Espérance Mukakimenyi, 55, is a woman for all seasons; she is a mother, a wife and a coach of three different sports disciplines; football, volleyball and rugby. She spoke to Donah Mbabazi.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Espérance Mukakimenyi. I am a married woman with four children; three boys and one girl. I studied and trained in teaching and recently completed my Bachelors in Clinical Psychology from the Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Education (INATEK) of Kibungo. I am a teacher and a coach at Groupe Scolaire Sainte Famille.
How did you end up as a sports coach?
I started sports a long time ago in my secondary school. In 1990, I played for AS Vegas basketball team. I then went to Nyamagabe in 1996 and started concentrating more on sports because I had enough time.
At first, I created football and volleyball teams but they were more for leisure, but in 2000, I created a professional volleyball team which played for three years. I later joined Groupe Scolaire Sainte Famille in 2007 as a basketball, volleyball team coach. I later formed a rugby team which is also still playing up to date.
Yes. In 2013, the boys’ basketball team reached the finals for the Federation of East African Secondary School Sports (FEASSA) competitions that took place in Dar el Salaam. On August 24 this year, the FEASSA competitions were held in Rwanda and our team for Rugby was crowned champions.
Coaching is not a simple task, how do you manage to coach three teams?
It’s not easy but I do training in all the three sports disciplines. Since my children are all grown up, I am lucky that I have enough time for what I do. The school gives me support because they let me attend training sessions.
Are these kinds of tasks difficult for a woman?
Not really. I find pride and honour in my work. When I coach, it not only helps my students, it helps me to keep lively and happy. Someone once wondered if I ever get angry or sad and I told them that it’s very rare because I am always in good moods. Sport benefits a person in more than one way because it helps you to learn how to live with people and it improves one’s soft skills.
What drives your passion for sports?
I love what I do naturally so that itself is enough, but I discovered my talent at a Catholic secondary school that I went to. The school was being run by nuns and everyone had to choose what they had to do because there was time for everything, time for studies and for leisure so it gave me a chance to realise my passion.
How do you manage to juggle work and family?
It’s actually easy because my family is involved in what I do. We all love sports. My daughter comes to see me train and sometimes she is a part of it. There are times when I am coming from out-of-town missions and they are ready to receive me with special gifts as a way of showing appreciation for what I do.
I have always found time for my family. Sports are something that we do together and it has created a very tight bond between us all.
What are some of the challenges that you face as a coach?
They are not many. I could say time is a bit of a challenge because of the many responsibilities I have. Before, kids at school used to study half day and then they would head home immediately. This didn’t give me enough time for training but now things changed a bit; they leave at 4.00pm and this has created time.
The other challenge is convincing girls to join sports. Most of them are not interested.
Do you have plans of continuing as a coach?
For the future plans I think the chances are 50/50. I have grown older and sports training programmes require physical strength which I can’t really keep up with anymore. I am hoping to retire soon.
What can you say about women sports in Rwanda?
It is still growing. Girls still lack the love and interest in sports. Some girls from rural areas do have the passion but those from the city are not that interested. They mind more about their muscles tightening hard and their nails breaking.
What advice can you give these city girls?
Well, they should know that it’s not only a hobby but it also helps one to keep fit and healthy. There is also the part of benefitting from sports scholarships. I am 55 years old but still going strong; I have not had any illnesses such as diabetes, backache and all that. I attribute my good health to my active life.