I arrived in Kabul on Saturday for my annual spring trip coaching in Afghanistan. I’ll be here for a month, then will travel to Palestine to spend three weeks coaching the players in Gaza I first worked with a little over a year ago. I’m excited to see all my players and colleagues in both places and to get a chance to work with new teams and players as well.

Today I’m at the airport preparing to fly to the Northeastern city of Faizabad in Badakhshan province, where I’ll be teaching a brand new men’s team that was formed about a month ago. Faizabad is situated in a steep mountain valley and yesterday saw thunderstorms looming over the top of the city, so the ICRC flight I was supposed to take was canceled. While missing a day training the team in Faizabad was unfortunate, it gave me the chance to stay in Kabul and work with another new team – this one from the province of Wardak to the immediate south. The team is made up of players of varying levels of experience who live in Kabul and have, until now, been training with the ever-growing pool of players in the capital city. All the players’ families are originally from Wardak, though, so they petitioned to start a team of their own. I know all the players from previous training sessions, and it’s great to have yet another new solid group that, coupled with Faizabad, will bolster the number of men’s teams this year from six to eight.

Today we are still at the mercy of the unpredictable spring weather, but I’m hoping to take off soon with my old friend and longtime interpreter, Ashraf, on a United Nations flight north to Faizabad. This is the first time I’ll have traveled to train a team in a city outside Kabul in nearly three years and it will be my first time ever seeing Badakhshan Province. It’s a famously beautiful part of Afghanistan, so I’m excited to finally experience it firsthand.

Day 2 of waiting in the airport with Ashraf

Following two days teaching the new team in Faizabad, I’ll return to Kabul, where I’ll get to coach another new team – this one a women’s team from Jalalabad. Jalalabad sits alongside the Pakistan border east of Kabul and is a socially conservative city that I didn’t think would be a realistic place to form a women’s team in the near future. The fact that they have already succeeded in establishing the fourth women’s team in Afghanistan is a great credit to the wheelchair basketball program leadership and coaches there, and certainly to the female players who are willing to take a huge leap in being the first women to play wheelchair basketball in an eastern province. I can’t wait to meet them for the first time.

After training the teams from Faizabad and Jalalabad, they will join the rest of the existing teams in national championship tournaments for the women and men, following which we will select new national teams for each, whom I’ll train to further prepare them for their next international competitions.

I’ll be joined in late April by Michael Glowacki, the director of The League of Afghanistan documentary, for what should be his final filming session before the film is completed. We will also be joined by David Constantine, the founder and president of Motivation UK, the wonderful organization that designs and builds all the basketball wheelchairs used in Afghanistan. This will be David’s first visit to Afghanistan since 2012, when he was here to witness the first ever national wheelchair basketball tournament held in the country. David is a very accomplished photographer, and I’m excited to see and share some of the images he will capture during his time here.

It’s going to be an exciting seven weeks. Much more to come soon!