Takatso Mkhwanazi graduated in Public Relations from Damelin College in 2015 and never dreamt that she would end up part of the Central Gauteng Lions Cricket Board a year later. Two years down the line, she holds the title of Girls and Women’s Cricket Administrator.

Mkhwanazi admits that she is not coping with being out of her office environment at the iconic Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg as the global Coronavirus has forced the world to remain behind closed doors.

However, she is using this time to plan for when some sort of normality resumes, and she is able to get back to ensuring that women’s cricket continues to grow in central Gauteng.

Mkwanazi plays a vital role in ensuring that cricket develops from primary school level and that young girls have the opportunity afforded to them from a young age.

It has not been an easy task, though, as Mkwanazi points out that at some schools, principals are still under the illusion that cricket is for boys and will not establish a team for girls.

Mkhwanazi is determined to change the mindset of the public and often goes out to build relationships and unearth future Proteas Women players.

Speaking with gsport member, Selina Munsamy, Mkhwanazi talks about her role in promoting women’s cricket, how she overcame challenges, and where she sees herself and women’s sport in five years.

Takatso, what does your job entail, you make it look so easy?

 As a cricket administrator my job is about ensuring girls and women play cricket in Central Gauteng. I draft fixtures for primary schools, high schools, and clubs affiliated with CGL. Ensure that the various CGL leagues run smoothly. Plan trials, training sessions and arrange warm up games for our various age group teams (U13, U16 & U19) that participate in the CSA Regional and National Weeks at the end of the year. Host a regional week if nominated by Schools SA.

Ordering of clothing, liaising with umpires and scorers for club fixtures, sitting in club council and schools’ association meetings to be the voice of female cricket in the union, doing logistics for hosting and traveling for senior provincial women’s team.

Doing budgets and trying to figure out how we can stretch the Rand to run more programmes for girls’ cricket. With the help of our marketing manager, we work on proposals to request sponsorships from various people/companies. Liaising with hub coaches and assistant coaches to ensure I have the correct data in terms of the number of girls we have in the system that come from townships. Hosting cricket festivals, etc. Because I am part of a team, I also assist where necessary in other Cricket Service departments, be that boys’ cricket, mini cricket, male club cricket, etc.

How have you been coping with lockdown and how has it impacted on your career and lifestyle?

I have not been coping! I miss the office environment and the people there. I miss taking a walk around the Imperial Wanderers Stadium and taking all that beauty in! I must say, I work at one of the best stadiums in the world!

I have been working from home since the lockdown and it requires a lot of discipline. I find myself sending emails at 20h00! It’s very difficult to “switch off”. One positive though is that this pandemic is forcing us to be innovative! I love the Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings! Less time spent on the road traveling to a meeting ?

“With the pandemic, it’s very difficult because we are putting plans in place, however we are very uncertain of timeframes.” – Central Gauteng Lions Cricket Administrator, Takatso Mkhwanazi

Around this time of the year is off season which is the planning phase for us. We work on timeframes of when leagues will start, when trials will take place, warm up games, etc, with the pandemic, it’s very difficult because we are putting plans in place, however we are very uncertain of timeframes. Obviously, government’s core focus is saving the academic year, which sort of paints a picture that sports might not necessarily be a priority and understandably so… uncertain times.

With regards to lifestyle, lockdown has sort of forced me to settle down. Prior to the lockdown, I was busy traveling with the team, knocking off at 19h00, pushing deadlines, stuck in traffic, getting home to housework and homework and now for the first time in a while, I get to sit with myself by myself in silence and take it all in! I have gone back to journaling, reading and watching my favourite series. I also have time for my friends and family now (videocalls).

What challenges have you faced and how have you managed to overcome them?

I think women sports in general struggles with financial backing. CGL puts in a lot of money in the women’s space on top of the incentive we receive from CSA, however it’s never enough! I find myself having to sacrifice one need over the other. I wish we could get more sponsors in this space however I am aware of the economical climate at the moment.

Two “petty” challenges that I battle with is 1, being the only woman in a meeting and the phrase “gentlemen” is constantly used. Then 2, female batters being referred to as batsman. I am hoping that this changes soon!

Who is your most loved female sports star and why?

Portia Modise. I feel like she is not celebrated enough! In October 2014 she became the first African player to reach the elusive 100-goal barrier in international football, when she scored her 99th and 100th goal in South Africa’s 5–1 victory against Algeria at the CAF African Women’s Championship.

She is very vocal about the inequalities in the sports industry, which is something I personally hold dear to my heart. In March 2005, Ria Ledwaba – head of the women’s committee at the South African Football Association (SAFA) – announced plans to send players to etiquette workshops and supply tighter kit to increase their femininity. As captain of the national team Portia publicly rejected the proposals and made an outspoken attack on the committee, “We need sponsors but all the committee does is raise less important issues because they have failed to transform the sport.”

