Players are never just numbers, or tools to use in order to win hockey games. They are people who matter to me.’ If this is the philosophy of TuksHockey head coach, Inky Zondi it should be no surprise that the Tuks Hockey women’s team only lost one game last year – at the University Sport South Africa finals where Pukke beat them 1-0.
From Friday the Tuks Hockey women’s team will compete in the Varsity Hockey Tournament in Stellenbosch. The second leg of the competition is set to get underway between 12-15 May at the NWU-Pukke Astro in Potchefstroom.
One of Zondi’s big aspirations as a coach is to help Tuks win the Varsity title. It takes a few minutes of listening to Zondi talk about hockey to realise that he is really passionate not only about the sport but also changing an individual’s perception about what it takes to be successful.
Zondi emphasised the importance of the individual in the team. ‘The challenge for me as a coach is to get each individual player to perform their best during a game. I learned a long time ago that there is no blueprint coaching manual that works for all players. Every player is unique in the way that they think and react to things. I always try to understand a player in order to get them to play to best of their ability,’ explained Zondi.
He is also firm believer in encouraging his players to be accountable.
‘Specialists are instrumental to make the “yards”. To put it in another way accountability is what makes the difference in whether a team loses or wins. This means I need to get my players to think about the game and take ownership of what they do on the astro-turf.’
Zondi worked his way up from the bottom to the top job at Tuks Hockey. He started out as a social player at the club. In 2010 he got involved with the women’s team as their team manager.
Slowly but surely Craig Fulton (a former national player) got involved as assistant coach. By 2013 he was officially the assistant coach. In 2014 he coached the women’s second team.
Zondi’s first big breakthrough came in 2015 when Fulton left to coach in Ireland and Zondi became the head coach of the women’s team. ‘I owe a lot to Craig. He was the one who taught me how to really understand hockey and the important principles of the game.’
Another definite highlight for Zondi was being part of the coaching staff in 2014 when Lindsey Carlisle (a former national captain) coached Gauteng North to win the provincial tournament. It was the first time in more than a decade that the tournament was not won by Southern Gauteng or Western Province. Northerns won the provincial tournament again last year.
‘Lindsey introduced a mind shift to the way our players which included a few TuksHockey players thought about the game. You can say Lindsey established the foundation for our winning culture in women’s hockey in Pretoria.’
Picture of Zondi at training with Tuks captain Natalie Esteves courtesy of Reg Caldecott
Tuks Hockey Fixtures:
5 May: Kovsies (15:15)
6 May: University of KZN (15:15)
7 May: Pukke (15:15)
8 May: Madibaz (15:15)
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