Sipokazi Sokanyile is obsessed with cricket. She describes it as the greatest love of her life. This passionate young woman has made great strides since joining Cricket South Africa (CSA) as an intern in 2009.
Sipokazi was instrumental in setting up CSA’s social media platforms, which has been key in cementing solid relationships with cricket fans around the world. Along with her online media responsibilities, she is also the Cricket Development media officer for CSA.
She works tirelessly to ensure that CSA’s cricket development programmes gain as much exposure as possible, and is particularly passionate about promoting women’s cricket, a job that includes travelling with the national team to the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September.
Before that, she will travel with the South African Under-19 men’s cricket team to the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in Australia.
As she prepares to jet off on her exciting cricket travels, we spoke to Sipokazi, whose greatest ambition is to become the face of cricket in South Africa.
Sipokazi, you are off on your first international tour with Cricket South Africa. Tell us more about it? What will your role be on tour?
The SA U19s are travelling to Australia on 4 August to compete in the ICC U19 World Cup. I’ll be travelling with the squad as their media liaison officer. It’s been a long and tough road for the players and we’re all looking forward to watching these young men represent their country in U19 cricket’s biggest stage.
You have been at CSA since May 2009; describe your journey since then?
It’s been three years but it feels like even longer. So much has happened in such a short space of time. The journey has taken a lot of learning and growing up. I started out as an intern, moved on to taking care of CSA’s online platforms while I dabbled in a bit of writing and finally landed the Media Officer role in May of 2011.
I have learned a lot about myself and human relationships. It has also been an amazing learning experience. Being responsible for the communication of the company with its most important stakeholder – the fans – has opened up my eyes on the importance of transparency and constant communication.
What made you apply to join CSA?
I’m positively OBSESSED with cricket! It’s the greatest love of my life so far and I have always been curious about what goes on behind the scenes. I was watching the Proteas’ tour to Australia in 2009, and told my mother about how I would love to work for CSA and learn how it is that they bring cricket matches to the fans.
She encouraged me to send an email to the Brand and Corporate Relations manager at the time, Kass Naidoo, who, along with the CEO at the time, Gerald Majola allowed me to live my dream.
What has been your biggest highlight?
My biggest highlight was hearing the news that I will no longer be an intern but a permanent member of staff. When you join CSA, you join a new family and it was an honour to be told that I would be a lasting part of that unit.
I believe it is a key role because development is one of the most vital areas that CSA looks after, therefore, it’s really important that information gets out there. My role includes liaising with the media and ensuring that as much information reaches the public as possible because they are the players’ parents, friends and families.
Tell us about your involvement in women’s cricket and what you are doing to raise the profile of the women’s game.
I am the media officer for women’s cricket and the national women’s squad. Much like I do in the cricket development space, I liaise with the media and try to get the ladies out there through the various media channels. We’ve had the most success with women’s magazines in the past few months, but because of the upcoming ICC Women’s World T20 tournament, mainstream media is beginning to take notice.
You also travel with the women’s team to the ICC Women’s World T20 in September. You must be really excited?
I really am! I’m very close to the team, they are a group of wonderful people and even better players. I can’t wait to gain the experience that comes with working on an international tournament and the chance to see a new country, I have heard some really good things about Sri Lanka.
You have also been instrumental in the development of CSA’s online platforms. What has been the key behind CSA’s success in this regard?
The key is having an open, honest and constant line of communication between yourself and your most important stakeholders, in our case, cricket fans. Since starting CSA’s Facebook & Twitter pages, we have a better understanding of our customers and we don’t need to go far to know what the opinion of our fans is.
The most important thing we have done is to make ourselves available for fans to be heard during the good times and the bad and it’s made our relationship with our fans easier. When people feel like they are being heard, they feel wanted and valued.
Where does your love for cricket come from?
My family loves all sport in general but cricket is one of the favourites in our household so it was easy to get to like it because it was always on the television. My younger brother played club cricket when he was younger and we all attended as many games as possible to support him and his team.
Cricket is one of the biggest things my mother and I bond about, she is the reason I even have my job because she is constantly cheering me on and encouraged me to send an email enquiring about any internships that CSA might have had available in that point in time. Even now, she is still my biggest fan.
What is your advice to young women who are chasing their dreams?
There is nothing that a man can do that a woman who puts her mind to cannot do equally, if not better 🙂 The key is always believing you can do whatever you want to do and not to be afraid of hard work. The difference between you and the next person is how much more knowledge about your chosen career you have soaked up, because knowledge is power.
What is your greatest ambition?
My greatest ambition is to become the face of cricket. When people think of cricket in South Africa, I want my name to be synonymous with it.