Posted on September 06, 2018
They’re the reigning national student hockey champions, but players in the Tuks Hockey women’s team say their coach is the ultimate architect of their success. They also say that Inky Zondi, who took over as head coach of the Tuks Women’s 1st team in 2014, is far too modest. Speaking to Zondi, it becomes clear there’s truth in what his players say – he refers to himself as “a forever student of the game.”
“We don’t want to keep on playing the same year in and year out,” Zondi says. “It is all good and well for me to see the game in a certain way but I am not on the field playing. In other words, I need to keep on evolving as a coach.”
Zondi grew up in Amanzimtoti, in southern KwaZulu-Natal. His love for hockey started early – he’s played since he was 10 years old, and represented KZN at provincial level while in high school. He started at UP as a student in 2007 and played Tuks Hockey from first year, eventually returning as coach from 2011.
After coaching his first senior team at TuksHockey, Tuks 6, he followed up by coaching Tuks 3, before taking over the Women’s 1st team in 2014. In 2012, he gained provincial coaching recognition when he was appointed coach for the Gauteng Under-21 and Senior women’s teams, and was named PHL Head Coach in 2017 and 2018. In 2015 and 2016, he was assistant coach to the national women’s teams, and in 2018 to the men’s teams.
Coach Zondi’s team are currently the undisputed South African student hockey champions, after winning the University Sports South Africa (USSA) title in Bloemfontein, beating Kovsies 1-0 in the final. Tuks have been victorious in all three of the previous tournaments they’ve contested. Last year they achieved a unique double, winning the USSA as well as the Varsity Tournaments.
Zondi realised at the start of the season that he had to change the way his team go about things. Seven members of last year’s all-conquering team was still playing, but there were also eight newcomers. Megan Anderson was also new in her role as Captain. This meant the challenge Zondi faced was to adapt the team’s tactics to the newcomers’ individual skills. The ever-modest coach pulled it off in style, and ascribes his team success to hard work, guts and pure passion.
“We had something to prove, as many pundits did not believe that we had what it takes to defend the title. That certainly served as extra motivation.”
In his spare time, Coach Zondi loves reading and discovering new places.
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