Proteas stars Temba Bavuma and Marcia Letsoalo reveal the inspiration behind their love for cricket.
The KFC Mini Cricket National Seminar, a week-long camp hosted by CSA and held in the Kruger National Park last week, was dedicated to the coaches. Over 300 coaches from all parts of the country attended the event, as they enjoyed some time off from their everyday lives, while also taking the opportunity to reflect on the hard work they’ve put into the country’s biggest grassroots development programme.
There are no less than 8 774 coaches across 5 584 schools that voluntarily put in the time and effort to give kids the chance to take part in the programme, showing them the basics of the sport and giving them the opportunity to be part of an active community. There’s also a chance for these kids to find their vocation in the sport, as various provincial performance hubs identify those who have the talent to take their game to the next level.
SACricketmag.com visited the camp, and the presence of Proteas batsman Temba Bavuma and Proteas Women bowler Marcia Letsoalo allowed a more acute understanding of just how important the coaches are to this programme.
Lestsoalo, born in Dale Steyn’s hometown Phalaborwa, has over 100 international caps to her name and was part of the World T20 squad earlier in the year, before being rewarded with another central contract a couple of weeks ago for the year ahead. She was on the verge of tears when she was handed the mic during the seminar to discuss the role the programme had played in her life.
She asked a couple of coaches to stand up in front of everyone, and the rest of the coaches proceeded to give them a round of applause. ‘Without these two gentlemen I don’t know where I would be. They helped me through my struggles, gave me the confidence when I didn’t have any. I just loved cricket, and they believed me. I don’t know where I would be without this sport. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
‘You guys are playing a huge role in our lives and I think you are doing a superb job – you are changing lives and I have been a part of it,’ she continued. ‘This programme means a lot because each and everyone here has put in the time to study to coach and it’s a tough job to do. You were the ones who discovered the talents of the current Proteas, so you must keep doing what you’re doing.’
Bavuma, born and raised in Langa, said it all started at Newlands, where he was given the chance to take part in the Mini Cricket programmes from a young age. It’s fitting, then, that his finest moment in his fledgling career so far happened at the iconic Cape Town ground, where he became the first black batsman to score a Test century for the Proteas.
‘Just looking back at it now from the position I’m in now, it was more than just taking kids off the street and getting them to play cricket. It was a social upliftment; nurturing young kids, integrating them into the community, getting everyone together and building the nation. The whole programme has been beneficial to thousands,’ he expressed to the coaches at the seminar.
‘I celebrated in the way I did (when he got his maiden century) because it was just a culmination of emotions from everything that had been built up to that stage. The satisfaction of seeing your parents look delighted at your achievement and the fact that it was at Newlands where I learned cricket, where the seed was actually planted, was special.
‘It wasn’t just the males, it was the mothers too. They instilled discipline in us and made sure we were neat and tucked in our shirt and listened when we were being spoken to. The benefits of all this have been immense, and I believe I am the individual I am now because I benefited from this from a young age. So the coaches must understand that what they are doing is beneficial.’
The programme continues to grow at a rapid rate and their ever-increasing focus on excellence means we should expect to see many more Marcia Letsoalos and Temba Bavumas in the not-too-distant future.
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images