Since its formal introduction at the 2019 USA Field Hockey Summit in Baltimore, the American Development Model (ADM) has sprouted several success stories across the United States through its supporting staff, aligned programming and equipment. Among the intrigued crowd at the discussion was Rael Otieno, who not only saw the positive potential stateside, but also the perfect program to grow the game through her non-profit youth sports organization, Tunza Sports Academy, in Kenya.
“I started the program with the intention of harnessing the power of sports to reduce poverty, promote health and inspire academic success for kids in under-served rural areas,” said Otieno. “We empower girls with life changing skills that will enable them to become women of integrity, women of substance and functional community leaders by ensuring they go beyond high school education. The initiative stems from my passion for sport, specifically field hockey, and compassion for humanity. Our mission is to work with communities to enhance quality of life by ending the cycle of poverty through sports and implement a cycle of giving back.”
Having gone through much of what young children experience daily growing up in her home country, Otieno is a living representation of the challenges, hardships and roadblocks one faces in Kenya. At the same time, she hopes she can also be a symbol of inspiration by providing opportunities for kids to learn, play and develop.
“My self-driven role is to solicit resources, such as equipment and coaching personnel by engaging my friends and the field hockey community around me,” added Otieno.
Through Tunza Sports Academy resources such as the ADM are showing positive impact in the most remote villages in the country. Her adventures may seem far away from the United States and USA Field Hockey, but intention of growing the game is being used as an international language. Otieno’s biggest takeaway from the unveiling and demonstration of the ADM was participants could adapt and play quite evenly despite individual talent levels.
“I knew right there and then that I wanted to have the equipment in my program because we coach players from scratch and these players have never even watched a field hockey game or known of its existence,” continued Otieno. “However, the main seller for me was the safety aspect. The kids in my program do not have shoes nor are they insured. We must solicit all protective equipment through donations and therefore the more injuries that can be prevented, the more chances they will stay with the program.”
The ADM resources and equipment were an instant hit among eager participants in Kenya over the holidays as they couldn’t decide between their favorite color sticks while dribbling the GO Balls. Otieno also made great use of the simplistic GAME ON Equipment Packs packages and demonstrated basic skills through accompanying games. It’s the perfect fit for beginners and young players according to Otieno, not only for safety but also accelerating learning by the coach and players alike.
“For those starting a program from scratch, buying the equipment in bulk is quite affordable”, said Otieno. “The USA Field Hockey ADM is about teaching and growing the game not about having the latest and most fashionable expensive equipment in the market.”
She also credits the ADM equipment versatility for allowing Tunza Sports Academy participants to grow and develop on several types of playing surface, from murram fields to uneven grass and cement floors.
“The difference in the speed of the ball and ability to maneuver by beginners is not too significant to impact the level of play as normally witnessed using the traditional equipment,” added Otieno. “The dimpled, bigger but lighter ball is much more pronounced above uneven surfaces and so the contact with the stick is maintained. Similarly, on hard floors, the player does not have to scrape the floor to get good contact with the ball. In essence, the ball size and weight make it easy to swap between surfaces without influencing skill progress. All the above factors make is easy to bring field hockey in the neighborhood or the beach for some fun time with family and friends who don’t play the game.”
Back in the United States, Otieno is eager to put the ADM to the test, but for the time being is focused on the technical aspect of the game especially with Junior Premier Hockey. As she put it, the thirst for growing the game is worldwide and believes the ADM will be a front runner in providing guidance to beginners both young and old.
“Anyone can create their own teaching model by borrowing ideas from the ADM and transform what works for their environment and level of play,” said Otieno. “The best part is that the ADM has not changed the rules of the game. It has only made equipment easier to handle by beginners and provided an excellent guide to coaching by breaking down the steps on how to teach the game, full of ideas on how to run a successful beginner program.”
Interested in starting a program near you? For more information regarding the USA Field Hockey ADM, including supporting programs, equipment and more, click here.

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