Hero photograph
Photo by Mark Ealey

Emilly Lekuru coaching in Kampala

Mark Ealey —

2019 IRP old girl "puts back"

2019 International Rugby Programme (IRP) student Emilly Lekuru is now coaching a group of 18 girls at King’s College Budo, a secondary school located in the southwest suburbs of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Twice a week, Emilly finishes her own accountancy studies in the morning at Makerere University Business School in Kampala and travels by bus for between 40 minutes to one and a half hours (depending on the availability of public transport and the traffic) to get to King’s College Budo. Her return journey takes even longer - three hours in the early evening traffic.

King’s College Budo is a traditional co-educational school, so rugby has not been previously been offered among the sporting options for girls. The boys’ team is one of the top school teams in the country and has produced both 7s and 15s international players for Uganda, so the girls’ team will be looking to follow in their footsteps. Many of the girls also aspire to join Emilly in the Uganda Lady Cranes 7s and 15s teams.

Emilly understands what embracing rugby’s five core values of respect, integrity, passion, solidarity and discipline can mean for young people and so she digs deep to introduce rugby to the girls.

Looking back on her stay in the 2019 IRP, Emilly emphasizes the knowledge gained to pass on back home, “l have been able to apply what I learned in the IRP to training sessions in Uganda and also to teach my team-mates in my club Black Pearls, as well as the kids whom l coach. Coaching is not easy, but I am enjoying it, especially when the girls pick up what I teach.” Emilly knows the magnitude of the task, which is so aptly framed in the King’s College Budo motto Gakyali Mabaga (“So little done, So much more to do”) but it is wonderful that she is doing her bit to help to transform girls’ lives through involvement in rugby.

One of the girls, Elizabeth Vero Nakaseke is 17 years old and says about rugby: “People called rugby rough and dangerous but I put that aside and developed an interest in rugby and joined it. Being coached by Coach Emilly is interesting because she welcomes us all, she understands us and interacts freely with us. So many girls have joined the game because the coach is nice.” Seventeen year-old Damalie Agatha Nakigozi, loves rugby because it is stress relieving and helps her take stuff off her mind. Damalie is inspired and motivated by Emilly because it is rare to have a female coach in any sport and especially for a sport like rugby. Stella Mutunji Kakunjira, also 17 years old, has two brothers who play rugby in their schools so she fell in love with the game when they included her in their rough-and-tumble “practice sessions” at home. She also feels empowered when she says that she plays rugby. When it was announced that a female rugby coach would be coming to the school to coach the girls, she and the other girls had the impression that they would be coached by someone really tough and strict, but they were pleasantly surprised by Emilly, who is really nice. The girls are learning a lot of rugby skills from Emilly, as well as how to work together as a team.

Emilly is still heavily involved in Rugby Tackling Life (RTL), an NGO with a mission to “empower Ugandan girls and young women, by creating opportunities through rugby, to make informed decisions that impact positively on their lives and enriches their communities.”

RTL’s goals are:

· To integrate rugby with Life Skills, Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and Menstrual Hygiene Management to empower girls and young women in Uganda

· Through rugby, to offer opportunities to girls and young women to transform their lives and their communities

· To enrich girls’ and young women’s welfare, to expand their knowledge of possibilities and choices in order to develop holistic individuals

· To ensure that girls and young women achieve their full potential both on and off the rugby pitch

· To encourage girls to complete their education and to enable more access to academic and vocational study opportunities

· To spread the game of rugby to all regions of Uganda

All those involved in the International Rugby Programme are immensely proud of Emilly.