When I was on The Dan Nicholl Show the other day one of the question’s Dan asked me was what was the greatest gift hockey has given me.
There are indeed many things I can identify. Like with any team sport it teaches you so much. Putting your team before yourself is a lesson all of us part of a powerful team unit, no matter what sport have experienced and learnt. Surrendering the me for the we!
However there is something that being a hockey player has engrained in my being that I can now reflect as being one of the greatest teachers of my life.
In hockey, you are expected to rise in the face of adversity and stick together, and not complain about it and fall apart. It’s just a given in our sport and if I look back the greatest teams I have played in have been the ones that have embraced this the most.
As an “amateur” sport we have not been given everything on a plate. Everyone who has represented South Africa at hockey has had to raise personal funds to play for their country, has slept in school hostels or mattresses on the floor so we can be together for training, can’t afford to dwell on what we don’t have, and whatever we don’t have we share responsibility to try and find it. We join arms to fight for a better hand, but once those cards have been dealt, holy moly, we make them work and often find ways to compete and overcome opponents that out gun in every department.
All but one. As my dad would say to me often growing up “When the going get tough, the tough get going!” Adversity breeds champions!
I am so grateful for the “tough” environment hockey provided for me where I was able to witness and experience first hand the destructive nature of “entitlement” – when we choose to focus on what we should have instead of being grateful and making the most of what we do have. The choice you make is literally life defining!
Which category do you fall into?
Langa Cricket Club and Hockey Club has produced some of the countries best sportsmen. No one dwelled in the fact that for many years there were only a couple of ball boxes (protective device to protect the cock and balls from a cricket ball missile!) to go around and just enough sticks for the players on the pitch so when a new batsman came in he had to use the sweaty ball box from the man going out or grab the stick of the person he was replacing on the hockey field.
Little did we know this was providing us with a quality no amount of money in the world could provide. And a quality that creates world champions! In fact often all the money in the world destroys this very thing and takes us away from the greatest gifts of all. This is why the English soccer team continually fail to perform well as a team in recent World and European Cups. They don’t rise to adversity, they complain about it. The moment they understand this, will be the moment they join together and make history!
It brings be back to probably the greatest hockey memory of my entire career which spanned almost 3 decades. It was Langa HC’s first game in the Western Province premier league having earned a hard fought promotion the season before, and a sequence of promotions before that. As the “bottom” club we were playing last seasons unbeaten champions – Maties (Stellenbosch University). No one gave us a chance to win the game, perhaps not even ourselves. But we knew only one way when it came to “hopeless” situations. To not cry about them but to face them. It’s automatic. Built in with the Langa model! I now call this the “Langa advantage”. To give our best regardless of the circumstances. We won the game 4-2. It was total pandemonium. Scenes from that match and after it (!) will live on in me and the whole of Langa forever! At the final whistle the Stellenbosch team were in total shock and disbelief.
This can help me explain in hockey terms what Unogwaja stands for and how we are going about what we do in South Africa. Even the toughest people can’t do it alone and without any support. Support that ignites the fire within us and doesn’t create entitlement is most definitely needed. Imagine harnessing the “Langa advantage” right the way across our country. It is going to alter the course of our history. We are going to rise like giants.
This was an insert where I speak about Langa on the Dan Nicholl Show:
This is a short film that will give you an insight into the inspiring Langa world that Unogwaja gets to rub shoulders with:
Lungile Tsolekile alongside his Langa teammates (Lungile has over 100 caps for South Africa including the Beijing Olympics) epitomize the Langa Advantage.
These speak for themselves
LAST BUT NOT LEAST. TO UNOGWAJA 2017 THANK YOU FOR FACING ADVERSITY TOGETHER. And continuing a legacy created by all the men and women that have gone before you. WE ARE ONE. WE ARE UNOGWAJA!
This is this mornings Saturday Argus: