Sharne Mary Mayers, a young lady that hails from Gweru in Zimbabwe, aims to empower the younger generation, that no matter how skilled, talented or gifted you are, you must always remain a good person. Be a meaningful influencer of tomorrow. Education is and will always be just as important as sport. She wants the students she teaches and interact with, to be best they can be at everything they set out do in life. Always remember that nothing is impossible.
Mayers has had the privilege of representing Zimbabwe in both cricket and hockey at women’s level. It was very difficult to manage training commitments for both sports as well as to study which took a strain on her mentally, physically and financially, but she has completed her Diploma in Education with ease from the Gweru Training Centre in Zimbabwe. She took the opportunity to umpire at the Africa Cup for Club Champions in 2015 & at that tournament, she realised she enjoyed umpiring more than playing and it was a way to be involved in a sport that she loves at the highest level and still play cricket and have the flexibility to give back anywhere in the world she may be. A highlight for Mayers and a solidifying moment in her love for umpiring, was obtaining her FIH International Umpire grade in 2016 and knowing that one day she could umpire matches between the best teams in the world with hard work.
Sharne chats to Selina Munsamy about her journey as a female in sport.
Hello and thank you Sharne for taking time out to chat me. What made you decide to relocate to SA and why? How does it feel to play at CGL and how did you get into the team?
Thank you Selina for allowing me the platform to tell my story as a female in sport. I moved to South Africa to play more cricket and keep challenging myself as I had just come off a great tournament at the Africa Women’s T20 Qualifier. I was also frustrated that there was so little cricket for women following Zimbabwe Cricket’s suspension. Coming to South Africa was a change of environment and an opportunity to stay fit and ready for the next opportunity to play international cricket.
Playing for CGL was actually me taking a chance. I had emailed the CGL office hoping to get in touch with anyone that would point me in the right direction of the women’s coach. I got a response the next day and was put in touch with Shaun Pretorius who gave me the opportunity to train with the women’s team once I arrived in the country. I trained with the team for a few months and once I was eligible for selection at the beginning of 2020, I had to perform well at club level which I did and then played my first T20 match for CGL against Western Province which was an absolute privilege and something I will never forget. It is a privilege to represent CGL and they really are leading the way when it comes to empowering the women’s cricketers.
You are currently an Ambassador for Africa Sports Consultancy, tells us a bit about that and what makes it so special to you
AFC empowers athletes to take control of their careers and how sport can set them up for life. The company provides assistance in career planning, mindset development and goal setting, financial planning, mentorship just to name a few of the services they provide. It resonated with me because I know what it feels like to believe you do not have control of your career and that you should be grateful for the ‘scraps’ given to you. I never want another athlete to not know their worth and be taken advantage of because they may not know better at that time. AFC is already doing great work and I want to do my part and help as many athletes as possible.
Your most memorable moment as National Player for Zimbabwe?
My most memorable moment as a national cricket player funny enough did not happen on the field. I was invited to be guest of honour at my former primary school’s Colts (U10) cricket tournament. There were a few girls playing in the tournament which I was happy to see. One of the girls came to me and she knew who I was before I was introduced and knew some information about me. This confident cricketer introduced herself and clearly loved the game and had so many questions which I gladly answered because I was once that girl. During the conversation, she said she cannot wait to play with me for the national team and it was at that moment that even when I think no one really pays attention to women’s cricket in the country, that I am a role model and people do care. I felt extremely privileged to be a national player and knew that I have a responsibility to keep working hard so the journey is much easier for the next generation of cricketers.
As a national hockey player, it was getting my national pin and being told the story of the pin. It was part of the batch that was given to the 1980 Zimbabwe women’s national team that played in the Moscow Olympics where they won the gold medal. It was made even better getting it before making my debut in front of a home crowd.
What makes Sharne uniquely you and how do lift yourself up when things get tough?
I am relentless when it comes to going after I have set my mind on a goal. I become even more focused if I am told it is beyond my reach and will work even harder to achieve it.
When things are tough, I will take time to reflect and work out a way to keep moving forward. There is no time to feel sorry for myself and if anything this pandemic has taught me, is time is of the essence.
How has the structures for girls cricket & hockey evolved over the years ?
Structures in both cricket and hockey for girls have definitely improved with more opportunities for the girls to progress and play at a representative level. Both sports are seen as elitist as they are expensive but it is very encouraging seeing national associations expose the sports to underprivileged communities and empowering players in those communities to not only play but explore other avenues like coaching, managing, umpiring, etc. The investment has definitely improved than when I was younger but it is still very slow. the advantages of girls and women open a new market where there are more players and more spectators watching and supporting their teams.
What challenges does girls in sport face and what can be done to keep the girls within the pipeline?
I believe societal expectations, the financial strain on families, and the lack of investment in the pathway are the biggest issues in girls staying in the pipeline. Many national associations invest a big chunk to the elite level performers and this may bring immediate results but it does affect the player pool as players get discouraged because they do not see themselves as good enough to play at that level. Most of the players in the pipeline will not play at the highest level but it is extremely imperative that a career can be made in sport even if one does not play at the highest level. Parents are more likely to encourage their daughters to play if these opportunities are available from when the child is starting out.
How hard was it for you grow in women’s sport in Zimbabwe?
I think i was in a privileged position compared to many of my teammates and athletes in the country. I had a lot of support from my coaches at school level and they pushed me out of my comfort zone to be better as I had to go above and beyond to earn my place in the boys teams especially in high school. I went to good schools at both primary and high school and was exposed to good coaching from a young age, given I was playing with the boys as there was no girls cricket programme in schools at the time.
This fundamental coaching from a young age got me a call up to the national team at 14 years old and grow as a cricketer during my teen years. Unfortunately, not many people have that opportunity and I know I would not have developed as athlete had I not go this coaching at school as the girls and women’s set up was not well established in cricket in the country. It was a lonely journey in cricket as no other women had gone before me and my first tour in 2006 was the first Zimbabwean Women’s Cricket team to play an international match.
Hockey started for me as compulsory sport I had to do at school and it is a similar story with cricket except there were quite a few players that had played in All-Africa games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games to aspire to as well as provide coaching at various levels and play at club level with. The economy in Zimbabwe made it difficult and my parents sacrificed a lot to allow me to play at the highest level as they had to pay for me to go on tour and represent my country. It was not easy but it set me up to know that achieving your goals takes sacrifice and hard work. You have to persevere through the hard times
Where do you see yourself and women’s sport in five years?
In 5 years I still see myself playing at the highest level and being involved in sport. I want to get more involved in the administration of sport and give back and make it easier for girls and women to get involved at all levels and stay in sport for a lot longer. I am still exploring my options for the exact route I want to take but sport is dynamic and there are more options now than there were 10 years ago.
What advice would you give to young girls in sport out there?
Be yourself and do not allow anyone to put limits on what you know and believe is possible. There will be people who will want to see you fail and you will make mistakes but it is not the end of the world. Find a way forward, don’t be afraid to ask for help and always keep learning.