Sipokazi Sokanyile’s greatest ambition is to one day become the CEO of Cricket South Africa (CSA) and she is well on her way to realising her dream.
The CSA Media Manager has risen up from intern to international media star. Having played a significant role in raising the profile of women’s cricket, she is now the media liaison for the Proteas men’s team.
Growing up in a sports-mad loving family, it seemed like Sokanyile was destined for a career in the sport industry as her passion for cricket was undeniable, but, career wise, becoming a child advocate or a lawyer was probably more appropriate.
She then went on to study towards an LLB in Education, but her heart changed when she moved to Johannesburg and ventured into Public Relations at UJ, which she felt was a space that would allow her to interact a lot more with people and be able to make a different kind of impact.
A turning point in Sokanyile’s life was when she watched a Proteas men’s match in Australia where then skipper, Graeme Smith had broken his hand but continued to bat and fight for a win for the national team.
The determination and drive shown by the team inspired Sokanyile as she longed to be in a space where she would be surrounded by people who shared the same passion as she did, which was to fully support the game of cricket.
As the saying goes, the rest is history. Since joining CSA, Sokanyile has played her part her part in shaping the game from KFC Mini-Cricket all the way up to the Proteas.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Sokanyile opens up about her passion to see women in sport thrive, the impact her mother has had on her career and her women sporting heroes.
Sipokazi, it is always good to talk to you. How are you managing the Covid-19 lockdown?
Hi, gsport! Thank you for having me and for including me in your series. I’ve been managing really well actually, it’s been, it’s been a really good time. I’ve had a lot of time to myself and to be able to rest which was really important after a very busy summer with the men’s team, and my first season with the men’s team. We … It was quite a busy one, so, there…was a lot of up and down a lot of travelling. And while I was used to travelling, I hadn’t been used to travelling with as much work that the men’s team kind of demands. And so it was really good to be able to come home and decompress after a very long season, and also considering the fact that there was still a few tours that we’re going to be coming up after that we were made to go to Sri Lanka this month, which obviously was postponed, so it was really nice to be able to come back and to relax.
The nice thing was …, um …when lockdown was enforced, I was actually, I think it was day 14 of my self-isolation after the India tour, we were asked to self…sorry, to self-quarantine, in case we had picked up anything on our way back home from India, luckily everybody was in the clear and everybody was healthy and remains so which is great.
What is your new normal since live cricket is cancelled any in-person activations are not possible?
My new normal is business as usual. Believe it or not. I wake up at about six every morning And I make a smoothie. I am a big smoothie maker; I love juicing as well. So, I alternate between the two. So, it’ll either be a smoothie or, or celery juice, which is something that I’m into. I’ve been drinking celery juice for the last three years or so, which is really healthy for you.
So, I’ll do that and then get ready for my workday because I work from nine to five. It’s the same we are working from home at Cricket South Africa. So, you work the same hours. You set up your laptop, and you just get down to business and it’s still, it’s in fact it’s busier now than it would have been if I’d been at the office. And it had been the offseason because there’s a lot of people that all that I need of content, a lot of media that are in need of content and our players have been extremely busy.
And it’s my job to facilitate those interviews and to also emphasise annotates activations for the players with our sponsors and our partners. So, I’ve been doing that, and it’s been very, very busy. And there’s been quite a lot of planning meetings, planning sessions, debriefs from the season, you know, you have to look back before you look forward. So, we’ve been doing quite a lot of that.
What is the one thing the lockdown is allowing you to do that you are usually not able to do when things are normal?
It’s just been time with my family. So, I decided that I’m going to be locked down with my parents, I’ve spending a lot of time with them. Family time is incredibly important to me. It’s really, really important and I can’t, I can’t even stress how important family time is and spending time with my family whom I missed incredibly, during the summer and whenever I’m working. I don’t get a lot of time to spend with them. So, I’ve been really appreciative of the fact that I can spend a lot more time with them. Everybody is busy with their own things during the day and we all are doing work. But you know, we come together for lunch. For our lunch hour, we come together, for supper, and it’s been so much more time together. Nobody’s killed anybody here, there has been no blowouts and no fights, which just goes to show how much we’ve really missed each other. And it’s been really good to be able to have that kind of time.
My sister’s also here, so yeah, I’ve been really enjoying that and being able to, to sit with them and to be able to catch up. Because there’s always something that you know, you can talk about my mom and I, when I’m travelling, we literally speak twice a day for an hour each time an hour plus, you don’t run out of things to talk about. So that’s basically a lot, a lot of what I’ve been doing.
