Global Hockey Co-Ordinator for Big G Sports Global, Simone Upman, is working to support and empower individuals through sport on a global scale. Her passion for coaching has led her to run an academy in Port Elizabeth called Talon Sports Academy where she coaches players from as young as three-years-old.
Upman launched the academy to make an impact as she believes in the power of sport to bring people together and change lives beyond the field of play.
She wants to create opportunities and is focused on developing each and every child to reach their destiny.
The social entrepreneur also hopes the academy fills a gap in the upbringing of the youth in the sense that the generic schooling system is not suited for everyone.
Speaking with Koketso Kgogome, Upman shares her trials, tribulations and triumphs she has endured to get to this point in her career.
Simone, thank you for taking the time to tell your story. Please explain to those who don’t know what your contribution to sport is.
I run an academy in Port Elizabeth, Talon Sports Academy where we coach players ages 3 and up. I also coach a high school and a club side. I am the Global Hockey Co-Ordinator for Big G Sports Global which is an NPO that is working to support and empower individuals through sport on a global scale.
What made you start your academy?
Sport has always been a massive part of my life. I believe in the power of sport to bring people together and impact lives more than just on the field. I believe it is more than just a game. I want to touch, and impact people’s lives and I believe my calling is to do that through sport and so this is where the idea for my academy stemmed from.
“This is my approach to coaching, to use strength when needed as well as to care enough, to support, to mold and teach each and every child how to fly in their own unique way.” – Talon Sports Academy Founder, Simone Upman
Talon Sports Academy is called that because of the eagle. Their talons are strong enough to kill their prey yet can be gentle enough to carry their young in and catch them in when they are learning to fly. This is my approach to coaching, to use strength when needed as well as to care enough, to support, to mold and teach each and every child how to fly in their own unique way.
What are you planning to achieve with your academy?
Through my academy I don’t only want to help players achieve at the highest level. I also want to create opportunities for those that don’t have. I have a passion for working at a grassroots level to empower those people whether it be as players, coaches, managers or anything else in the sporting industry.
I believe that not only where there is a will there is a way but also where there is passion there is already success, it just needs to be discovered and realized. My long-term plan is to open a sports school where kids that want to go into the sports industry can get specialized education into those fields from a younger age. They would spend more time focusing on sport than they would in a classroom, however they would still get their matric qualifications as well. This would be aimed at kids wanting to play professional sport but also kids that want to become coaches and managers, etc…
How important is this academy to your community and South Africa?
I feel that the purpose and vision for my academy is something that South Africa doesn’t have and desperately needs. I think it fills a gap in the upbringing of our youth in the sense that the generic schooling system is not suited for everyone and that is okay. So, to create opportunities for the kids that aren’t suited for the generic style of education is our long-term goal.
What are the challenges that come with running an academy like yours?
The biggest challenge is support whether that be financial or equipment-based support. Academies struggle to survive because of the costs involved with staying afloat. This is where Big G Sports is trying to help out as much as they can and that is why I am so passionate about being a part of what they are doing.
What was it about sports that fascinated you and ultimately persuaded you to get involved and give back?
“Throughout my school career, academics was never my strong point, but sport was what I was good at and what I loved.” – Upman shares details about her love for sport.
Sport as always been the thing I turned to. Throughout my school career, academics was never my strong point, but sport was what I was good at and what I loved. I think it’s the adrenaline and rush I get from the competition as well as the release it gives me when other areas of life are just not working out. Sport is like another world I can escape to. The thing now that fascinates me the most is how sport is more than just a game on the field. It can literally mold a child and teach them the fundamentals of life.
You are a huge supporter of gsport4girls – when was the first time you heard about the initiative, and what did you think about the idea of it being an all-women’s sport platform?
I heard about gsport4girls through social media. I came across the Instagram page and me being a massive supporter of women’s rights and equality, I was intrigued to see what it was all about. There are so many sports platforms dominated by men in sport so the fact that gsport4girls is dedicated to just women is a fantastic initiative.
What difference do you think gsport4girls has made in elevating women’s sport in the country?
gsport4girls has made such a difference in the sense that they are highlighting the advances women are making in sport showing that we can be just as successful as the men can be. It is sad that such a platform is needed in our country, however it is so important that this issue is raised and spoken about. They offer a platform for women to show what they can do, and this ultimately offers hope…and with hope who knows what can be achieved.
What stands out as a highlight moment of your career to date?
My career has only just started so there is not a specific event that is a highlight for me. Right now, the highlight of my career occurs every single day when I get to a session with my kids and see how they have improved and pick up on things they couldn’t do a month ago. Big things are yet to come and I’m sure they will, but I am not focused on them. I am focused on developing each and every child to reach whatever destiny lies in front of them.
If there is one piece of advice that you would share to a young woman who is aiming to make a credible name for herself in sports, what would it be?
Stay true to who you are and remember why you started. Many people lose sight of themselves when they start to achieve and are put in the limelight, so stay humble and remember who you are! Your success will mean nothing to anyone unless you impact others’ lives and help them to succeed as well.
Who are three women in sport that inspire you and why?
Claire Terblanche – Claire used to be my cricket coach, and this is where I saw the person she is. She has such passion and integrity and taught me more than just how to hit or bowl a ball. She inspired a lot of the person I am today.
Jeanette Makkie – Jeanette was my hockey coach for most of my high school career. She became so much more than a coach, though. She taught me about integrity and my living by my truth. She showed me the importance of living with dignity and made me realize that no matter how lost you might be, you have the strength to find your way back home.
Pietie Coetzee – Pietie is more of a hockey idol in the sense that I look up to the type of player she was. I had the privilege of meeting her a few times and one of the things she taught me, which is something I now teach my players, is to have something special. Something that sets you apart as a player and now I adjust that and always try to have something that sets me apart as a person. Another thing Pietie reminded me of is that no matter how good or famous you become you are still just a person. I remember meeting her for the first time as a young girl and being beside myself because of it and she came across to me as so normal whereas I looked at her as if she was royalty and later in life I realized that that is just it, we are all just normal people and even though someone out there is looking up to you that doesn’t make you any better than anyone else, so stay grounded.
Where can our audience connect with you online and where can they find more information about your academy?
Personal: Facebook – Simone Upman / Instagram – simone11up / Twitter – @upman_simone / email – email@example.com
Academy: Facebook – Talon Sports Academy / Instagram – talonSA / Email – [email protected]
Photo Caption 1: Social Entrepreneur, Simone Upman, uses her passion for coaching to create more opportunities for children in the country with her sports academy. Photo: Supplied
Photo Caption 2: Talon Sports Academy coaches work with young children from three years old. Photo: Supplied
Photo Caption 3: Simone Upman’s long term plan is to open a sports school where kids that want to go into the sports industry can get specialized education into those fields from a younger age. Photo: Supplied