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A doctor thriving in Basketball

It’s rare to find a professional doctor who also excels in coaching basketball. Many choose one path, but Espérance Mukaneza refused to let her talent fade away.

Mukaneza, a mother of three, coaches the REG WBBC team in Rwanda’s First Division.

Growing up, Mukaneza loved sports and started playing basketball in high school at E.S Rwamagana.

In university, she played for the Etoile team in 1999, beginning her path to success. She said, “I joined Kigali University and played for Etoile (now defunct) from 1999 to 2002, simultaneously studying anesthesiology. We won many trophies, including three championships and two Memorial Gisembe cups.”

Her journey didn’t stop there. From 2000 to 2010, she played for the University of Rwanda and worked at CHUB Hospital in anesthesiology.

After giving birth in 2012, she and her colleagues founded the Ubumwe WBBC team, which quickly made a mark in the championships.

She transitioned to coaching in 2010, becoming one of Rwanda’s top coaches by 2023. “In 2010, as my playing career was ending, I began coaching training. In 2015, I was called as the Assistant Coach for the Under-16 team at the AfroBasket tournament in Madagascar, working with Head Coach Mushumba Charles.”

Her coaching career expanded, and in 2019, she became the head coach of Ubumwe WBBC. The team, after securing a sponsor, was renamed REG WBBC. “In 2021, with a new sponsor and strong international players, we won two consecutive championships, and I was named Coach of the Year.”

Uniquely, her team became the first in Rwanda to qualify for the African Games without an invitation.

At the Women’s African Club Championship, REG WBBC finished fourth, a first for any Rwandan team.

Despite a demanding career, Mukaneza believes in discipline and planning. “At CHUK, they’ll tell you I’m a dedicated worker, and it’s the same at REG.”

She is certain that basketball can be a lucrative career, seeing players leave other jobs for the sport. She notes significant progress in women’s basketball, with equal prizes for men’s and women’s championship teams.

Mukaneza emphasizes the rapid development and changing perceptions of women in basketball. “Parents are changing their views. They used to think female players were wayward, but now they approach me to train their daughters.”

For girls hesitant about strength training, Mukaneza believes it depends on individual goals. She encourages aspiring players to work hard, as success depends on them.

“To anyone aspiring to be a great player, overcome challenges, believe it’s possible, work tirelessly, and understand that basketball can build your life. It’s all about hard work.”

In her limited leisure time, this mother enjoys football, particularly as an avid Arsenal fan, and spends time with her family.

Straight out of Twitter