“I’ve been doing a lot of that, lots of self-reflection, self-analysis, and also just planning for the future as well.” – Cricket South Africa Media Manager, Sipokazi Sokanyile
I’ve also taken a lot of time to take personal stock of what is going on in my own life and in career wise, personal life as well. It’s really important to do like a spiritual check. I like to check in with myself mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. So, I’ve been doing a lot of that, lots of self-reflection, self-analysis, and also just planning for the future as well. I’ve had a lot of time to be able to sit and think about where I’m at right now. And also, just think about what I want for the future. Because the future always seems so far away. And you think about you know, certain things and you think that it’s not going to happen now. It’s not, it’s not something that you need to consider for now. But the future is a lot closer. It’s a lot nearer than then some of us think and, you know, one day you’re running around, and then you blink and it’s 2020! So, it’s been really important for me to be able to just check in, and to also assess and look ahead.
Where does your passion for sport come from?
I would say from my family, we are a massive sport loving family. Weekends when I was growing up was so fun because it was always a sporting weekend and we always loved watching sport together. We watched rugby, cricket, football. So, it was always something that we all loved. And my parents, especially my mom, actually, they drove the love for sport. Nobody was allowed to sit in at school and do nothing. So, you either had to find an excellent some kind of extracurricular activity and we were always encouraged to play sport and to take part in something or something that would mentally challenge you as well. So, you find one physical outlet and then you’ll also find something else that will engage you mentally. And I thought that was really cool of them. And really, it’s really important for kids to be able to have those kinds of outlets and to have something that, you know, drives them outside of just the academics.
Was cricket always your first love?
I would say sports wise, definitely. I’ve never thought as much passion for any other sport. I definitely love cricket over and above all the other sports. And it’s something that my mother and I share. We both love cricket so much. It’s actually crazy. We’re the biggest fans. We used to watch any and all cricket together. And it didn’t matter whether it was South African cricket or if it was international cricket. The Proteas didn’t necessarily have to play just as long as we’re watching cricket, which was great because we actually taught ourselves cricket. It was something that my brother used to play. He’s plays club cricket, and something that he bonded with my dad over. And my mom and I decided that it was quite interesting. And we also wanted to see what it was about. And we taught ourselves cricket by watching it. And we just consumed as much of it as possible.
“But career wise, while cricket was my first sporting love, career wise, it definitely wasn’t. I actually had planned to become a child advocate, I wanted to be a lawyer. And I just remember, you know, when I grew up from a very, very young age, I wanted to be a paediatric surgeon first, and then I wanted to be a child advocate. And then I wanted to be a lawyer.” – Sokanyile speaks on her first career options.
But career wise, while cricket was my first sporting love, career wise, it definitely wasn’t. I actually had planned to become a child advocate, I wanted to be a lawyer. And I just remember, you know, when I grew up from a very, very young age, I wanted to be a paediatric surgeon first, and then I wanted to be a child advocate. And then I wanted to be a lawyer. I mean, and then I just decided, you know, cricket, so definitely not realised that cricket the sport over anything else any day of the week.
What were your dreams when you left school?
When I left school, I actually wanted to be a child advocate. As I mentioned before, I studied LLB Education before I moved to Public Relations at UJ. So, when I left Durban, because I was at Howard College at that campus. I left Durban and then I decided that I wanted to study PR. To my father’s consternation, he still kind of asked, like, are you sure you sure you did the right thing? But yeah, I think it’s really important to follow your passion. And at the time, you know, I realised that people grow and change, and your ambitions change as well. And I wanted to study Public Relations because, you know, it felt like a space where I would be able to interact a lot more with people and be able to make a different kind of impact. And yeah, I’m hoping that that is what I did in the end.
You started as an intern at Cricket South Africa. Tell us about that experience?
Yes, I started as an intern at Cricket South Africa. It was I would probably say it was the best experience work experience in my life. I’ve had a few others before that but definitely in terms of, you know, experiences that grow you as a person. This was definitely one of them. Just a bit of a bit of background actually on how I even got the internship. It was 2008. The year was 2008. And my mom and I were watching the Proteas in Australia. Graeme Smith breaks his hand does this amazing thing and he walks out to bat. He’s wearing somebody else’s whites, ’cause he had already packed and he was ready to go to get onto a flight to go home, but he has the game it’s, you know the situation is what it is. And he did this remarkable thing and he stood up and he stepped up as the leader and he went out to bat, you know, broken hand and toe. And, you know, we might not have won that match, but it for me, it was the most life changing thing that I’d ever seen. To see somebody, take that much responsibility for himself or the team, for his country. It wasn’t even a World Cup, you know, but to have that kind of integrity and to have you know, that thing as a leader. I just thought that was the most remarkable moment.
“Thankfully back then, everybody’s email addresses were, every single department was there and everybody that worked at Cricket South Africa’s email address was was on the website, and I picked Kass Naidoo, and it was because I was studying Public Relations at the time and just wrote, like literally poured my heart out.” – Sokanyile reveals how she managed to score an internship at CSA.
It’s a moment that changed my life forever, actually, because that was the moment where I actually looked at my mom, I was like, “I want to work there!” And she was, she was like: “Why?” I like the way he works. I want to work where he works. I want to be surrounded by people that are driven by that much passion, because it has to take a lot of passion to want to do something like that, take responsibility and to show that kind of leadership and to show to just to show some of that kind of strength for your country and she and I actually sat we went on to the Cricket South Africa website. Thankfully back then, everybody’s email addresses were, every single department was there and everybody that worked at Cricket South Africa’s email address was was on the website, and I picked Kass Naidoo, and it was because I was studying Public Relations at the time and just wrote, like literally poured my heart out. Because of what I just witnessed, what I’d just seen, oh my word. Graeme Smith just did this, and I want to be a part of something that’s special because it can’t just be him. It can’t just be the team. If people, if those guys play like that, behave the way that they do and represent the country in such an exquisite way, then clearly the team behind the team has to feel even a semblance of the passion that I feel for the game of cricket.
And I want to be there, I want to be around people like that. I want to be around like-minded and like-feeling people, you know …, People who feel and who feel the way that I feel about this game. And it’s not about being a fan of the Proteas. It was about being a fan of cricket. And that was a moment that if you were not a cricket fan, you would have turned into a cricket fan, just based on that. So yeah, in terms of life changing moments, that’s how I came to the decision to apply for that internship. What the internship taught me was complete and utter growth. It was the best the best decision I’ve ever made, the best job that I’d had at that point, and it taught me so much and it’s, you know, it’s, it taught me, firstly, to have responsibility, taking responsibility for everything that you do, being responsible and, and owning that responsibility, whether you do something amazing or told me to actually, you know, acknowledge when you do something good in, when you do something very well, because as human beings, we tend to bow our heads and not take on compliments, and not be good at taking compliments and acknowledging when you’ve done something well. That taught me to accept when you do something well and to also take responsibility when you make mistakes because we’re human, and mistakes will always be made.
And having a department like I did, that I worked in, it was an all-female department led by Kass Naidoo, who was the most fabulous, amazing boss. She was extremely hard on us. But through that she also gave us room and space to grow. And she allowed us to become whoever that we wanted to be. Her first question when she meets you is; What do you want? Who do you want to be? What do you see for your future? You have to know the answer to that question, so that she can help you get there. And under her leadership, I think, and I don’t want to sound like that person, but we literally had the best of times. And you know, it was a communications department, all female and at that time marketing and commercials also fell under her. So, we were quite a big department in terms of importance, but also a very small department because it was literally about four or five people. And then we had one male colleague, and, two male colleagues, Michael Owen-Smith, and Adam Dean. So it became this amazing, amazing department that pulled off so many beautiful campaigns and creativity and just freedom to express yourself and therefore, you know, create something great for the company and also for the team, was highly encouraged. And I think in terms of, you know, like, very healthy working environments and workspaces, I think that was probably like where a lot of my growth took place.
The opportunity at CSA started an incredible journey for you. What were you hoping to achieve when you joined?
I wanted to be the face of cricket and back then, you know, I was still young enough and excited enough to want to be in TV and to be a part of the TV broadcast space and, you know, Kass is a very inspirational person to work for. So you look at her and you see the things that she was achieving or the things that she was doing, where she came from and what she was, what she was about, and, you know, you watch her emceeing a work function and she was so inspirational. I wanted to be her I wanted to be just like, not her actually, I wanted to be just like, and I wanted to be the face of cricket. I wanted my name to be almost a synonym, you know, with cricket and to be linked forever with cricket.
Obviously, you know, dreams change you and suddenly realise that you’ve got stage fright the size of Africa and and that’s okay and I still want to be the face of cricket but in different ways and I hope that the journey that I’m on now is going to help in that. I definitely have grown out of the the dream for television but I do want to be the face of cricket in other ways and in ways that inspire young women and in ways that help lead and bring through young women into the sport.
