Sunday, November 27, 2022

CSA: Hammanskraal Hub – Eyes and Ears of Cricket on the Ground

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The Hammanskraal Cricket Hub is continuing to make waves within Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) pipeline as it strides to unearth talented youngsters from within non-traditional playing communities.

Under the leadership of Head Coach Ikgomotseng Mothoa, it has been one of the best performing centres for a number of years now.

The 37-year-old, selected as a Hub/ Regional Performance Centres (RPC) Coach of the Year in 2015, has been gradually making his presence felt in the Northerns area – to such an extent now that their home venue, just north of Pretoria, has even achieved international recognition.

The Hub, one of six in the region, is made up of 15 primary schools from within the area and has roughly 120 players affiliated to it.

“At each school we have a coach that is representing the hub,” Mothoa explains. “The job of these coaches is to identify the best black players. They are our eyes and ears on the ground; they scout for players; they identify them and bring them to our attention so we can take the next steps of focussed development.

“Most of the kids identified are around the ages of eight or nine years.”

Once this step is concluded, the learners then work both at school with the coach and also at the Hub with Mothoa and his team of four coaches.

He continued: “Our coaches generally will work with the school-based coaches immediately after school, say from 1pm to around 4pm.

“They train with them at the schools and then send them to the hub where me, as the head coach and the assistant coaches prepare them further to play club cricket, school weeks, etc. If you look at it, the younger ones come to us first after their school programme and the older ones follow later, depending on transport and other challenges.

“Out of the 15 affiliate schools, if we can get 20 kids that are sent to our Hub headquarters then we are on the right track. That’s what we want. I always say to our coaches let us try to balance the equation in terms of boys and girls. Although transformation is very important, we also need to help the women’s game, and this is why we want both boys and girls to work with.

“Essentially this is a platform for these talented kids to play cricket at a more serious level as they grow older, whether it is as a club cricket, semi-professional level or to become full professionals. It is all about making the game more accessible for them.”

Not only does the Hub help these players enhance their sporting talent, but through CSA, they are also offering kids a chance to flourish academically via an initiative known as ‘School in the Box’.

This is an intervention offered at some of the hubs where tutors are assigned in an after-school programme aimed at providing the identified cricketers in the communities, support with their education.

The Hammanskraal Cricket Hub has successfully integrated and managed the programme over the past five years.

“We have about 10 tutors coming to the hub,” Mothoa says. “The tutors are working with the players, assisting with the academic side of things whether it is Mathematics, Science, English or whatever the learners need help with. We have really seen the positive all-round effect this has had on the kids.

“It’s been something special. We really look after our players through the week and all our identified players will have to spend time in a learning session before getting to field. The ‘School in the Box’ initiative is at hand to assist those who struggle academically.”

Mothoa, the older brother of former Titans and current Free State bowler Alfred, is one of the longest-serving coaches in the system. He has been at the Cricket Hub for nearly 20 years after joining in 2003.

The Hub was only established few years prior in 1996.

He has completed his Level 1 and 2 coaching certificates and presently busy with Level 3.

“I would say I am happy with the way things have progressed for me and Hammanskraal over the years,” he adds of the Hub, which has produced the likes of Tebogo Macheke and Mothoa junior. “I never knew cricket as a young boy and only started playing in my mid-teens. I immediately fell in love with the game and the rest is history.

“I would honestly say I came from nowhere because I was first coaching with my brother in the rural areas and then made my way up to the Hub.”

And since joining the Cricket Hub, many wonderful things have happened at their base.

“When I started being a coach here, no one knew about it,” he concluded. “No one knew about the Mandela Oval. One of the first things I wanted to do was to make it a place that people knew about in a cricket sense.

“I started preparing the outfield in a way that a cricket outfield should be. Because if you have a proper outfield, then you have a proper pitch and once I achieved that we started hosting the eKasi Challenge (preseason fixture between the Titans and the Lions).

“After that we hosted international cricket, Women’s and Under-19 cricket. This coming January we are also hosting the Under-19 Women’s World Cup. So there has been a lot of progress.”

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