What has been your most memorable moment as women’s cricket administrator over the years?

It’s only my second year in this position and my most memorable moment has to be planning, implementing and seeing through the Women’s Club T20 Competition.

Doing something for the very first time and seeing it succeed is a feeling I cannot put into words. When doing something you have not done before, there is a lot of uncertainty and doubt from within and proving to yourself that you are capable is just beautiful! This experience made me realise that nothing is impossible if I put my mind to it!

How has the structures for girl’s cricket evolved over the years?

There has been immense growth over the years. From no girl’s cricket at all, to a few girls like your Yolani Fourie and Raisibe Ntozakhe’s of this world playing in boys teams, to being able to field an entire girls team and have them reach the semi-finals of the Women’s T20 World Cup in 2020. I think we have come a long way in growing girl’s cricket, and I am privileged to be part of the people that will continue to contribute in my own little way.

“The 2021 U19 Girls World Cup is one of the things I am looking forward to. To see the SA U19 Girls team being coached by a female is heart-warming! We need more women in these spaces!” – Mkhwanazi speaks on the 2021 U19 Girls World Cup

If life goes back to normal anytime soon, the 2021 U19 Girls World Cup is one of the things I am looking forward to. To see the SA U19 Girls team being coached by a female is heart-warming! We need more women in these spaces!

What challenges do girls in cricket face and what can be done to keep the girls within the pipeline?

Cricket is an expensive sport in comparison to other sporting codes therefore for a girl from a disadvantaged background for instance, it becomes easier to choose netball over cricket. That makes my retention strategy a bit of a difficult one however CSA has helped a lot in the establishment of hubs and RPCs in this regard ensuring that girls from townships get the resources they need to play the sport.

The only way any sports can grow is to ensure there is a strong pipeline which feeds into the broader structure. Girl’s cricket is no different. In order for the sports to grow, we need the buy in from our schools. Unfortunately, you still find principals of primary schools that firmly believe that cricket is a boy sport therefore they will not establish girl’s cricket teams.

There is a gap between soft ball cricket (KFC Mini Cricket) and hard ball cricket in primary schools. We have hundreds of girls playing soft ball cricket however we lose them to other sporting codes because there aren’t structures in place in most primary schools that help them transition from soft ball to hard ball cricket.

Being a mum, how do you manage to balance it all?

I don’t! I look at single mothers and wonder how they manage?! I have my partner to thank to be quite honest. He literally does everything for our child when I am working. I sometimes get home when he (kid) is already asleep and it kills me, but I reassure myself that one day, it will be all worth it. It also helps that they’re both cricket lovers so whenever we have home fixtures, they’re always in the stands! I think the senior provincial team can agree that my son is 13th man when we play home, LOL!

Where do you see yourself and women’s sport in five years?

First answer that came to my mind was to be part of the national setup but then I thought deeper about this. There is currently only one female Cricket Services Manager in the whole of South Africa (Sanelisiwe Kuzwayo- Border Cricket). I see myself occupying this seat also. Might not necessarily happen in the next five years but it’s definitely on my vision board.

My vision for women’s sport in the next five years and beyond is to see sold out stadiums. Stadiums filled to capacity in support of women sports, regardless of the sporting code. Sponsors fighting for naming rights of teams. Equal pay and treatment as their male counterparts.

How important is mental health in sport?

Mental health in general is important. I am an advocate of mental health awareness. Being diagnosed with depression and anxiety myself, I am very vocal about this, especially with my players. I always encourage them to speak up when they feel like they’re overwhelmed. The problem with mental health issues is that they’re so stigmatised that people do not seek help. There is also this misconception in society that we should always be strong, but I always tell my players that its okay not to be okay! The trick to is not be swallowed up by the darkness. Go through the emotions but know when to let go of the negatives…

With that said, I think we need to introduce psychologists into our provincial structures or equip the technical/administrative staff with the necessary knowledge.

I would like to urge all the ladies across different sporting codes to try keep positive during these trying times that we are facing! The thing about the lockdown is that it forces us to be with ourselves and our thoughts. Ensure that you fill your headspace with positivity!

Name one quote that inspires you…

“We should be teaching young girls to take up space. Nothing is as important as taking up space in society and cementing yourself,”- Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi.

 

 

Photo 1 Caption: Takatso Mkhwanazi graduated in Public Relations from Damelin College in 2015 and never dreamt that she would end up part of the Central Gauteng Lions Cricket Board a year later. Two years down the line, she holds the title of Girls and Women’s Cricket Administrator. Photo: Supplied

Photo 2 Caption: Mkhwanazi admits that she is not coping with being out of her office environment at the iconic Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg as the global Coronavirus has forced the world to remain behind closed doors. Photo: Supplied