Looking back, how do you feel about what you have achieved at the organisation?
I feel humbled because it’s incredible to look back and realise that for the last 10 years, I’ve literally, every single day, been living my dream in one way or the other. I have always dreamt of working with the Proteas, working in and around the Proteas. But over and above that I wanted to work for cricket. Because I’m a fan of the sport first and foremost, before I’m a fan of any specific team or individual. And just having a look back at the many different ways that I’ve been involved in the game, I think it was really important to start from where I did, which was with cricket development, which also, you know, it’s strengthened my love for the game even more because you see where a player has come from in order to become who they are. And the journey to professional cricket or the journey from, you know, mini cricket all the way to the Proteas is such a long one and you have a look at players have been a part of the development pipeline of Cricket South Africa, and who have gone through all of the phases. And you can’t help but have so much respect for them because it took a lot to get there. And in many ways, I also walked the same journey only from an administrative point of view from cricket development, working with the mini cricket programme, then the schools programme from under 13 all the way to the under 19 programme, then moved on to the high performance programme with the South African National Academy.
I worked with the women’s team which was, I think, one of the greatest things that I’ve ever been part of because I love the women’s programme. It’s a different world, it’s a different space. It deserves separate and completely different attention all on its own. And it’s been so great to see the growth that’s been taking place in that space. And from the women’s team to the men’s team. So having walked all of those many, many journeys, I felt like when I went to India with the main team, that I was also graduating from, you know, high performance from The little league all the way to the big league. And it felt like a player’s journey because I’d literally walked every single step that a player would have, but not on the cricket field. If I’m making any sense, which really made me proud.
Cricket takes a lot of time. It’s a very long game even the shortest format is three hours. And I was very proud that all the years and all the hours and the time that I’ve missed with family and the time when I missed out on hanging out with friends and losing some friends because they couldn’t understand the reason why I was picking work something as frivolous to some people as a job rather than you know, trying to be a good friend quote, unquote. I felt like that I was vindicated that hey, I actually, that it was all worth it. And I strongly believe that the circle that you have around you and the people that are around you, the ones that last the long, long road with you are the people that matter. So everything that has happened up until now I just thought it’s something that was necessary to take place and that it is the people that came through with me, other people that are definitely you know, the people for me, they definitely my people.
You also have had an opportunity to work on key ICC events. Tell us about your best experience to date?
“The first one was 2017, the 2017 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup. I was there with the South Africa women’s team, the Proteas Women. And it was just the most amazing experience only because of the team that I was with and just being able to see how how far women’s cricket had come. I think that was the watershed moment.” – Sokanyile points out the key ICC events that she had the opportunity to work for.
I’ve worked in a few ICC events. I think I have to actually base experiences because they were similar but very different because of the roles, the difference and the roles that I played. The first one was 2017, the 2017 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup. I was there with the South Africa women’s team, the Proteas Women. And it was just the most amazing experience only because of the team that I was with and just being able to see how far women’s cricket had come. I think that was the watershed moment. I had been to a couple of T20 World Cups before that, but it was nothing compared to what happened in 2017. And as a result, the women’s game across the world has taken giant leaps forward, several giant leaps forward ever since then, and it was just such a great space to be in because women were the focus, both administratively and from an athlete’s point of view. It was the best tournament that I’ve ever seen put together. The organisation there of the people that were working on it, you know, the ICC staff, everything about it was just the most amazing tournament and also what the team achieved. They made it to the 20Twenty semi-final and was the most heartbreaking semi-final, but just to see the
journey that the team had taken and having seen the preparation that went into it as well. The team that was selected as well, just the most amazing group of women who were all of one mind and they were just single handedly knocking teams over and even if a match was lost, you know, the mission was still alive and the goal was still alive and I, it was, that feeling and the togetherness and the unity of the team. Ah, it was it was literally the best experience from a team perspective I’ve experienced, and I wish to be a part of something like that, something as special as that one day again.
The second one was the 2019 ICC men’s Cricket World Cup I was asked by the ICC to be one of the media managers, which was, I think, one of the best, it was one of the proudest career moments of my life. And also, it was the best work experience of my life. It was completely different from anything I’ve ever done before. And I learned so much just in that, I think it was a nine-week window, and it was amazing to see how everything gets organised, from an ICC point of view, and how it’s not just about your team now, and it’s not about just your country. It’s literally about the entire world and seeing the amount of work that ICC puts in and the amount of commitment and passion that the people that work there have, for their work, and for the mission, which was to bring together or to host the best live sporting event ever. And for me, it was the best live sporting event I’ve ever experienced.
