Botswana Netball Association (BONA) president Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego boasts of vast experience in netball. She knows the sport inside out, having been a player and now President of the association since 2007. She talks to OTHUSITSE TLHOBOGANG about her ever growing sport code.
Tell us about yourself and netball. When did you fall in love with this sporting code?
I started playing Netball in Primary School in 1984 at Gabane Primary School.
Up to which level did you play netball?
I played for and even captained both the under 21 and senior national netball teams.
When did you first go into the administration of netball in Botswana?
I started netball administration with Notwane Netball Team as the Vice Chairperson and in 2007 I became the President of BONA.
What made you decide to join netball administration?
A guilty conscience really! I was not playing as actively as much as I used to and a few of my team mates felt that I could make a difference at BONA. They approached and convinced me to run for office.
When you got to the presidency of BONA you said you wanted to leave a mark when you step down. To this point what have you achieved which is of significance towards this anticipated legacy?
Under my presidency Netball has received the much needed publicity from the media and better profiling. We have competed at two World Cups and we are now ranked 16 in the world. Our athletes also continue to receive international recognition.
How do you perceive the status of local netball at the moment, is there growth in the standard of play?
Absolutely, though our players do not get enough game time they are very talented and with each opportunity they move from strength to strength.
Going forward what will you be working towards, what do you want local netball to be like in the coming two years?
The next two years focus is on the Word Youth Netball Cup that Botswana will host in 2017. We want to deliver a spectacular event and field a competitive team.
What is working against the growth of netball locally and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?
Truly I wish we had more support from government and sponsors. If results translated to better funding and reward from government and more interest from the sponsors netball would be amongst the leading sports in Botswana.
Grassroots development has always been a problem to local sport in general. What is your code doing to address this issue?
We still struggle in this area. Grassroots development is made possible by full time effort and resources. We are still lacking in that area. But we always give advantage to the younger athletes whenever we can. We embrace the schools system in order to tap into their structures to produce competitive athletes.
It looks like there is a transition at the national team as there is introduction of younger players in the national team. Are you happy with the way this is going?
Personally I have always advocated for this and I am glad to see it happening. So I am very happy with the current state of affairs of exposing athletes as early as possible.
You were recently elected the president of the African netball governing body - What made you want to take up this position?
It is a great honour to serve Africa Netball. Netball in Africa faces similar if not worse challenges as Botswana Netball therefore; it would be remarkable and quite fulfilling for me to see how I can use my experience with Botswana Netball to make a difference with Africa Netball.
What are your roles as the president of African netball association?
I lead the regional association and represent Africa in the International Netball Federation Board.
Has this appointment not affected your duties as BONA president?
Yes and No. Yes because now Africa is more organised and the countries that are coming up are beating us, i.e. Uganda and recently Zambia. No, because Botswana has to be exemplary in governance issues and be a role model so we are forced to keep our house in order.
How is Botswana netball benefiting from your appointment to Africa’s highest office of netball?
I get to network with other nations and this opens opportunities for Botswana. We are also able to take better advantage of opportunities that exists at the international federation. i.e. bidding and winning the rights to host the World Youth Netball Cup in 2017.
Only a few African countries have been doing well in the netball international arena. Only two are ranked within the world’s top 10. According to you, what has been lacking in African netball that hinders them to perform well?
It is poor organisation and management really. With Africa Netball now being organised and more functional I can bet we will see more African countries in the top 10. My best next bet is on Uganda. Botswana too has the potential if we could get properly structured.
Coming back locally, netball has been struggling to get support especially sponsorship and this has resulted in the league stopping for over a year now. What are you doing to address this?
Like I said earlier truly I wish we had more support from government and sponsors. However, we continue to engage potential sponsors and we are knocking on as many doors as we can.
Botswana is currently preparing for to host the world youth championships in 2017. How are the preparations going so far? Is the country really ready for hosting such a big event?
Yes, we are ready.
Which facilities will be used for the championships?
We are targeting the UB Facility.
How is the hosting of such a big event going to help the country?
It will help in event management. It will profile our athletes. It will help us sell Botswana to all the countries expected. Batswana will also get to see how the big countries take netball very seriously and hopefully that will change their mind-sets towards it.
How do you relax? Which book are you reading? Who or what inspires you? Have you achieved all that you set yourself to achieve in sport and in your professional life? How are you managing with balancing being a wife, mother, head of country netball, and a top corporate professional?
I am a great believer in the greater good of people. I naively look for the rainbow in every situation, no matter how gloomy. I trustingly hold onto that belief that there has to be a silver lining. Most importantly, I am very true to Tebogo and I never try to be anything else, but me. This is the one thing I am very selfish about and am not willing to compromise on.
My journey to date has been truly blessed and I am grateful to have walked the path that I’ve walked. There have been many heart-breaking moments but the blessings completely over-shadow the dark days. For that I keep walking strong and positively into the future holding onto the belief that God has a great plan for me and that I am destined to do great things and make a difference.
Being a woman comes with societal expectations and challenges. Being a mother is a full time job and having a career at the same time is overwhelming even for the strongest woman. Now add to that multiple voluntary leadership roles and to say that is crazy is an understatement.
For me playing all these multiple roles has been both breath-taking and inspirational. I believe I am a great mom to my kids; I’m loving wife towards my husband; I am loyal to my family and friends. I’m very committed to my job and I work hard to prove my worth and provide for my family.