South Africa’s Highest Qualified Hockey Coach Tsoanelo Pholo Believes In Her World Class Worth By Cheryl Roberts

3 Apr

tsoanelo pholo

Tsoanelo Pholo played hockey for South Africa and went on to complete world hockey’s highest coaching qualifications, after her retirement as a hockey player. Although Tsoanelo Pholo has been appointed head coach of a national hockey team in SA, she has mysteriously not been appointed head coach of a national team on a long term contract. Despite this snub from SA Hockey, Tsoanelo Pholo is still very much active in hockey as a coach and coach educator. In this Q and A interview with ‘South African SportsWoman’ publisher, Cheryl Roberts, we become better informed about Tsoanelo Pholo’s coaching credentials and her coaching ambitions.

Q: Let’s get started with your coaching credentials. What are your coaching qualifications in hockey?
Tsoanelo Pholo: I hold an FIH (Federation of International Hockey) Level 4 Qualification which I attained in Breda, Netherlands in 2018. I an also a qualified FIH Educator.

Q: Where and with which teams are you involved in coaching hockey in SA?
Tsoanelo Pholo: I am the Head Coach of the UJ (University of Johannesburg) 1st team and SGHA (South Gauteng) u21 Women’s teams. I have recently (Series vs Germany) worked with the SA MEN as their Striker coach. I am also the “HIGH PERFORMANCE” portfolio holder on the SGHA (Southern Gauteng Hockey Association) Executive Committee.
Q: Did you apply for head coach position of the SA national women’s hockey team and SA u21 women’s hockey team?
Tsoanelo Pholo: I applied for the SA u21 Head Coach position in 2019.
Q: What is your response to not being appointed to head coach position of the SA women’s hockey team and SA u21 women’s hockey team?
Tsoanelo Pholo: I did not receive any specific reason for not being successful in my application for the SA u21 position.
Q: You obviously have ambitious plans for SA’s women’s hockey teams to improve. Please give us an insight into your coaching ideas.
Tsoanelo Pholo: We are very privileged in SA to have the level of depth in players; finances will always present difficulties in the planning and running of our programs but there are ways around this. Running nationwide High Performance programs in every Province is on way I’d work around finances; getting qualified coaches working with national squad players in their regions would fast track what the national coaches are trying to implement at top tier hockey.
Q: What do you like about coaching hockey?
Tsoanelo Pholo: Hockey has opened doors I never imagined existed and this is my sole reason for coaching… I’d love to give these opportunities to every kid that has dreams of representing their province and their country. Besides the High Performance side of hockey; the social aspect of playing a team sport is second to none.. the hockey community is truly a family!
Q: What would you like to achieve as a hockey coach over the next 3 years?
Tsoanelo Pholo: My short term goals as a coach are several; I’d love to continue to learn from the circle of coaches I talk to around the world, I’d like to continue to up-skill players and I obviously want to be part of an Olympic program.
Q: How fo you keep mentally and physically fit and alert as a sports coach?
Tsoanelo Pholo: Mentally, I keep myself fit by watching and analysing current international trends and discussing them with coaches around the world. I’m not as physically fit as I used to be but I make sure that I am skill technically good enough to be able to demonstrate the very detailed and intricate skills that I coach.
Q: Is SA women’s hockey giving fair and equal opportunities to black girls and women players?
Tsoanelo Pholo: It is very difficult to comment on the opportunities afforded to Black players in the SA Women’s setup as I am not privy to what the coaching staff and selectors are looking for in players.
Q: Do you think SA Hockey still supports white privilege?
Tsoanelo Pholo: Hockey in SA is definitely still a sport for the privileged as it is a rather expensive sport to play… But there are a few unsung heroes that are doing what they can to empower black players in various townships and previously disadvantaged areas of SA. I am personally in discussions with a keen investor to roll out a development program which could see thousands of black kids being introduced to this incredible sport.
Q: In your opinion, is SA Hockey still in denial about your coaching credentials just because you are a black woman?
Tsoanelo Pholo: I do feel that I have been overlooked for senior positions in the SA hockey setup, despite my credentials. But it would be unfair to speculate as to why that is.
Q: Anything exciting you looking forward to in world hockey?
Tsoanelo Pholo: With the FIH announcing a Hockey5s World Cup in 2023; I am really looking forward to being part of this exciting new format of the game. Our 4th place finish at the Youth Olympic Games (Buenos Aires 2018) was the validation I needed as a coach that I am definitely standing toe-to-toe with the best in the world.
Being an FIH Educator has opened up avenues that I wasn’t sure I wanted but I love educating coaches on how to better coach hockey and interact with their players. The growth of hockey rests in well educated coaches.

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