To date 2017 was, wow! It was jaw dropping! 2019 was completely life changing, and really enjoyed it. And also, it opened up my eyes in terms of my ambitions. Suddenly I didn’t want to be the best communicator, Public Relations Officer in the country. I started looking global. And I started seeing myself not just in the small South Africa-only way, I…, I actually wanted to step up and start making a global impact.
What makes you passionate to see women thrive?
I’m extremely passionate about it! Passionate is the right word. It’s the, it’s the greatest descriptor or great describer of, of how I feel about, firstly, women’s cricket, and then women in cricket, and women in sports in general. I’m passionate about this because I know what it’s like to be a young female who is bright eyed and bushy tailed, overly excited about walking into what is essentially her dream job, or the dream organisation, and being shut down left, right and centre, by the men around the workspace. I know what that’s like. I lived it. I experienced it. To date, I still sometimes feel as though some people are holding their breath, waiting for you to fail, or waiting for you to stutter or to stumble, so that they can quickly point at you, and be like, “There it is! That’s why she probably shouldn’t be there!” Type of thing, because, as a woman, you always have to be, you have to be twice as good to have what they’ve got. And by ‘they’, I mean men. And there’s always, there’s always that difference. You can always feel it. But …, I feel as though, you know, we’ve taken great strides, great leaps forward, especially in my environment, especially at Cricket South Africa. I didn’t know that it was possible for old dogs to learn new tricks. But right now, I probably work in the most supportive …, in the most supportive to women environment, men want to see you pass, they want to see you thrive. They want to see you do well, and you don’t see the whole male-female thing anymore. There’s no us-versus-them. We’re not working trying to one-up one another.
“I want women to know that there’s no such thing as an impossible dream. And I want women to know that there is nothing that a man can do that they can’t do twice, and better, with one hand tied behind their backs, while swivelling something else with the other hand.” – Sokanyile passionately speaks about women taking up space in sport.
We’re all working for one common cause, which is cricket and to make sure that we leave the game better than the way we found it. And it’s, it’s incredible. I want young girls to know that their dreams are valid. I want women to know that there’s no such thing as an impossible dream. And I want women to know that there is nothing that a man can do that they can’t do twice, and better, with one hand tied behind their backs, while swivelling something else with the other hand. Because I just feel as though, you know, it’s such a special time to be a female. It’s such a special time to be a woman. People are taking notice, they’re taking note of us, they are starting to validate us. We are finding ourselves not having to work as hard as we used to because by virtue of being where you are, you’re not just the female hire, you’re there because you deserve to be, and I don’t ever want a woman or a young girl to ever feel doubt when they look in the mirror and to wonder to themselves whether they deserve to be where they are. That’s why I’m so passionate about opening opportunities for women and making sure that we are there for one another. And like there’s no competition, which is what I love. In cricket I’ve not experienced something where one woman is trying to like to steal the other woman’s job away. It’s so uncomfortable and you know, there’s all these quote-unquote ‘girl’ issues, you know, there will always be personality clashes, but I’ve never experienced in my environment something where one woman tries to stick over the other so that they can shine.
Women in our in the sporting industry are so united and try to create an environment where we open doors for one another, and for other girls, and we try to open the industry as well. One of my favourite events to attend is the gsport Awards, because you literally see everybody there. All the women in sports are there and it’s so brilliant to have something where you can have everybody under one roof celebrating one another because we don’t get celebrated enough and yes, I hope that that I answered that question well. I just feel really passionate about young women being given the opportunity and the space to be able to, to come in, excited, and not have their dreams, or their hopes dashed, or have a little bit of themselves taken away from them because somebody doesn’t see you. And when I say, “See you,” they don’t see you; they literally don’t acknowledge the fact that you have anything to contribute. So yeah, that’s me.
How would you describe the state of women’s cricket in South Africa and where does SA rank globally?
I think women’s cricket is one of the most well supported sports in the country. I think in terms of where our national team is we’re in terms of them being fully contracted, having the sponsor in Momentum Health, the kind of organisational support that Cricket SA has put in place, the developmental structures that CSA has put in place… I think women’s cricket is the top woman sport in the country. It’s the most, it’s definitely the most well supported. I remember …, not last year, but the year it was 2018. We went to a women’s breakfast with the-then Minister of Sport, Tokozile Xasa, and we were listening to all of the problems that other sporting codes were going through and the issues that other sports women had to endure, and the, the challenges that they had to endure, and myself and the two players that were with me at that breakfast, we all looked at each other and we were like, we all incredibly fortunate and we need to, we need to do so much better as a team, because there are sporting codes out there that have very little to almost no support.
