Sunday, July 21, 2024

CSA: Blanche Conradie – Inspiration that keeps giving

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Photo Credit: Cricket South Africa

I’ve seen this perfect picture in my head
And after drivin’ all night now here it is
I can finally feel the sun kissing my skin
And I just wanna take it in, yeah, I just wanna take it in…

These are lyrics from the first stanza of the song titled, Moments We Live For, by Paradise – Blanche Conradie’s favourite. More about that later.

Blanche Conradie’s name has over the years been synonymous with sport. This SA U19 Men’s Team Manager, Chairperson of the University Sports South Africa (USSA) Cricket Executive, and the TuksCricket Manager, completed a BCom followed by an Honours degree in Sports Management at the University of Pretoria (Tuks).

Born and bred in Pretoria, Conradie hails from a rich cricket ancestry: her grandfather was Chairperson of the Waterval Boven Cricket Club and used to share tantalizing stories of great cricketers he used to watch at the Wanderers stadium.

“I attended my first cricket match with my parents at SuperSport when the Proteas played with the West Indies and the latter suffered their first whitewash. Unfortunately my grandfather was not there. But after that, with the England Series that was hosted by South Africa in 1998, my grandfather came with us. We never missed a cricket match at SuperSport Park ever since,” said Conradie.

As part of her junior degree, Conradie had to do hours in any sport of choice. Being an ardent fan of cricket, it was natural of her to work at TuksCricket as a volunteer. She was subsequently employed as a part-time sports administrator. This was followed by full-time employment at TuksCricket.

“In 2016 I was appointed Manager of the Club and had the opportunity to work with the likes of Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, Lungi Ngidi, Tony de Zorzi who were all our student cricketers before they moved on to franchise and provincial cricket,” recalled Conradie.

On her part, Conradie went on to work as USSA SA Team Manager, during which time she worked with, amongst others, Lutho Sipamla and Janneman Malan.

“It is during that period that I met the current Proteas Test cricket coach, Shukri Conrad who was convener of selectors at the time. When he was appointed the SA U19 head coach, he approached me to become team manager. I accepted the offer without a second thought,” said Conradie.

She beams with joy as she reflects on her job as SA U19 Team Manager: “Oh I love the team management environment. I really enjoy solving problems and making sure that things are in place. The biggest responsibility is ensuring that players get everything they need to perform on the field. It’s fulling to be part of the team and to share in the thrill that it brings.”

On working with young players and keeping them motivated, Conradie admits: “Being in the university space and seeing players I’ve worked with make it to playing at international levels is humbling and fulfilling.

“Heinrich Klaasen, for instance, played provincial cricket for a very long time. He only made his debut with the Titans aged 24 and the Proteas setup in his late twenty’s.

“We also had players like Donovan Ferreira who struggled for years, left the game, and came back. Tony de Zorzi had tough times but worked himself back up.

“These are inspirational accounts of endurance and hard work that are hard to ignore. I share them with up-and-coming players to demonstrate that staying power against all odds ultimately harvests rewards,” says the glittering Conradie.

The many moments of working with young players is a source of inspiration to the committed Conradie.

She notes that every moment is a teaching moment for players who are eager to improve their lot and contribute to the overall cricket landscape.

Conradie confesses that arming youngsters with information and assisting them climb over the emotional cliff is a worthwhile and emotive enterprise akin to one.

And on the other side, the academics part play an important role in the wholistic development of a player.

As she succinctly puts it: “It is exciting and rewarding to see 16-year-olds who we enrol in the U19 setup progress academically while playing the game. This dual career approach assists players to have something to fall back on later in life. It’s been amazing for me to see players scaling the ranks to international stardom while pursuing their studies. Titans star, Donovan Ferreira is for instance in his third University degree.”

Despite working in the male-dominated set-up, Conradie was never made to feel out of sorts in her role as the SA U19 Men’s team manager. She does concede though that when she started at the University, and when she walked into cricket meetings, she would attract “wide-eyed” looks. Fortunately, that has changed as more women participate in the administration and other layers of sport.

While the Covid-19 pandemic brought many a development programmes to a screeching halt, Conradie believes that there is abundance of talent waiting to be unearthed. She is full of praise for coaches who can “see the bigger picture” and who are ready to lift and polish talent for the consumption of posterity. And it fills her with tons of bliss to be in the mix of such a compelling journey. It is her avow to continue being part of a system that would produce stars that the country can be proud of. Those are moments she is happy to live for!

The refrain lines of the Moments We Live For song are captivating: “These are the moments, the moments we live for once in a lifetime…

“This is just a happy and upbeat song. It’s all about life. It’s the moment you live for. It’s just we have to find the good moments,” said Conradie.

“It’s a privilege to be part of those young lives and to witness their hunger and temperament for growth. I have been very fortunate to have worked with great coaches over the last few years. I wouldn’t have asked for more,” offered Conradie.

It is tempting, very tempting to conclude that the moments that Conradie lives for are to be found in being an inspiration and nurturing talent. She’s the inspiration that keeps giving. It’s her abode, her sanctuary, her Paradise. It’s the perfect picture in her head: all hallmarks of a legend doing great things behind the scenes.

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