My journey from Durban to Monaco for the Laureus World Sports Awards
17 years ago when Tata Nelson Mandela, stood on stage in Monaco and delivered one of the most celebrated speeches in the history of sport during the first Laureus World Sports Awards I was running around playing hide and seek, indigenous games and rugby in Umlazi, a township South of Durban, South Africa.
Growing up in uMlazi, as a girl I had limited opportunities to play sport. Back then I was not aware of the role sport would play in my life. Today, I am proud to say sport has been such an integral part of my development and I genuinely believe in the power of sport to make a difference. Tata Mandela’s words ring true to me, sport truly speaks in a language that I understand and it has transformed my life, given me a sense of belonging and hope.
Even in my wildest dreams I would never have imagined being in Monaco, celebrating the power of sport with some of the greatest sporting legends of all time and the most celebrated athletes of my generation. As I wondered around Monaco, I reflected on my improbable journey from uMlazi to the glamorous streets of Monaco.
My journey to the Laureus World Sport Awards began when PeacePlayers International (PPI), an NGO that creates leaders and peace makers through basketball introduced basketball to my school. I remember the basketball court rising up from the dust with the backdrop of the azure African sky. The black tar, the white and yellow lines being plastered across the court and the hoops rising up. I remember the balls gingerly falling out of the coaches’ bag, the first time my hands caressed the moody groves of the orange ball, I remember that smell of rubber. I was hooked. About a hundred of us stood on the court transfixed on the coaches every single words.
The feeling I got running after those basketballs was the same feeling I got when tackling my brother over the overgrown grass in front of my mothers house. I didn't know it then but sport has provided me with friendships, a platform for inclusion, countless opportunities and has helped me develop life skills and leadership abilities.
Today I am a proud member of Reach Sports, which gave me the opportunity to travel to Monaco to talk to sports stars about the role sport has played in their lives. I doubt my basketball talent landed me this opportunity to cross paths with celebrated sports stars like Tamika Catchings and Usain Bolt.
Reach Sport is about breaking down the biggest barriers, opportunity & access. And that is how it felt for me to be at the Awards. This opportunity was about, amongst other things, placing me in a world that I never imagine possible. It was about inclusion and embracing the role I can play in the world through sport. I am very humbled.
Seeing Simone Biles’ face as she walks through that door with the Laureus in her hand looking proud, and Tegla Loroupe beaming with pride reminded me of the rewarding of the amazing power of sport. I was reminded of my friends from home and how we need to harness talent in townships and hard to reach areas. Simone and Tegla have overcome insurmountable challenges and they are paving a way for girls to dream about a career in sports. I loved seeing the connection that Laureus creates between sporting legends and grassroots sports.
"To be a young person that has benefited from the work of Laureus and to see the connection between grassroots and elite sport is powerful."
We walked long distances to get to school and with my new found love for basketball my mother was concerned about my safety when coming home from playing sport at night. She did not want me to play basketball but I just could not stop. I kept playing and working hard. I was invited to be a coach at PPI. This gave me an opportunity to give back to young people and share skills I had gained. I was one of 11 youth leaders selected to the first Laureus YES programme, aimed at developing youth leadership through sport. Sport has made a world of a difference to me. I want to help other young people like me through sport.
I live in a world where as a woman you constantly have to prove your worth. A society where ones life is already planned out and decided based on gender stereotypes and norms that usually perpetrate patriarchy. This is a world where racism, sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, violence, poverty and unemployment are everyday occurences. Being lost in that type of world is not impossible. I think sport in a small way provides a refuge.
Thanks to Reach Sport for the opportunity, and thanks to sport for giving me that sense of belonging.
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