decision was also made easy by their natural ability. K was 12 when she started. By 14, she had dropped her handicap to single digits and by 16 she was the top golfer in the country. Her biggest moment came when she finished third in US Kids international tournament held in North Carolina, America. She had notable moments in 2016 when she won both the Kenyan Ladies Matchplay and Stroke play defeating Naomi Wafula in both occasions.
J on the other hand, has picked up the game much earlier typical of younger siblings. By 11 she had dropped her handicap to 25 and in the process winning the most improved player of the 2016 year.
To get them to this level has been rather demanding but with no short supply of fun and laughter in the process. We are at the golf course almost every day, working on all aspects of their games. I work with them during the evenings, which means I must be in the office very early and most of the times I end up going back to work after training. It is amazing how much time one can make if they are passionate about something! What’s the saying, it’s not too hard if it’s what you have a passion for? We live this every day. We go through some tough drills to sharpen their game but it’s always fun especially when the results keep coming.
The bonus of the rigorous nature of the training, is that it complements their studies. The discipline and patience acquired playing golf is readily transferable to school where focus on what matters now comes easy. Patience and interaction with peers which is essential in schools is much easier for them. It is true to conclude that they haven’t become good at golf without carrying along the essentials of focus and discipline to other aspects of their lives.
K who is in year 11 at Aga Khan Academy intends to pursue golf in college and already has offers to join some elite teams in America. As for J, the plan is to continuously elevate her game and hopefully beat K soon!
If you are one of those parents (like myself) who have been praying for a 48 hour day in order to juggle the one million things in your life, you need to sit in a corner and figure out how to make time. The most profound lesson from Alf’s story for me is that if you want your kids to excel at anything, you have to be an ingrained part of their lives. Stop excessively delegating and make time for your kids. If you are good at something and you want them to take it up, train them. If you are not, accompany them to their training sessions. Show interest because only then will they be excited about engaging in that activity as they will want to either do it with you, or like you. Name any preeminent star and I will show you a parent who put their back into their training. Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, those are some of the names that come to mind.
I am curious to know how Alf enforces discipline in his household. Is it a struggle? How does he keep his girls grounded especially Kellie in her teenage hood and Jamie now that she’s getting into that phase as well? Does it get easier or harder as they grow older? So, I shoot him that question on email, pretty much how this entire interview has been conducted. A series of back and forth over email whose beat Alf never misses. He responds immediately and I get the sense that he is anything but a procrastinator. Perhaps that’s another lesson from golf, one that may inspire me to take up the sport.
“Yes discipline is very much an issue. Golf as a sport instills discipline, golfers are self-regulating and they also interact with grownups which make it easier. The other angle is by spending so much time together, as a parent am able to watch their habits and call them out when I see a disturbing trend.”