HomeSportOut & about: Ntelezi unwraps 1OAK academy

Out & about: Ntelezi unwraps 1OAK academy

By Grant Moyo

The need to bridge the huge gap between the rock-bottom levels of the development of hockey in Zimbabwe and the broad-brimmed levels in countries across the globe where the sporting discipline is competitive, elevated my desire to reinforce the evolution of the sport locally dissecting from grassroots level, says International Hockey Federation (FIH) level 1 coach and founder of 1 Of A Kind (10AK) academy — Gerald Ntelezi.

While hockey is the mainstay of the academy, Ntelezi acknowledges that his establishment offers more than just the sporting discipline, so as to provide and evolve athletes to be holistic individuals capable of changing the world with their own abilities.

Scratching the surface, 1OAK academy is allowing children to develop themselves socially by providing activities that build social dynamics which encourage the youngsters to understand, listen and respect each other.

Consequently, availing kids to get a clear picture that their differences and social constraints are what makes each of them ‘1 Of A Kind’. So far, this particular approach is paying off as Ntelezi and his team are seeing significant progress in behaviour and athleticism, when assessing improvement of each tiddler from the time they began engaging with the academy to now.

Ntelezi, who was born and raised in Bulawayo, attended Hillside Junior School and Plumtree High School. Besides being an International Hockey Federation (FIH) level 1 coach and a sports administrator at Carmel School, he is an FIH level 1 umpire who holds a level 1 and 2 certificate in Sports Management. 1OAK academy was established in 2018 with a sole objective of creating a platform for all athletes to fully express themselves to the best of their abilities in order to get maximum results.

Believing that there is no limit as to when one stops developing and optimistic that so long as the work is being done there is room for improvement, Ntelezi and his team mostly work with children from as old as six years, teenagers and young adults.

“I grew up in a male-dominated home with an elder brother, twin brother and multiple cousins. We were very competitive in all physical activities we partook in. The most memorable moment is when our parents bought us a soccer ball, cricket bat and a tennis ball during the festive holidays. We immediately fell in love with sports! I can’t vividly remember how many windows we broke, but there were many casualties. Initially, I was a soccer fanatic but ever since my elder brother introduced me to hockey, it was love at first sight, and I never looked back. I managed to perform exceptionally well both in primary and high school. I represented the Matabeleland province on multiple occasions, being exposed to high quality coaching and performances,” Ntelezi said.

Based in Bulawayo 1 Of A Kind academy is closely affiliated with the Matabeleland Hockey Board (MHB). The board provides the academy with opportunities for players and coaches to tap into their potential through competitions, coaching clinics, workshops and self-examining courses which in turn help with the development of the sport.

All players are attached to the province through the school set up and have the opportunity to represent their educational institutions through the schools hockey avenue. MHB is making significant strides in helping to ensure that Zimbabwe’s failure to compete at the highest level is cut short, by investing time and resources towards grooming the best coaches and players.

Ntelezi said that one of the academy’s main aims is to build a community of young athletes residing from the high, middle and lower density suburbs of Bulawayo, brought together by a common denominator — which is the love of hockey and high performance.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic 1OAK academy had night sessions at Khumalo Hockey Stadium, on one of the only three AstroTurf fields in the country. Young participants of all ages took part, expressing their physical and psychological strengths while having fun and learning.

“Everyone was created in the image of God and is unique in their own way. When we are very young we are fearless and do everything to the best of our ability without thought. However, as we grow certain experiences start to limit us and affect our mental state, thus, hampering our ability to express ourselves fully. As the 1OAK academy, our intent is to break down those obstacles in order to have athletes who fully express themselves at the highest level in order to reap supreme results. We value the development of sport from grassroots level. Young children are our primary target, they are the future! Creating a solid foundation for kids encourages them to develop fully and grow into independent responsible young adults,” Ntelezi said.

Ntelezi pointed out that one of the challenges the academy is excited to face head-on, is creating an environment which is inclusive and accommodating to people from all social backgrounds irregardless of gender, race, tribe, religion, class, occupation, language or ethnicity.

Instead of having a select few, creating an activity friendly environment that is zero tolerant to discrimination, stereotyping and labeling guarantees ultimate goal-oriented participation from loads of purpose driven and sure-footed athletes.

One of Ntelezi’s major duties at the academy is coming up with session plans that cater for all athletes. He ensures that they are distinctly delivered by the respective coaches.

Noticing that most athletes suffer from mental illness and depression due to pressure, his other crucial role is assuring that his academy provides activities that improve confidence and mental inhibitions. This goes a long way in boosting individual and team performance.

“We always look at providing activities that allow players to express themselves and have fun. The intention is to work with an athlete’s psychological state first. Once we have succeeded in that area, proceeding to work on the external side of the athlete becomes an easier task. The moment we have players spending more time together on a regular basis, the more likely their social dynamics are improved, which works well for them, as they become more than just teammates on the field. Using the hockey stadium as our base, we have the ability to accommodate 30 plus athletes. Currently, we have three coaches, however, due to the coronavirus crisis regulations, we have been working with a minimum number of athletes, since safety is paramount. Participating in workshops and online courses with international hockey educators from overseas has vastly enlightened us on the development of players and officials, as well as the sport in general,” Ntelezi said.

“The internet, as broad as it is, will continue to be a useful tool in sport. It helps the global sporting fraternity to keep up to speed with the major sporty developments in spite of location and time differences. In Zimbabwe, it is giving relevant authorities opportunities to research, adapt and follow suit the approaches as well as the know-how used by competitive countries in the sporting arena. It’s no secret that there’s a need to fix the on-and-off field setbacks largely contributing to Zimbabwe’s failure to compete at the highest level in most if not all sporting disciplines. Undoing the negative state befalling hockey stadiums and most of our sporting infrastructure will better team as well as individual performances. It will go a long way in reinstating the nation as a part of suitable candidates in the African continent with world-class facilities readily available to host international competitions at any given time.”

Tailing the success story at the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia — where the Zimbabwean women hockey team, affectionately known as the Golden Girls, bagged the coveted gold medal in women’s field hockey — Ntelezi is optimistic that in the near future, 1 Of A Kind academy will be able to bring-forth history-making teams, and yield massive results that will bring back the country’s glory days.

By doing so, the potential to lure full support as well as buy-in from the corporate sector and the government through policies and legislation is enhanced.

  • Grant Moyo is a prolific writer, innovative media personality, entrepreneur and a creative artist, who is passionate about using his creative mind for the betterment of society. Follow him on Twitter: @TotemGrant

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