Fundiswa Hlobo is a TuksAthletics Academy Manager at TuksSport. Last year, she served as a Team Leader of the USSA Athletics team at the World University Games in Napoli, Italy.
Beginning of this year, she was awarded an appreciation accolade by Eastern Cape Schools Athletics, in recognition for her efficient and effective work in school athletics.
Here, Hlobo tells us more about her role at TuksAthletics, key learning outcomes from the 2019 World Student Games and advice to aspiring administrators especially females.
1. As the Academy Manager at TuksAthletics, what is your main focus and areas of responsibility?
My main focus includes operational management of the Academy on a day to day basis, financial management and approval of all Academy related orders, regular interaction and management of other Academy staff members which include all the coaches. Areas of responsibilities include the High-Performance management support for local and international participation, events and project management, managing and liaising with stakeholders and sponsors.
2. What were you involved in before joining TuksSport?
I was the High Performance and Academy Manager for the South African Table Tennis Board for six years (2008-2013) and before that, I was a School-based Educator in the Eastern Cape for 10 years (1997-2007).
3. Tell us more about the challenges and success of the TuksAthletics Academy?
Successes: Financial support from the Athletics Foundation Trust and Nike South Africa's sponsorship. TuksSport High School is the first South African high school to have two athletes that participated at the 2016 Rio Olympics, producing World Youth and Junior 400 m hurdles champion, World Youth 100 m Champion, SA Youth and Junior 200 m records. There is a number of athletes that have secured medals at the World, Continental and National level. We also have few matriculated athletes that are based in the United States of America and doing well in both athletics and academics.
Challenges: Some of the best athletes are expelled at school due to disciplinary issues and therefore unable to finish the programme up to matric level. Some athletes struggle finding the balance between their academics and athletics whereby they are predominately excelling in athletics.
4. You work closely with the TuksSport High School learner-athletes through the Academy, what are the objectives in place of the Academy?
To become one of the world's leading athletics Academy through individual development and educational programmes. Other objectives in place include developing athletes with a mindset of a champion that will be reflected in their athletic and academic achievements, work within the World Athletics philosophy of long term athlete development, nurturing of exemplary life skills in athletes that they will benefit for the rest of their lives.
What makes it so special on the African continent is being the best athletics Academy in the continent, as the main feeder of the Athletics South Africa team with quality athletes that always bring back medals and some coming back as new record holders. Also, the TuksAthletics Academy does not only accommodates South African based athletes but any athlete around the world.
5. In 2019, you were a Team Manager of USSA Athletics at the World Student Games, tell us more about that experience? What did you learn?
It was such a great experience and thanks to University Sport of South Africa (USSA) for having confidence in me to be one of the Team Managers. I did not only gain international exposure but I also got to work as a team with the rest of local team members from other various sporting codes. Networking and sharing of experiences with team members from other countries was indeed another highlight. It was such an enjoyable learning curve in attending meetings and interacting with World Athletics officials. I also gained experience in organising of such prestigious events, processes that athletes need to strictly adhere to and challenges to avoid for upcoming future events.
6. What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on the club’s objectives for 2020?
COVID-19 has drastically affected our objectives especially with daily training not taking place. We are also experiencing cancelled events from local up to the international level and that affected some of our athletes that were fully prepared for the season. We are fortunate to have SEMLI psychologists currently preparing our athletes to easily take-over where they left when business gets back to normal.
7. Who are the Academy members through TukSport High School to watch out for in the coming years, and why?
The school have a lot of good athletes but I will just mention a few that are currently in the South African squad and others ranked in the top 10.
Matriculants & Academy graduates athletes: Clarence Munyai (200 m), Gift Leotlela (100 m & 200 m), Sokwakhana Zazini (400 m hurdles), Tshenolo Lemao (100 m & 200 m), Donovan Mutariswa (100 m & 200 m), Silusapho Dingiswayo (200 m hurdles), Bheki Mnyamana (race walker), Caroline Mosime (200 m), Keletso Senosi (800 m), Mathabo Veldtman (400 m), Remoneiloe Phasha (100 m & 200 m) and Sinesipho Dambile (200 m).
Current High School learner-athletes with the Academy: Thabang Hlohlolo (100 m), Elviano Johnson (400 m & 200 m), Tshegofatso Nwagu (800 m), Prudence Sekgodiso (800 m & 1500 m), Abednico Choba (800 m), Danielle Nolte (long jump & triple jump), Azola Tembani (long jump & triple jump), Mbhoni Mabunda (100 m & 200 m), Benjamin Richardson (100 m & 200 m), Nhlanhla Ndlazi (race walker), Bradley Nkoana (100 m), Tshifura Mukhethwa (100 m & 200 m), Mihlali Xotyeni (100 m & 200 m), Viwe Jingqi (200 m & 400 m), Karabo Madonsela (400 m & 800 m) and Asekho Jaxa (high jumper).
8. How would you describe your experience so far since you joined TuksSport?
A welcoming and friendly working environment with supportive senior management and a space that promotes women empowerment.
9. What is your advice to aspiring administrators, especially women who want to embark on a career in the athletics space?
The athletics environment is a bit challenging especially at the beginning of the year so appropriate planning and time management is essential.
Women sometimes have socio-economic factors that we have to deal with, so dedication and love of sport will brush some of those challenges away at times. Other key advices include making sure you have self-discipline, goal-setting, a strong and calm personality, which also helps as there are times that you will feel that you are indeed a woman, others would want to pull you down and maybe not even having confidence in you till they see the end results.