Kenya hockey team captain and Strathmore University’s Scorpions attacking midfielder Gilly Okumu says it has not been easy for her to maintain top form over a long period.
Although the 25-year-old Sinyolo Girls alumnus has had a roller-coaster playing career, she says her best years are yet to come.
Okumu is expected to renew her three-month attachment deal with German side Eintracht Frankfurt when normalcy returns after the COVID-19 pandemic is contained.
From Sinyolo, the secondary school games giants where she left an imprint after helping them to literally win every trophy on offer, to inspiring the Scorpions to greater heights in the Kenya Hockey Union Premier League, Okumu now wants to leave a lasting legacy in the game.
The Business Management graduate earned a scholarship at Strathmore after impressing at the 2013 East and Central Africa Secondary School Games where she was voted the best player and clinched the top scorers award.
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She carried that form into the league and went on to bag the 2014 golden boot accolade after scoring 17 goals as the former Africa Cup of Club championships silver medallists finished second in the domestic league.
Even though Okumu, who assumed the national team captain role last year, is yet to taste glory with both the national team and her club, she says to succeed at the highest level, supreme confidence and discipline is a necessity.
“It’s not been a walk in the park. I have worked hard to be where I am right now. But you can’t achieve that without being disciplined, focused and confident,” Okumu told Standard Sports.
“I might have achieved a lot at a personal level, but I still believe the best is yet to come. That’s why I’m still working hard and learning more every day to remain competitive at the top level.”
“I want to be remembered more by winning titles with Scorpions and guiding the national team to qualify for major tournaments. At this point, my number one goal is to reach my full potential, continue gaining strength, speed, and agility.”
But as Okumu recalls how she ditched football for hockey, she feels that had it not been Aloys Owino (Sinyolo Girls’ coach) and Meshack Senge (Scorpions coach), she may never have fulfilled her potential as a professional player.
“I think turning pro was the dream come true in my hockey career. That will be super memorable. It all started in 2012 when our high school hockey coach watched me play football and was really impressed with me. It was not easy to transform from working with your legs to stick-work, yet the first tournament was in a weeks time,” she said.
“I managed to play and scored some goals by just standing at the second post waiting to deflect the balls. I grew slowly from there and it was an interesting experience getting to know more about the game and new skills.”
“It was difficult transitioning from school to club hockey but with the help of coach Senge, it was quite an amazing journey and I ended up being the top scorer after just a year of playing club hockey.”
“But I have a lot to say about the Scorpions because they are responsible for who I am today. It’s been an amazing eight years of seeing great talent and coaching. The ladies have a great fighting spirit and I believe together, we can achieve my dream of winning the league soon.”
Asked about her experience in the Germany League, Okumu, who’s currently a practicing sports consultant, said: “It has been truly an amazing experience in German and I think I have really gained and developed as a player. Of course adaptation was hard at first but eventually, I managed because the club treated me as their family.”