So administratively, I think, Cricket South Africa has done an incredible job to take women’s cricket to, from, I would say, I don’t know, level two when I started, to probably level nine right now, in terms of, you know, from a one to 10 scale, and I think that you know, once the, once the results start coming, well, we’ll have a lot more to celebrate. I definitely think that women’s cricket is something that globally has completely changed the way that people see female cricketers. It is not like what they used to see female cricketers, the world and the way that other countries such as Australia, in England, New Zealand, India, even West Indies are treating their female athletes and their female cricketers, it’s an incredible thing to witness.
The fact that Australia men and women you know, they earn the same amount of money. The kind of push that comes from, you know, the ECB and the kind of support that they give their team, it’ll blow your mind. The structures that they put in place, the ICC and how they’ve changed policy in order to firm up support for women’s cricket and to force some boards to put more efforts behind the programmes for women’s cricket. It tells you a lot about how forward thinking even the global organisation is, and how and what the focus is for them, and how seriously they take the game of women’s cricket.
What can we do to raise the profile of women’s sport in South Africa?
I think broadcast is so important. If it’s not in the people’s faces, then they can’t identify with it. I think it’s important the media plays a very, very crucial role in helping to profile women’s sport. We need more media to start talking about women’s sport and not only when there’s a World Cup or when they play in a big country. The South African media, I must say, I must give them a lot of credit. The last few years, their interest in women’s cricket has grown exponentially. And we actually have certain journalists who cover cricket while cricket journalists, specifically, who literally cover you know, both the men and the women, and it’s not just about the men’s game only.
“I would love to see the greater South African media do the same. In cricket, we’ve done a good job of pushing, you know the agenda of our women’s team and the world game, it would be really great to see everybody else, you know, not just thinking that in rugby, you’re gonna think about a Siya Kholisi, also, you know, when I ask about Babalwa Latsha, and about what the women’s team is doing and what they want to achieve, what their hopes and dreams are because everybody has ambitions.” – Sokanyile on creating an equal playing field for women and men’s sport.
So, I would love to see the greater South African media do the same. In cricket, we’ve done a good job of pushing, you know the agenda of our women’s team and the world game, it would be really great to see everybody else, you know, not just thinking that in rugby, you’re gonna think about a Siya Kholisi, also, you know, when I ask about Babalwa Latsha, and about what the women’s team is doing and what they want to achieve, what their hopes and dreams are because everybody has ambitions. And I think everybody is working equally hard and training equally hard and therefore everybody deserves you know, the same kind of attention, same amount of attention.
After significant work to raise the profile of women’s cricket, you have now been given an opportunity to be media liaison of the Proteas men’s team. What does this mean for you that you keep rising along the journey?
I think it’s really important in life to always be growing, that you are always finding new avenues and ways to grow yourself, to grow your knowledge, to widen your repertoires. While I think it’s really important not to stay standing still. It’s important to always stay curious and to always find something that engages you, both intellectually and emotionally. And I feel as though I have walked the intellectual and the emotional rollercoaster throughout my time at CSA. And the time that I’ve spent with the men’s team feels like an incredibly special reward for the amount of work and the amount of years that I’ve been invested in, that I’ve invested in the organisation and they have invested in the game of cricket. These guys are heroes and seeing the impact that they have on small children and on adults, you know, the elderly, the passion that they that they bring out in people, the tears that come from young kids when they meet their favourite cricketer it’s such an important and such a massive space in so many different ways.
And it’s incredibly special to me that I have been given the opportunity to be a part of that and to be able to experience that. And I think that you know, it’s, for me it was almost, you know, the nod that work really does pay off and to be able to be in the same change room with a Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock’s, people literally I used to worship the ground they walked on, it was the most surreal thing that he is now a member of the coaching staff. Because I remember when I was younger, I used to literally, I would flip out whenever he would bat because I couldn’t believe that a person could be that talented. And then I woke up one day and I had to start telling him what to do from a media space. And it took it took a couple of days for me to be able to, to, you know, reconcile myself with that. But it was an incredible, incredible experience.
Who are the women in sport who inspire you and why?
