South African women’s sport thrives on producing outstanding athletes who serve as role models to the new generation. From Penny Heyns to Elana Meyer, Desiree Ellis to Caster Semenya, the stories of success warm our hearts and give aspiring sports stars reason to dream big.
Another name that has become synonymous with success in South African women’s sport is Investec SA women’s hockey captain, Marsha Marescia.
Known and respected on hockey fields around the world by her maiden name, she married the love of her life at a dream summer wedding at a Muldersdrift chapel in January this year, after a year-long romance with Dutch premier women’s field hockey coach, Alex Cox, also assistant coach to the London 2012 gold-medal winning Dutch women’s hockey team.
I’m an old fashioned girl
30-year old Amsterdam resident Cox admits that getting used to her married name may take some time, but it is the least of her worries.
“It is still taking some getting used to, but I’m an old fashioned girl and I’m proud to be married to my knight in shining armour,” laughs Cox. “I am sure I will soon get comfortable with my new name.”
The two decided to make a quality decision to delay their honeymoon for a few months until the European summer holidays, to grab quality time at the sea:
— Marsha Marescia Cox (@MarshaM8) July 22, 2013
Along with getting married this year, Cox also reached 300 international Test caps to become the most capped South African athlete. It was a culmination of twelve years of hard work and dedication to her craft.
She may be one of the most illustrious South African athletes in history, but KwaZulu-Natal-born Cox likes to keep it simple.
She credits much of her success with having learned the lesson of knowing how to deal with pressure, and urges youngsters with their eyes on top-flight sport not to throw in the towel too soon.
“The toughest lesson I had to learn is to put pressure into perspective, understanding why we experience it, and knowing how to deal with it.”
This focus allows Cox to enjoy the course that life takes. On learning to manage to balance life as a wife, sportswoman and businesswoman, she says; “I am enjoying the new challenges, and luckily I have a loving supportive family that I can rely on for good guidance and advice.”
If there is something that defines her, it is a strong understanding of where she comes from, and she spares no hesitation in extolling her love of her home country. “South Africa is naturally so beautiful and so diverse and so rich in history and culture, it makes me proud to come from such a special country!”
Cox learned the basics of sport – and the love of the game – from early childhood with her mother in KwaZulu-Natal, whom she credits with much of her achievement, but her more recent success has been seen as part of the well-oiled Southern Gauteng machine.
She made her international debut at the age of 18 in 2001, and has captained South Africa since 2006. Cox has no doubts about her priorities. First and foremost, “I am proudly South African, playing for the SA ladies team,” relates Cox.
She earned her stripes as skipper of a never-say-die SA senior ladies hockey team – a gritty outfit that has a global reputation of upsetting far higher-ranked opposition, but many will regard her transition to life as a professional athlete as a greater achievement.
Making the Pro Move
The multiple All-Stars team member is about to start her second pro season with premier Dutch league side SV Kampong in the Netherlands, which kicks off their season with an official practice on Sunday 18 August.
Commercial success is an elusive result for most SA women’s athletes, so we had to ask Cox what her secret to signing big-names sponsors was, the legendary number eight didn’t hesitate: “The key I believe is to achieve, to work hard and apply yourself professionally.”
At the same time, she acknowledges that being a successful woman is rarely defined by achievements alone, and acknowledges that she takes her game-face where it belongs.
“Being a woman in sport you have to be a warrior on the field, but at the same time keeping your identity off the field. For me … Warrior on the field, lady off the field,” she chuckles.
Cox is one of a few SA women athletes who’ve managed to make the step up to professional sport, and her many achievements have been marked on several occasions, most recently when she was a finalist in the 2012 SA Sports Star of the Year Awards.
Having achieved the eye-watering accomplishment of earning more than 300 caps for the national women’s hockey team, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula bestowed great honours on her following her amazing feat. Cox, as ever, is modest and respectful: “It’s been overwhelming but extremely special.”
None too soon, Cox pays homage to those who have paved the way for her. “There have been – and still are – a few people that inspire me…
“Firstly, Gill Montague, the first non-white player in the ladies team. She was not only a good player, but a role model to me as a young player,” she notes. “Then, my teammates continuously challenge me to be better, and just playing with players and a management team that believes in you is an inspiration.”
Like any athlete that has tasted on-field battle, she has an unmet aspiration. “That Commonwealth Games medal is still on the top of my list,” smiles Cox. But her final word in the interview was a word of encouragement to the women at home, during Women’s Month: “By empowering yourself, you give others courage to empower themselves: Be the trend setter and lead the pack every day!”