Austin Musumba: The magic hands behind St Joseph's table tennis prowess

St Joseph's Boys table tennis team

From left: Ugandan coach Dan Mutambazi, Andrew Sikuku, a teacher at St Joseph's Boys High School,  St Joseph's team captain Luke Opwora and coach Austin Musumba take a selfie during the East Africa Secondary School Games in Arusha, Tanzania on September 23, 2022.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • After testing the waters at the National level in 2013, they won their maiden title the following year
  • In 2019, they were crowned National champions and followed it up with the East African crown in Arusha, Tanzania
  • This year, Idris Kulubi was crowned the Most Valuable Player at the National School games and he attributes the success to his mentor (Musumba) and team mates


Steadfast, determined and disciplined are the three words that aptly describe St Joseph's Boys High School, Kitale Games Master, Austin Musumba.

For close to a decade, Jobo, as it's affectionately referred to, has been churning out exceptional table tennis players.

However, that was not the case when Musumba joined the school back in 2012. Initially, they were well recognised for their exploits in rugby, having nurtured Kenya Simbas captain Dan Sikuta and Kenya Sevens player Ronnie Omondi who recently made his debut against Australia in Dubai.

“It’s not a popular game in most schools so when I joined St Joseph’s, where most of the students are into rugby, it was very hard to introduce it. When I went to class to teach English I talked about the game. Then I made friendship with the boys, I didn’t cane them and they became good to me. That’s how it began,” reveals Musumba.

In the formative stages, proper training equipment was a real challenge. The existing students had to make do with dilapidated dining tables as they prepared for competitions.

St Joseph's Boys table tennis school team

From left: St. Joseph's Boys High School, Kitale table tennis players Idris Kulubi, Luke Opwora, Austin Maina, Victor Ng'ang'a and Ivan Yegon during the East Africa Secondary School Games in Arusha, Tanzania on September 23, 2022. 


 

Photo credit: Pool

Driven by passion and desire to reach the Nationals level, Musumba and his boys put in the work in the dining hall of St Joseph's. They focused on the bigger picture, hoping that things would change once they start producing good results.

“The dream started in 2012 when I was employed on Board of Management terms. I found out that they had no table and nowhere to play. I began with dining hall tables and the boys liked it. Then in 2013, we won our first regional games and qualified for the Nationals in Embu. Since then, it has just been winning,” said a beaming Musumba.

After testing the waters at the National level in 2013, they won their maiden title the following year. Their winning streak lasted from 2014 to 2022 with exceptions being 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus that forced cancellation of school games.

In 2019, they were crowned National champions and followed it up with the East African crown in Arusha, Tanzania. Musumba’s countenance betrays him as he tries to describe his emotions after they were crowned East African champions.

“I had very good and young players. It was very interesting for me and I was over the moon because all those boys were in my class where I was the class teacher. Now they’re all in first year at the University,” he says with the pride of a father. 

Musumba lists discipline and hard work as the pillars of the successful St Joseph's project. Discipline is at the summit and for him it’s non-negotiable. Some students even opted to forego their holidays to spend time on the tables honing their skills. A true mark of champions! 

St Joseph's Boys table tennis school team

From left: St Joseph's St Joseph's Boys High School, Kitale table tennis players Ivan Yegon, Idris Kulubi, Coach Austin Musumba, Austin Maina and Victor Ng'ang'a during the East Africa Secondary School Games in Arusha, Tanzania on September 23, 2022.

Photo credit: Pool

This year, Idris Kulubi was crowned the Most Valuable Player at the National School games and he attributes the success to his mentor (Musumba) and team mates.

“I achieved this through the support of my teammates who have been helping me in training in school and also our coach. He has equipped me with bats and skills that helped me improve everyday. He has never stopped pushing me,” said Kulubi. 

It’s not by chance that Jobo is at the pinnacle of the sport and efforts are being made to scale new heights by recruiting new students joining the institution.

Musumba revealed that Table Tennis Association of Kenya has partnered with St Joseph's and St Monica Girls School, Kitale by offering scholarships to students and so far the arrangement seems to be bearing fruit.

With the return of school games this year after the end of the pandemic, Musumba is determined to nurture more talents, achieve greater success and leave an indelible mark in table tennis.

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