Kass Naidoo, definitely! That goes without saying, she’s my…She’s literally that you know, when people say we need to go back to the drawing board. She’s literally my drawing board! She’s inspirational to me because she knows, she … She was successful years and years before the women’s empowerment movement, kicked it up a notch and went a gear up, and allowed us the opportunity to become the people that we are today. Kass was already a professional commentator and she was the only female in all-male teams, and she was experiencing, I’m pretty sure, 10 times or 15 times, 20 times more what we experienced when we were starting out, and she’s here, she started, you know, this amazing movement called gsport, and she is a mother of three, and a motivational speaker. She is an MC, she does this and that and yet she is a wife on top of all these things. I find that really inspirational, because it’s, it’s my ambition to be a mother and to be able to achieve all the things that I want to achieve while I’m at it. And she’s a person that I can speak to about anything. And she will always understand. She’s incredibly honest as well, I am. I’m a fan of people who are really honest and I have a lot of respect and a lot of time for people who will be honest with you, especially when you need to hear it, and don’t want to hear it. Because that’s when you know that you’ve got really good friends, your true friends will tell you what you don’t want to hear when you need to hear it.
Another lady who I am, who I look up to is Claire Furlong. She’s the General Manager of Marketing and Communications at the ICC. She is an incredibly strong woman and she has to deal with a lot of men in her environment, as well. And she’s also one of my mentors, and somebody that I bounce a lot of ideas off. And she is very, she’s very no nonsense, and fun at the same time. So, we can be strict and also have time to play, it’s really important to be able to get that work-life balance, and to make sure that you’re really enjoying yourself every step of the way. Even though there are bad days. She’s a constant reminder of that, and she reminds me to, to enjoy what I’m doing as well and she makes me want to do even more, you know, inspires you with what she does, and she doesn’t even realise that she’s doing that, which is great. It’s a great sign of a good leader, when they are inspiring you without even talking to you or telling you what to do. They inspire through their action. And I think she’s amazing for that.
“Caster, you know, she shrugs off what people say, and the meanness of the world, and she decides to live in light, and to live in her own, in her own light, and to stay true to herself.” – Sokanyile reveals her admiration for Caster Semenya.
Caster Semenya. She inspires me to be true to myself, which I think is a very important lesson for young girls to learn. And the sooner you learn it, the better, because then the happier you are. Caster, you know, she shrugs off what people say, and the meanness of the world, and she decides to live in light, and to live in her own, in her own light, and to stay true to herself. And I think that it’s a really important lesson, and watching her going about the challenges that she’s had to overcome, it,…firstly, it angers me that she even had to go through the things that she did, but I’m in awe of how she, how she came about, well, how she came out of it, and how she continues to shine in spite of all of those people, and how she keeps her head down and minds her own business, and is only about herself, and what her goals are. She is definitely goals. She’s the kind of person that I hope that I will be able to grow into. And to just, you know, unconditionally, be Sipokazi.
And my… last …woman who inspires me…There are lots…There many, many, many women, but one that I do want to mention is Sumayya Khan. She’s Dept. Director General of Sport and Recreation. She is…so wonderful, she’s…soft. And she is, I equate her with warmth and comfort and, you know, like…strength! She reminds me that you don’t have to be hard all the time, and you don’t have to be, you don’t have to feel as though you have to match men, you know, like rough edge to rough edge. She’s, she’s warmth and she’s, she’s so lovely and she’s incredibly fierce. And she reminds me that you can be unapologetically female in a world of sport and in a male-dominated environment, and still be able to achieve massive, massive things, as she has done.
What impact has gsport had on women’s sport in SA since its launch in 2006?
gsport is an incredible movement. It’s, it’s changed lives. Firstly, it’s put women’s sports on the map. It’s opened the eyes of men who never ever took women’s sport for anything that is, of great significance. gsport is a movement that has afforded women a platform where they can be celebrated and celebrated the right way, because nobody knows how to celebrate women like other women, we know what we like, you know what, how we want to be celebrated, and how we want to be shown appreciation, you know, things all the way down to, you know, the labelling of things. Because you know, you’ll have a nice, this is still something that that bothers me, but you know, you’ll have teams called the Proteas or the Springboks, and those are the men’s teams and then the women’s teams will be called, you know, the SA women’s team. When we are all Proteas, we are all Springboks, you know…and gsport is a platform that has allowed women to be celebrated in the way that they have deserved to be celebrated for many, many years, and many generations.
