Botswana Chess Federation Public Relations Director Keenese Katisenge is one of the country’s rising women sport administrators. She has been in the executive committee for 5 years and her passion saw her breaking into international structures at FIDE. Her determination and hard work saw her being named the 2015 BNSC Sport Administrator of the Year. Reporter OTHUSITSE TLHOBOGANG caught up with her to find out how she manages in the male dominated field.
Q: When did you start playing chess?
A: I started in 2000.
Q: What motivated you to choose Chess than other sport codes?
A: It’s a game of strategy that requires deep thinking and mental capacity. It develops one mentally and positions one better to face life challenges; that is why I chose chess.
Q: As a player how far did you go in Chess - are there any honours you got or rating?
A: I retired from playing chess in 2010. During my playing times I attained the following honours: 2005 Botswana International Chess Open Ladies section Bronze medallist; 2007 Metropolitan Ladies National Chess Championships Bronze medallist; I was part of the UB teams that attained 1st position at the 2007 and 2008 intervarsity games held in Swaziland and Botswana respectively; and 2010 Mahindra Chess league Silver medallist at Delta Chess Club.
Q: Some take chess to be a game for lazy people. What is your take on this?
A: Chess requires a lot of energy and discipline than most of the physical sports I know. If the mind is not functioning, the whole body cannot function. If the body is not well the mind is not well thus chess requires balance, good health, mental stamina, energy, resilience, hard work, a lot of studies and research. These are attributes that a lazy person cannot have.
Q: Not everyone is a good administrator, what made you go into administration and what made you think you had what it takes to become an administrator?
A: I was approached by the then Tshepo Sitale-led committee to join administration and my then coach Moses Masocha who believed so much in me encouraged me to go for it.
Q: What position have you held since becoming an administrator?
A: I have held a number of positions that include the following: I served as BCF vice secretary general in 2012 and in 2013 I was elected Public Relations Director with the responsibility of enhancing the image of chess in Botswana. The following year in 2014 I was appointed secretary of the African Chess Federation women’s Commission. In the same year, I was also appointed Councillor under the World Chess Federation commission for Women’s chess.
Q: You have been instrumental in the mobilisation of chess in the country. What has changed with the sport?
A: I was just adding onto what was done by those who came before me especially Kelapile Kelatlhilwe who was the Secretary General. I have enhanced the game’s look, the society’s interest in the game and its visibility through the help of BCF EXCO, media and the chess membership.
Q: Chess has been one of the fast growing sporting codes in the country. What is attributed to the fast paced growth?
A: The growth of chess is attributed to the shining leadership that the code continues to have, the support from all stakeholders including the chess membership, sponsors, media and parents.
Q: You were recently chosen the 2015 BNSC Sport Administrator of the year. What does this mean to your career in sport and what do you think helped you scoop the award?
A: This was a real honour for me. It proves that indeed hard work pays and assures my leaders and the chess membership that they did not make a mistake by voting for me. I managed to get the award because of the guidance and support that we all receive from our president Mr Maruatona and the endless efforts I continue to make in ensuring that my code delivers and is visible.
Q: You have proven not only locally but internationally that you are an administrator of repute as a few months ago you were voted into the FIDE Women Commission. What does your inclusion into this commission mean for you, BCF as well as the country?
A: The inclusion demonstrates that BCF is producing capable leaders that are even recognised internationally. This benefits BCF as we get exposure which is so crucial for the Federation and country.
Q: How is it like to be working in a male dominated area?
A: It proves to me that women are capable. If the few women in sport can do it and handle male dominance then all women can.
Q: What challenges do you mainly face as a female administrator and what keeps you going?
A: The main challenge is finding a balance between family and sport because I volunteer for a very busy code. I am a self-motivated person. I am surrounded by people who believe in me and inspire me, thus fuelling my energy levels.
Q: How do you manage to balance two seemingly demanding positions at BCF and FIDE looking at the fact that you are volunteering to do this?
A: At FIDE we operate at strategic and policy level and do the implementation through continents and national federations thus leaving me with some space to honour my BCF duties.
Q: I understand you have an interest in becoming a board member of the BNSC. What triggered this interest?
A: The need to demonstrate that as women we are willing and capable.
Q: Where do you want to see yourself in the next five years?
A: To tell you the truth I am just having fun applying and challenging myself and would like to continue doing that in everything that I am given or I offer myself to do now and in the next five years and more. I would like to progress career wise. I would love to leave a mark at chess.
Q: Your advice to fellow women who would like to break into sport administration? A: Do it because you love it.
Q: Apart from sport what else do you do?
A: I am a Sales and Marketing Officer at Associated Fund Administrators Botswana, responsible for Pula Medical Aid Fund.
Q: There is always time to relax and forget a little about what you do. What do you do to relax?
A: I am a movie person; I enjoy staying indoors and watching movies and that’s what I do to relax.
Q: Any book you are reading at the moment?
A: Finding The Next Steve Jobs by Nolan Bushnell and Gene Stone.