Express FC pronounced the capture of former Rugby player cum Lady Rugby Cranes coach Helen Buteme as their new Strengthening and conditioning coach.
Buteme, who will now not only move from coaching Rugby to conditioning football players will also be working with a set-up that is predominantly masculine – that is if it’s that new to her.
But, who is this former ladies rugby coach that has decided to join men’s football?
Hellen Buteme, who is a research scientist by profession and is one of the pioneers of Women rugby in Uganda. She is the former captain and coach of the lady rugby Cranes 7s team.
Helen was born and grew up in a sporting family in Kenya. Her dad, Patrick Kuuya was a footballer while the Mother, Thereza Ahanayaka (RIP), was a netballer. Her two brothers Erika Wanda and Nathan Wasolo are well known for having played Rugby for Pirates and Kobs respectively.
Buteme started off playing field hockey at University before featuring for both Weatherheads and Kampala Ladies in the National League.
But because hockey wasn’t developing to her expectation, She quit the sport in 2002 and was convinced by one of her former teammates to start playing touch rugby at Kyadondo Rugby club.
“I visited Kyadondo Rugby Club the following day and told the then manager Reuben Ambicha that I wanted to play rugby, but the non-contact version of the sport. At that point, I had never seen women playing full-contact rugby, so it never crossed my mind that I could play it,” she recalls.
Due to the fact that rugby at that time was more known as a men’s sport, Buteme had to play with Boys fast until some of her hockey teammates joined her to play touch rugby.
By 2003, the number of ladies in rugby had significantly grown and that’s when Uganda Rugby men’s team coach Robert Seguya persuaded Buteme and her pals to switch to contact rugby after the Elgon Cup curtain-raiser game that featured Kenyan rugby women team chich had been split into two groups, playing full-contact rugby.
The late Jim Park was tasked to introduce Buteme and her teammates to contact rugby and he started off by teaching them how to tackle while on their knees.
By the end of the session, the Girls were running at each other making tackles with ease and it was this progress that led to the formation of Thunderbirds, the first women rugby team in Uganda.
It wasn’t long until she played in her first-ever rugby game, which was a curtain-raiser for the Uganda Men’s rugby team in a ten aside game.
Helen Buteme and her teammates could go on to play in their first international tournament, Kabeberi 7s in 2004 about six months after learning how to tackle
“We traveled to Nairobi as Thunderbirds A and Thunderbirds B and finished in 1st and 3rd positions respectively, and I emerged the tournament’s top try scorer and most valuable player,” she narrates.
And that marked the beginning of Helen Buteme’s rugby career and she did not turn back. In 2008, she was part of the team that qualified for the Women 7s World Cup after finishing second to South Africa during the Central African Republic 7s.
In 2013, Buteme joined the English Women’s Rugby Premiership side Thurrock Thunderbirds. Although she had to run shoulders with three English internationals, Buteme managed to put in an eye-catching performance in her first season.
Still on the international stage, since 2012, Buteme played for the Mamas team that consisted of ex/current international players from Australia, England, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Germany, and Bolivia.
Buteme decided to retire from national team engagement in 2015 and founded two women teams, Entebbe Sharks and Walukuba Titans.
After enrolling in several coaching courses, Buteme started her coaching career with the Black Panthers, Sharks, and Titans team.
In the same year, she was named the strength and conditioning coach for both the 15s and 7s by the Uganda Rugby Union. In 2016, Buteme became the second female rugby head coach in Africa after Zimbabwe’s Abigail Kawonza.
In her first year, she guided the Uganda Lady Cranes to their first-ever World Rugby 7s series qualifiers.
Helen currently works with Rugby Tackling Life, an organization that empowers youth in Uganda through the game of rugby and now will also tackle the men at Wankulukuku.