Musumba: The man forging table tennis champions

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020 00:00 |
Austin Musumba.

When you think of sports in Kitale, table tennis will most likely not come up.

You will, however, be pleasantly surprised to learn that St Joseph’s School Kitale has over the years produced some of Kenya’s top players in the discipline. 

So how did the school attain this lofty achievement? The name Austin Musumba easily comes out  of the lips of his admirers. 

For eight years, Musumba has imparted the sweet science of ping-pong to school boys at St Joseph’s thanks to Kenya Table Tennis Association’s Tucheze Tebo (let’s play table tennis), an  initiative which spearheads the sport in the country by providing equipment and technical support. And it seems to be working.

“I have produced a number of players since 2014. Brian Mwangi, formally of Kenyatta University, and Edwin Otieno, the current captain at KU are some of my products,” says Musumba.

‘Table Tennis at St. Joseph’s Boys started small with dining hall tables being used.

Then after winning our first national championship the table tennis association under president Andrew Mudibo started supporting us with equipment. 

“Allan Chesang and Lotti Kennedy who later played for the national team were not my players but we trained together under coach Justus Gichuki. 

“Together with Lotti we started a team at St Joseph’s Boys. In Kitale, we train together with the girls at St Monica during holidays.

“I also train primary school children. But due to the novel coronavirus  we have had to halt our programme to comply with the government’s directive on social gathering.”

“I don’t compromise on discipline and academic performance hardwork and determination are our key requirements.

All my players have joined university after school. So it’s a critical balancing act.

In the next five years the national team will be dependent on Kitale for table tennis talent and you can mark my words on this one.”

St Joseph’s have also been to the nationals in school games since 2014 scooping number one trophies in 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

“In 2019 we also won the East Africa Games from Uganda,” said Musumba.

 “Last year’s team had my finest. This included Charles Kinyua, Boniface Musyoki, Bethwel Cheruiyot, Shume Mungah, Meshack Simiyu,Job Ian and Laban Msafari who was in the Kenyan team to the African Games in Morocco last year.

Only four of last year’s team cleared school last year the rest are in Form Two.” Asked what makes his boys tick, Musumba quips: “It’s not just fighting, it’s about skill and strategy.”

“I make my players believe in winning. I also talk to them about how good they are, how good they’re going to become if they remain focused, and how good they’re doing so when they get into the match situation they’re already champions by virtue of determination.”

Most of the students he instructs have never been into a table tennis game before seeking his guidance, and yet year-after-year Musumba brings out champions.  “As long as they learn to keep pushing forward that’s all that matters..”

Asked what his secret is, the  English and literature teacher quipped:  “I think the recipe for our success is our consistency.

The whole team is also behind the programme, from the academic side to the sporting side.”  

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