Volleyball newbies Ruthimitu eager to chill with the big boys

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School outside hitter Emmanuel Kipkurui spikes the ball during a training session at the school's training ground in Dagoretti, Nairobi on September 6, 2022.


Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Regulars Tetu High School, Malava Boys High School, Hospital Hill High School are some of the big names that were felled at the regional level and will be missing in action at Nakuru High School.
  • Hospital Hill, who have regularly represented Nairobi at the national school games, were stung 3-1 by little-known Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School a fortnight ago.

When the Kenya Secondary School Sports Association (KSSSA) National Term Two Games serve off on Friday, volleyball fans will be eager to see how newbies will perform against seasoned sides having caused upsets at the regional finals last weekend.

Regulars Tetu High School, Malava Boys High School, Hospital Hill High School are some of the big names that were felled at the regional level and will be missing in action at Nakuru High School.

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School outside hitter Emmanuel Kipkurui spikes the ball during a training session at the school's training ground in Dagoretti, Nairobi on September 06, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

Hospital Hill, who have regularly represented Nairobi at the national school games, were stung 3-1 by little-known Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School a fortnight ago.  

Located at the heart of Gachui Shopping Centre in Dagoretti South Constituency, Ruthimitu is closer to Kikuyu town in Kiambu County than Nairobi who they will be representing at the national games starting Friday.

The considerably small piece of land the school sits on belies their latest achievement which saw them beat big names Hospital Hill and Lenana to punch their ticket to the nationals.

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School middle blocker Kevin Kimurgor spikes the ball during a training session at the school's training ground in Dagoretti, Nairobi on September 06, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

Nestled between the dining hall and upper secondary classes, the rising dust from the uneven volleyball court as the school team is training immediately catches your attention as you enter the school.

That the volleyball court is located adjacent to the administration block is telling.

Perhaps an indication of how much the sport means to the school or rather the boss – Principal John Thairu. The idea of starting a competitive volleyball school team that could play at the nationals was hatched by Thairu, fuelled by Head of Games Department Francis Nzioki and actualised by one Gideon Njine as head coach.

So close yet so far

The project began back in September 2018 when Njine was tasked to put together a competitive side having previously coached Nembu Girls High School and Starehe Boys Centre and School. Accepting the Ruthimitu job was a no brainer for Njine especially with Thairu at the heart of this project.

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School Head of Department, Games Francis Nzioki (right) shares a light moment with a teacher Francis Ndung'u at the school's training ground in Dagoretti, Nairobi on September 6, 2022.


Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

“Previously with Nembu and Starehe I could reach the semi-finals level but hardly got past that. When Thairu assured me of his support as Principal, I didn’t think twice about it because I knew I could tap talent from all over Kenya through the school’s sports scholarship programme,” said Njine, himself a beneficiary of a similar programme at his Alma mater Tetu.

So good was the execution that at their first time of asking in July 2019, they came agonisingly close to qualifying for the nationals, losing 3-2 to Lang’ata High School in the Nairobi region finals.

“It was a painful loss for me as a coach. The boys really cried on that day and you could see how badly they wanted it (qualifying for the nationals). I tried to console them but it took some time for them to recover and pick themselves up. They vowed that they must do it the following year,” Njine vividly recalls his post-match pep-talk delivered in priestly fashion on that fateful Sunday.

But it was not to be. Covid-19 pandemic saw school games suspended for two years effectively denying Njine’s “dream team” an opportunity to fulfil their promise.

“The 2019 team had finally come of age and I strongly believe with that squad, we would not only have qualified for the nationals but also emerged champions. It was a well-balanced team with quality in all departments,” he said.

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School opposite attacker Gerald Kinyumu goes through his paces at the school's training ground in Dagoretti, Nairobi on September 6, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

To put it into perspective, two players - outside hitters Silas Otieno and Collins Muya - have already been signed by Kenya Defence Forces Volleyball Club after completing Form Four in April this year. Games H.O.D Nzioki reckons that the school felt the bite of the pandemic but remains grateful that some clubs have signed some of their products.

“When the Principal decided to start this project, our main goal was to give these players a chance in life through volleyball and education. That is why we insist that they should strike a balance between sports and education to help them access scholarship opportunities in universities and colleges,” said Nzioki.

Utilised Covid-19 break

“Some of them have been absorbed by clubs in the national league without being seen at school level which shows we are doing the right thing. It’s really encouraging to watch our products playing at the big stage and know that their talent can help them get good jobs,” he added.    

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School



Kinyumu 3: Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School opposite attacker Gerald Kinyumu spikes the ball during a training session at the school's training ground in Dagoretti, Nairobi on September 6, 2022.


Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

Despite losing a bulk of his players, Njine has made up for the two-year hiatus with a maiden appearance at the nationals this year. But it was not smooth sailing since they had to remain consistent in training as they patiently waited for school games to resume.

“When I realised that majority of the first team players will complete Form Four without featuring in the school games, I started working on the juniors. I am grateful to Thairu and Nzioki who have consistently supported me throughout the Covid-19 break and the results are there to be seen,” said Njine.

The star of their meteoric run to the nationals this year was Gerald Kinyumu, a Form One Student back in 2020. A burly opposite attacker who defends as hard as he attacks, Kinyumu will be the main offensive outlet for Ruthimitu in Nakuru and Njine is confident he will rise to the occasion.

“He represents what my coaching philosophy is all about, which is to mould talent from scratch. I first saw him in August 2019 during a holiday training camp organized by Mt Kenya Volleyball Professionals. I saw something in him and I am glad that two years later he has matured into a key player for this team,” remembers Njine who also scouted his setter Kevin Maina and outside hitter George Mbugua from the same camp.

Ruthimitu player Gerald Kinyumu

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School opposite attacker Gerald Kinyumu polishes his reception skills at the school's training ground in Dagoretti, Nairobi on September 06, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

Middle blockers Lewis Macharia, Kevin Kimurgor, outside hitter Emmanuel Kipkurui, libero Peter Kinuthia and captain Derrick Vundi complete Ruthimitu’s first team that will begin their Pool ‘A’ campaign against St Joseph Kisumu Secondary School on Friday.

Njine believes victory in the opening match will place them in good stead of beating their other Pool ‘A’ rivals Vitengeni Baptist Secondary School (Coast) and North Eastern reprsentatives.

Title glory

“I don’t know St Joseph but we expect a tough game because every team has made it to this level on merit. My target is to top the pool and plan well for the semi-finals where we expect stiff competition from Western, Central and Rift Valley teams,” said the former KCB and Co-operative Bank libero.

Silently, Njine – who lists Nicodemus Wangondu and Paul Bitok as his mentors -- will be on a separate personal mission in Nakuru. Having won the nationals title in 2004 with Tetu as a player, he will be looking to replicate that feat as a coach and join the rare list of individuals with that double.

Ruthimitu coach Gideon Njine

Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School coach Gideon Njine conducts a training session at the school's training ground in Dagoretti, Nairobi on September 06, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

“I have come of age since 2008 when I started coaching Starehe. It’s my dream to win the national title and I believe this team is capable of doing that. Every department is functioning well and if all goes according to plan, we will come back with the trophy to Nairobi,” underlined Njine, throwing caution to the wind.  

Even if they don’t, the school’s hierarchy are proud of the team. “We are happy with what this team has achieved within a short time. Putting Ruthimitu’s name on a national platform means a lot to us,” said Nzioki.  

Truly, it’s difficult not to fall for such a remarkable project.

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