By Nathan Kiwere
Brenda Nabusindo is no ordinary woman. The Ugandan badminton maestro has decided to do a delicate balancing between sports and civil engineering. Moreover, she vows to flourish in both fields that have no correlation whatsoever because she believes she was cut out for both in almost equal measure. At her own admission, Nabusindo says few people would take her for her word if she introduced herself as a badminton player. Her short and flabby frame does not resonate with the usually tall and stout bodies that sports people are known for. She is a classic example of the notion that sometimes looks can be deceptive. Nabusindo has worked herself to the top echelons of Uganda’s badminton and featured in major international meetings, representing her former university. She has excelled in the sport that takes a relatively backseat in the sports wagon of Uganda. To say that most people neither understand nor have watched a badminton game is not farfetched. Badminton is a racquet sport played using racquets to hit a shuttlecock across a net. Although it may be played with larger teams, the most common forms of the game are “singles” (with one player per side) and “doubles” (with two players per side). Badminton is often played as a casual outdoor activity in a yard or on at a beach; formal games are played on a rectangular indoor court. Points are scored by striking the shuttlecock with the racquet and landing it within the opposing side’s half of the court. Each side may only strike the shuttlecock once before it passes over the net. Play ends once the shuttlecock has struck the floor or if a fault has been called by the umpire, service judge, or (in their absence) the opposing side.
Nabusindo started playing badminton at 14 years of age while in senior two at Mariam High School, Kisaasi. Before she was discovered by her high school coach, Nabusindo and her peers used bucket lids in the place of racquets because they didn’t have access to the latter. One day, the school badminton coach noticed her raw talent and drafted her into the school training programme. From that moment on, Nabusindo has never looked back. It didn’t take long before she became the top seed in her school for the succeeding years. She represented Mariam High School in several inter-school badminton tournaments. Nabusindo was a champion under all different age categories during her high school times. By senior six, she was already primed for big things as she won a rare opportunity to feature on the Under-19 national badminton team. At that time, she was ranked fourth nationally. Still in senior six, she had short stints like playing for the State House badminton team and Kampala University badminton club.
Nabusindo’s dream was to pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at a public university, but she didn’t make it. Instead, she got an opportunity to do the same course on a full scholarship at Uganda Christian University (UCU). That marked the start of her top-flight badminton career. In her first year, she took part in the East Africa University Games in 2014 where UCU emerged second for their first time. In badminton, Nabusindo emerged top seed. The following year, she participated in the Inter-University Games at Busoga University where UCU again came second. During the tournament, she played eight universities and registered only one loss. In 2016 Nabusindo had the double honour of participating in both the Inter-University Games and World University Games in Uganda and Johannesburg South Africa respectively. UCU emerged overall winners in the World University Games for their first time, and Nabusindo took home a gold medal. In the Inter-National University Games, UCU came second for the third time in a row. She also participated in the 2017 Inter-University Games at Ndejje University.
Nabusindo graduated in April this year and got a job with Just In Time, a local engineering consultancy firm, doing work in Mayuge, eastern Uganda. The job has kept her away from the badminton action that is essentially centered in Kampala. However, she plans to mobilize a team to train people in Jinja as a way of helping others and also keep herself relevant to the sport she loves wholeheartedly. She reckons that choosing between her job and badminton is a dilemma that she may have to deal with for life because whereas she loves badminton, it cannot guarantee her a livelihood.
“You can put in so much in the sport, yet gain very little or nothing from it materially,” says Nabusindo. “For example, you can invest about Shs 8 million in an international badminton meeting, but if you don’t finish at the top, you return empty handed.” This is the reason she is determined to eat her cake and also have it – by practicing her career as a civil engineer and badminton skills at the same time, notwithstanding the odds.