Nokuthula Collis, Making a Difference through Thornbill Netball Academy

The prospect of starting a club, under any sporting code, could be extremely intimidating. However, that was not a deterrent for sport enthusiast Nokuthula Collis. Lonwabo Nkohla explores how this young, black leader is changing lives of young girls. Photo: Supplied

A world renowned female CEO Sheryl Sandberg once said, “Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that and I’ll learn by doing it.'” That is exactly what Club founder, Nokuthula Collis has done. 

The prospect of starting a club, under any sporting code, could be a very daunting and intimidating task. However, none of those factors were a deterrent for sport enthusiast Collis. In May 2022, she founded a Netball Club, called Thornbill Netball Club based in Centurion, Pretoria. 

“Development”, yes that buzz word we often hear in South African sport. “Small” clubs in communities form an integral part as we consistently battle with how we can help develop future stars to fly the Mzansi flag and shine for the sport mad nation. It doesn’t start or end with government or federations but we need leaders and visionaries like Nokuthula, who ensure that young girls have a safe space where they can learn to dream but also form part of a sisterhood, an essential part of a young girls life. 

“My inspiration was the vision of making a difference in my community. I asked myself what is it that I love, I can do without any constraints? Netball came top of mind, it’s a team sport, what better way to get young girls together, off the streets, off their gadgets, keep fit and healthy, emotionally and physically, a place where they can build a sisterhood, feel safe to express themselves, while doing what they love.”

According to Collis, some challenges they face include finding people that can share their vision as a club and have the same level of commitment and dedication. She does however encourage those who feel the urge and desire to make this kind of a difference in their community. 

Her advice if you are contemplating this move: “Just Start!” 

Please briefly give us your background in sports? 

I am a sports enthusiast, I love the outdoors. I cycle, I am a marathon runner, hike, however, lately netball coaching has taken most of my time. I have been spending a lot of time on the netball court. 

I played netball from primary school to date. I earned my school colours and provincial colours through netball.

What inspired you to start a Netball club? 

My inspiration was the vision of making a difference in my community. I asked myself what is it that I love, I can do without any constraints? Netball came top of mind, it’s a team sport, what better way to get young girls together, off the streets, off their gadgets, keep fit and healthy, emotionally and physically, a place where they can build a sisterhood, feel safe to express themselves, while doing what they love.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in your journey as a club owner? 

We have grown tremendously as a club. I say we, because I have a partner in this, I share this vision with Pugiso Ntsele, fondly known as Coach P. We struggle in finding young assistant coaches who are as committed as us. The only way to manage our growth is to empower and impart knowledge to the upcoming coaches, however it’s been difficult for the few we have met to commit and buy into our vision. We have not given up, we soldier on and eventually we will get it right.

Being surrounded by young passionate people comes with its fair share of challenges but what are some of the rewarding moments you’ve experienced?

To experience a player coming out of their shell, brimming with confidence and being sure of themselves is a marvel to see. The relationships we have built with these young ladies are heart-warming. They consider us as their mothers before coaches, it’s the sweetest reward. Lately we learnt we have been mentioned in rooms that we are not present in, school’s recommending us as a netball club of choice. Our parents continuously thanking us for the work we do and the difference we have made in their girls lives, priceless! 

You have extensive experience in the world of sport, what lessons have you taken from that as you started and aim to grow your club? 

In running a netball club you have to be organised. Planning ahead is imperative. You have to be prepared  at all times . Tardiness is not a good look ! Discipline is super important. Once all the basics are in order you are bound to run a successful netball club , where you will have buy in from your community ! 

What are some of the highlights of Thornbill Netball Club? 

South Africa hosted the Netball World Cup in July to August 2023. As Thornbill Netball Club we were fortunate enough to attend the event to support our Spar Proteas and fly our Thornbill flag high. 

One of our players was chosen via Gauteng Sports department and Tshwane Netball to go watch the final game, this was a possibility because she is a member of Thornbill Netball Club who is affiliated to Tshwane Netball. 

All leaders have other women they are inspired by and aspire to be like, who are those women for you?

Mine is simple and close to home, My mother Nomsombuluko Sibaya and my Sister Mbali Mbiza, they are the epitome of smart work and success. Being around them inspires me in many ways. I feel whole and ready to conquer the world once I’ve spent time with them and surrounded by their positive energy.

Lastly my partner Pugiso Ntsele, we both inspire each other. We have become a force to be reckoned with. We are a marvel to watch, even if I say so myself. 

What are some of the valuable you’ve learned from them? 

Be yourself, the best version you can be! Allow for that to change from time to time. It’s ok! Be honest and stick to your cause. Do not be swayed by external forces.

Starting can be very intimidating, what advice would you give someone who’s contemplating starting a team too. 

I would say START! Start with what you have, start where you are, there is no perfect start, just start! 

What is your biggest dream for yourself and your club? 

Our vision is to have Thornbill Netball Club graciously grow into a Thornbill Sports Academy, where we offer various sporting codes outside of Netball. What a time to be alive!


Photo Caption: The prospect of starting a club, under any sporting code, could be extremely intimidating. However, that was not a deterrent for sport enthusiast Nokuthula Collis. Lonwabo Nkohla explores how this young, black leader is changing lives of young girls. Photo: Supplied

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