CELEBRATING STEPH: This is how I ended up as Mwamba Rugby TM
This interview was conducted by the Mwamba Rugby Media team earlier during the season and was scheduled to run at the end of the National Sevens Circuit as a milestone for Stephanie-Rose Otieno’s second season as Mwamba RFC’s Team Manager.
We have decided to publish the interview posthumously to capture her aspirations and goals for the club and the game. She sadly passed away on July 11, 2022, through a tragic accident in Nakuru after helping Mwamba Ladies clinch overall National Sevens Circuit title.
1. What’s your role at Mwamba Rugby?
Team Manager. The role means handling the logistics during training and game day but also acting as the communication link between the players and management. Think of it as HR!
2. How did you end up in rugby?
I have family members in rugby, Eddie Omondi and Paul Odera, so rugby was never a foreign sport to me.
3. Who invited you? Or who convinced you?
In high school, the Rugby Coach, Mike Okidia, allowed me to be part of the team dynamic in little ways. Then in uni, it was my friend Ola (we were the only two black girls in the team) that encouraged me to play. When I came back to Kenya, one of the Mwamba players, who was a good friend, as well as Vanessa Adot who was the Quins TM, encouraged me to try out in management.
4. When and how did you start this role?
March 2019. I approached Fahad (Adil Mohamed, the Mwamba Rugby and Kenya Simbas team manager) one day after a game and asked to assist him. The rest as they say is history.
5. What are the unique challenges of a female team manager handling a men’s side?
Quite a few, however, the main ones are gaining their respect by getting them to listen to you and not just look at you; earning and commanding authority. Learning to communicate with the difference in background and personalities.
6. What is your relationship with the rest of the technical bench?
It is a relationship built on friendship, trust and respect for each one of them. I work with the Director of Rugby, Coaches and fellow team managers. Edwin Waita has been a mentor in rugby and life around it and helps me develop in this role. I have a deep respect for Kevin Wambua as a coach, I gain from him every day and I am in awe of his knowledge of rugby. Alphonce Mwachia and Fahad Adil were available to guide me when I started this role. Being a link with the executive committee, I have also formed a relationship with Humphrey Kayange who has taught me how to be a firm and honest but understanding leader.
7. What is your working relationship with the whole playing unit?
I try and maintain a professional relationship with them, constantly consulting with each other on how we can build the club. Communication is the driving force. They are my harshest and most honest critics and I like it that way.
8. What is the difference between handling a women’s team and a men’s team?
Women can be very independent. They are not afraid to speak up when they want something. In that way, encouraging and supporting them is straightforward, because you know exactly what they want. Managing men needs more awareness and fortitude. They are not as rough as people think… hehe, therefore they need you to be available to listen when they are ready to speak. But both teams require 100% commitment. That is all they really want.
9. As a woman, what would you tell other women who are considering a career in sports such as rugby but are reluctant perhaps of stereotypes?
It is a wonderful experience that I would highly recommend. It is through this role that I have developed skills such as organisation, communication and servant leadership. It’s an environment that has challenged me to be my best. I have also gained friendships and connections that have been a positive influence in my life. For those interested, you will come out feeling stronger and wiser. It is not as bad as you think!
10. What drives you every day?
As I said before, the environment has driven me to be the best version of me! In that space, where I have had the opportunity to interact with different people, I am content, and it, therefore, gives me the energy to keep going. Of course, coupled up with my love for the sport! I believe sports have the ability to heal, and so it helps me create a balance in life. It gets hard some days, but I keep going because of the sweet moments.
11.You see your future in rugby management still….
My dream is to one day find myself in a professional club or even an international sports body! To continue to build my experience and network and explore what is out there for me. I have great predecessors who are now on the national level and continue to guide me. I also have the support and encouragement from the club to aim high. My end goal is beyond my dreams and who knows… anything is possible!