Developing Young Leaders Through Sport

Developing Young Leaders Through Sport

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Dr. Elizabeth Odera was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

by Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Odera, Director of Sadili Oval Sports Academy and International Professional Coach. Odera was honored with the French Order of Youth and Sports Medal by the French Government for her ground-breaking work in the development of youth sports in Kenya, and her commitment to excellence in education. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Head of State Commendation (HSC) from the Government of Kenya. She has been involved in the education and training of more than 11,000 youth in various sports, including basketball, tennis, football, rugby, athletics and swimming. A former professional tennis champion, Liz also holds degrees in sports sciences, immunology, parasitology and education in Kenya and Denmark. She has been recognized as one of the highest women achievers in recent Kenyan history.

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I was born in Maseno, Kenya, but later lived in Nairobi and, like many other African families, lived with many relatives.

I come from a family of professionals, who were middle class. My father was, however, cajoled into a stint in politics and business. By my second year in high school, things were so bad that we had to move out of our home and live under very difficult conditions. My father departed to live far away from us for a while.

Watching my mother struggle made me realize that, as a woman, if you are not independent, you will sink. My mother had to stop working to look after us due to the number of children she had. She started a business, but it never really progressed because my father was always in and out of it.

Don't allow anyone to steal your dreams. Associate yourself with positive thinkers, and grow. And always remember to keep your goals simple and effective.

My passion for sports activities started when I was in primary school. All through my school years, I played sports whenever it was available. Later on, I used sports as an excuse to get out of the house.

As a woman, you must always have something to do to stay sane, even when you share everything else in your life. That was the driving force for all of us; all the girls in my family have made something of ourselves.

I am very sure that the only way to run a nonprofit is to work as if it is a business, and make every little thing count towards the goal of people-change. I am never too tired to try something in a different way if it will make a positive difference. I prefer working with young people because they have not lost their ability to dream or to fearlessly try to achieve the best they can, with good mentoring.

The people who make the biggest impact in my life right now, and determine the direction in which I go, are my son and my daughter. I think that as they grew up, I was also growing up as a person. They give me a sense of balance, and if something does not work. or I have a problem, they listen to me.

We all need to have a good measure of self-belief. We are women – that is our big secret. We should acknowledge who we are, and do what we are best at.

One day, I hope to be remembered for helping to make a positive difference in the life of every young person that I meet.

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