Growing up, it never crossed Leah Ndererimana’s mind that she would one day carve a niche in sports professionally and make a living out of it.
As she narrates, her main focus was on singing and dancing, something she spent much of her time on during her childhood.
However, this turned around after joining secondary school. She says that the school she went to was awash in sports clubs and encouraged students to belong to at least one. That is where, she recalls, the interest for sports began for Ndererimana.
“I liked different clubs but I ended up channeling my efforts in football and basketball clubs. Not long after, I started playing in interschool competitions and this is where I started growing my basketball career,” she says.
Leah Ndererimana is a referee in the national basketball league since 2017. Net photo.
At university, Ndererimana carried on with basketball and featured in several inter-campus tournaments.
Though parents had wished her to do medicine, the 26-year-old says she pursued what she loved most, which was physical education and sports.
At the moment, she is a fitness coach/ personal trainer, basketball referee, and founding CEO of Flendus Fitness Company in Kigali.
Her journey in sports career
For the four years she was at university, Ndererimana loved every single moment in sports. According to her, everyone around could see how passionate she was and a few were even able to draw inspiration from her.
In 2017, she took her role a notch higher and embarked on a journey to be a basketball referee.
“I would say that from this, I got so fond of fitness to the extent I started to go beyond modules and do my own research and study. I couldn’t see myself having another job other than fitness-related,” she says.
To gain more experience in sports, while in her final year at university, she started volunteering as well as working as a freelancer fitness coach at Power Football academy and Aerobics instructor at Kagarama High School.
After her graduation in 2019, she started working as a Gym instructor at the Manor Hotel.
“It was my dream to work in the gym, this motivated me a lot and it pushed me to work hard and learn more about fitness gyms and personal training,” she adds.
Through knowledge and the experience gained from working as a fitness instructor, she decided to start her own fitness gym ‘Flendus’, which stands for flexibility, endurance, and strength.
“I just wanted to have my own gym but by then, I was not financially stable so I started it as an online-based business for sportswear and fitness instructions.
During the Covid-19 lockdown period, she used all her savings from her contractual job, side hustles and basketball refereeing wages to strengthen her business.
Biggest challenge? Ndererimana says it is still hard to navigate the misconception that fitness coaching is a man’s job.
“Women can do just as fine in this field.”