Basketball lovers are drawn to the game for many reasons, the sport offers a display few others are able to provide, like dunks, passes, and blocks. The heart and passion of the players presented on the court make it so much fun to watch. For Fenan Atobrhan, basketball is a profession and passion that hasn’t only paved the way for connections and allowed her to travel the world, but also given her the opportunity to share her skills with basketball enthusiasts. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) licensed coach and the assistant basketball coach for Division 1 Men, Tigers Basketball Club Kigali, is among the few female coaches of the sport in the country. She started playing basketball at the age of 11 during Physical Education classes, and she’s been playing since. Born in Eritrea, Atobrhan grew up in Germany as an immigrant, where basketball became a major part of her life. She started coaching juniors in the game at the age of 16, playing while studying. She became a certified coach when she was 16 in Germany, and by then, she was given pocket money for her efforts. Atobrhan was certain that regardless of how far her talent took her, she had to give room to acquire other skills. She made it a point to finish school and proceeded to get a Bachelor’s degree in international business, and a Master’s degree in business project management. She believes athletes ought to have various expertise in case of physical injury, this could provide an opportunity to do something else and earn money from it. She worked as a business analyst for a consulting firm, moved to the UK where she was a software tester, and a project manager in a tech company. She has played for a number of basketball clubs such as Rist Wedel (Germany) Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany), ACT Kassel (Germany), TV Hofheim (Germany), PSP Paris (France), Westside (UK), BC Wiesbaden (Germany), some of which she coached, among others. “This is a fun sport, it instils how to fight, be ambitious, have a competitive spirit, work as a team, and above all, discipline. One has to be strong, and have goals as they target to win,” she says. It’s her zeal for the game that impelled her four younger brothers to pick interest in it as well. The atmosphere, the cheer, and the audience in basketball are remarkable. Coming to Rwanda Atobrhan always longed to visit Rwanda but was hampered by busy work schedules. A friend of hers invited her in 2019, elucidating how beautiful, clean, and structured the country is. She, therefore, added it to her travel bucket list. ALSO READ: All you need to know about 2023 Women's AfroBasket qualifiers “I carried out research about the country and listened to some local music from known artists like The Ben, Meddy, and others to get familiar with the Rwandan culture and lifestyle,” she says. Around May 2021, she packed her bags excitedly and travelled to Rwanda. The basketball coach notes that she arrived at the perfect time as Rwanda was hosting the Basketball Africa League (BAL), which she attended. While at the BK Arena, the game’s venue, Atobrhan interacted and exchanged contacts with some local basketball players whom she hooped with during her stay. However, she had to travel back to the UK to work. In October 2021, she was offered a job in Rwanda to work in a Fintech company as a programme manager, after outrivalling in an interview. And so she resigned from her job in the UK and relocated to Rwanda. The first thing she did when she arrived was to reach out to the basketball players whom she had played with during her visit, and one of them was the president of the Tigers Basketball Club Kigali. “He told me about his team and disclosed that they didn’t have an assistant coach. I was able to meet the team, and after some discussions, became the assistant coach, and signed the contract in December 2022,” Atobrhan says. By then, she was volunteering as the team didn’t have adequate sponsorship, however, she took on the role without hesitation and was optimistic that once the team got financial support, she would be paid. She is now on a salary and luckily, the team managed to get sponsors. Coaching, she says, has come with lessons such as patience, because sometimes there is the language barrier, although basketball is international and some words are the same, some players who don’t know English require patience. “Now I am used to my players, and them to me. This is a different environment, I teach them to have a positive mentality, persistence, and confidence. Sometimes players’ self-confidence sinks when the coach is tough. I encourage players to always keep their heads high, whether they’re winning or losing.” Atobrhan emphasises that the success of a basketball team isn’t only determined by high scores—respect drives the game. “Players must respect their coaches, teammates, opponents, and everyone involved in the game, including referees.” ALSO READ: Young basketballers, local coaches hail basketball training camp Besides basketball skills, she trains her team to operate and work well with others, have values, and have fun. In cases of indiscipline, she makes the team run as a punishment. “I don’t punish players individually. It is team spirit, we learn, run, and play together.” One challenge she faces, though not often, is failure to listen to instructions, or focus, especially when players do not pay attention in the middle of a briefing, which leads to careless mistakes. She, however, likes the fact that she hasn’t encountered any disrespect from any player. Plans Atobrhan anticipates taking the team to the top playoff. “We have been practicing for the last three weeks every single day, morning and evening, and we have a good head coach. So far, we are doing well. Recently, we beat APR Basketball Club, we hope to even do better.” According to Atobrhan, there is a possibility of having more female basketball coaches, however, women ought to put themselves out there and gain confidence. Some women are skilled but are still players, they haven’t had the opportunity to coach. They have to start from somewhere, she adds. “I started coaching women, then later men. I loved it, I went for it, and I was strong at it,” she notes. Atobrhan urges the Rwanda Basketball Federation (FERWABA) to organise coaching clinics to equip players with defensive principles, techniques, team skill development, and more. She further explains that this is a profession that pays. If a player has something to offer, they can mention their price. Some of Atobrhan’s hobbies are playing football and hiking.