And it’s a movement that is building and opening doors in the industry, in the sports industry for other young women, and it’s a platform where young women are able to express their interests and are able to express their ambitions without feeling as though their ambitions are not possible. Because they’re surrounded by, thanks to gsport, they’re surrounded by women who have been there who have achieved, and who have done the things that that they are, that they are hoping to achieve. I think that it’s done incredible things that Kass, Ryk and the team have done, more than I think they would even be able to realise, especially for the young girl who sits at home and is on her Twitter and really, really, truly love sport wants to report about sport wants to administrate sport wants to be a part of a team wants to play a sport but is afraid to mention it to the people in her environment because they won’t validate that dream. It’s, it’s a platform that says yes, you can. And here is how, because that’s so important as well, because we can affirm one another as much as we like, but where to from there? And gsport is one of those places that gives you avenues to be able to pursue your greatest dreams.
Your mom plays a big role in your life. What has she taught you?
My mom has played a big role in my life, but has she taught me goodness. I don’t think we have enough time, and we don’t have enough page, space to fill with the lessons that she’s taught me but I think the biggest takeaways that I can share will be my mom has taught me strength. She’s taught me to be stubborn in the right way. Not to yield to anybody else who thinks that I don’t deserve what I want to achieve. And my mom has taught me that there is nothing that I want to achieve that I can’t do if I don’t, if I work hard enough first, and that there are no doors that will be closed permanently in your face. That there are no opportunities that will be blocked, your path will never be blocked that whatever you work for, and what is for you will always find you doesn’t matter what any obstacles people put in front of you. What is for you will always find you.
And that for me is a lesson that I take with me every single day. It’s something that I remind myself every single day, my mom’s taught me faith. She’s taught me to believe in myself, and she’s taught me independence. I think that that is such a key component as a female. A lot of us grew up, you know, watching Disney movies and reading fairy tales, and almost being hypnotised into thinking that we need a man to come in and rescue us or come in and plot the way forward for us or come in and open doors for us, in order for us to become the people that we want it to become for us to be able to achieve the things we want to achieve.
“My mom has told me that the only person who is going to help you achieve what you want is yourself. And you do not need to lean on anybody else. You need yourself more than anything because you can’t. Someone else can’t dream for you.” – Sokanyile speaks on the lessons that her mother has taught her.
And my mom has told me that the only person who is going to help you achieve what you want is yourself. And you do not need to lean on anybody else. You need yourself more than anything because you can’t. Someone else can’t dream for you. Someone else can’t be ambitious on your behalf. You need to be those things for yourself. And you need to, to take certain steps for yourself and accept help when it’s given to you. I think, yeah. I mean, she’s taught me a lot more things, but those are some of the things that I take away from myself and she also teaches myself and my sister. She reminds us to always remember to be to be soft, and to be emotional. You have the right to your emotions, and those emotions are valid.
What is your message to the youth about following their dreams?
I think what I’d like to leave behind or the message I’d like to leave behind the most is have a dream, but always have a plan about how you want to go about reaching your dream. Because a dream without a plan is just a wish. So, don’t waste your time wishing. Spend your time planning and find people who can help you achieve that or that dream. Something as inconsequential as sending an email and begging for an internship and promising that you will babysit for free.
You know, and you will work for free as long as you’re learning as long as you’ve been given this opportunity. You know, do throw yourself out there, put yourself out there. The worst thing that you can hear is no. And that’s okay as well, because that’s not the that’s not opportunity for you. And that’s not the avenue you meant to be taking. But always take steps towards your dream and don’t just sit at home and say, “Oh, I wish all, ah, I, I wish I could you know because…” There’s nothing worse than living with what if, rather than live within, or maybe that wasn’t for me, or next time, I’m going to do it in this new way. But never just sit back and wait for someone else to pick up your dreams for you and make them come true.
What is your greatest ambition?
My greatest ambition is to be a parent. It was my first dream as a child. I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I’m not one yet, and God Willing I will be. And I’m very, I’m a very patient person. So I would love for one day to be a moment to be able to pass on some of the passions and the passion projects that I feel and that I have and my other images I decided, you know, like sport is my life. And I would love to work at ACC and then come back to South Africa and ultimately be the CEO of Cricket South Africa. I’m not bothered about being the first woman to XYZ did, I just want to come in and make a positive impact. I want to always leave a place better than how I found it. And I believe that through working at the ICC, it’ll open up my eyes and it will open up my perspective in such a way that I’ll be able to come home and to offer even more of myself to the game that I love.