Slice of life: Team work makes the dream work

For the past seven years I have played touch rugby, it was a spur of the moment decision that looked like fun and gave me something to do after school. I didn’t know the sport would lead me on a long but rewarding journey.

Three years ago, I was selected to play for the Gauteng Ladies side, an experience that has taught me more in that short space of time than my 12 years inside a classroom.

Our coach, Steven Knoesen, demands perfection in every aspect of the game, for defense to be as tough as the attack, and for us to memorise every move but to improvise when needed. The past three years under his watch have broken and subsequently moulded me as a player. Three years ago, I was an average player that sailed through most games on natural ability, a bit of pace and a lot of heart. However, when you’re coming up against the best touch rugby players in the country you’ll need a lot more than heart and pace to beat them.

Finally, after years of practice, fitness training week in and week out, running the same moves a hundred times and then a hundred more, learning from defeat and building a strong team bond; we made it to the Ladies final in March this year. Obviously, our opponents would be none other than KZN, leaving us feeling like we were thrown to the sharks. Thankfully, we succeeded! We won 4-1 and came home with our first ever gold medal.
The feeling of finally succeeding after years of tireless work is indescribable. Success is built on a foundation of hard-work, heart and the pure drive to achieve regardless of the circumstances. In anything that you attempt in life, you will always be more successful if you work hard and give it your all.

There is no ‘I’ in touch rugby. I have learned that it takes six people to score a try and it takes the same to defend against one. There are moments when individuality is important but nine times out of ten, a team will be better. You need a team, whether on a sports field or in a newsroom. A team that will go again and again until they succeed. Team work is an interesting concept in the fact that everyone must work just as hard the person next to them, you will only truly succeed if there is no weak link.

I have a Ladies team that is dynamic in ability as well as people from all walks of life that put everything aside once they step onto that field. The sense of camaraderie in sport is unrivalled, friendship is an integral part to personal growth. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is crucial, they will push you to be the best version of yourself.

My three year slog to gold was a process that taught me that in everything you attempt in life, you need to put in equal part hard work to equal part heart and it is always better with a team next to you.

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SLICE OF LIFE: Overcoming my ‘quarter-life’ crisis

As 2016 came close to an end and people started popping champagne bottles to usher in 2017 with happy smiles, I came to a very stark realisation. I was terrified of what lay ahead. I had reached a point where I could no longer hide behind the title of student to explain why I wasn’t employed in a job that was taking me places.

I couldn’t excuse the fact that I was still not financially independent after four-and-a-half years of university study (preceded by three gap years). Worst of all, I could no longer continue in the miserable pattern of waking up, going to work, going home, trying to do something valuable before going to bed in the hopes of achieving some change, falling asleep and struggling to wake up the next morning to repeat the pattern again.

Truth be told, I didn’t regret any of the choices I had made until that point. I valued all my experiences and I was grateful for every opportunity life had presented. I had been an ambitious, daring go-getter but my then situation was not sitting well with me. I had fallen into what I came to regard as a “quarter-life” crisis. I didn’t know where my life was going career wise.

The more I spoke to friends and acquaintances in more or less the same post-university stage in life, the more I realised this crisis was a real and common thing. Talking about these struggles and comparing mine to other people’s stories helped me to feel normal. Once you realise you’re not alone, that there are other people feeling exactly the same way, you gather some courage to carry on fighting.

So, on New Year’s Eve, 2016, having mulled this over and gathering the courage to climb out from behind the bottle of champagne, I made a decision to make two changes. I wanted to apply for bursaries to further my studies overseas and I wanted to find a new job.

It took the whole of 2017 to make any sort of progress on these resolutions. It was a difficult, pick-yourself-up-again, time-after-time, kind of year – applying, being rejected and feeling nothing I had to give was good enough. By the end of the year I could hardly find the strength to get up and go to work in the mornings. I loved life but I just didn’t feel as if it loved me back.

It was at this point that I decided I needed to make a drastic change. I stopped looking overseas and set my sights on studying closer to home.

In the process, I had discovered that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism.

As 2017 drew to a close, I had applied, been for an interview, and had been accepted for study towards an honours degree in journalism at Wits. It was a step I nearly didn’t take – not because I didn’t want to, but because it was logistically very hard for me to go back to full-time studying. Despite the hurdles, I decided to be that ambitious, daring go-getter again and, in my experience, life has a way of rewarding that. Things fall into place like they should precisely when they should when you refuse to give up.

I’m not there yet and I can’t say I’ve made it but, if I survive this year, I can face the end of 2018 full of hope in my heart, happy to be popping a champagne bottle or two in the face of 2019 and the start of a new chapter in my life.

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Sharing the pain of “adulting”

I remember my mother sending me a text message late last year in December nonchalantly saying: “By the way you’re on your own for medical aid beginning next year…”

She was speaking of 2017.

The amount of sad and crying face emojis I sent her immediately tossed her into a laughing frenzy. This was her way of telling me, “Welcome to the world of adults.”

Shock! Horror! “Adulting” soon became a reality. One that still has me #shook.

I felt like I was being kicked while I was down and out. Ok, maybe not down and out. But in my eyes, having just moved back home as a graduate, after years of being away at varsity and being broke counted towards my struggle argument.

Do you remember your first day in first grade, high school and the dreaded first day of university? Well, none of these phases could have prepared you for the “adulting” world that social media has turned into a trend.

If you haven’t noticed, Twitter and Instagram have become abuzz with the #Adulting craze lately. These are mostly young adults who have taken to these platforms to share their daily struggles and victories of being an adult. Most, who are not of our generation, think of “adulting” as a vain manner in which we self-congratulate.

Writer Danielle Tullo in Cosmopolitan insists that the word “adulting” implies that being an adult is not a necessary part of growing up but rather a life choice you’re hesitant to fully buy into.

I beg to differ. The thing is,we are already in this “adulting” thing whether we like it or not. We are fully aware of it but we choose to share these “adulting” moments with friends, acquaintances and loved ones because of a simple need to feel like we are not alone in the struggle. Yeah sure, we get a couple of giggles and likes along the way. But it is the mere fact of knowing that I am not the only twenty-something-year-old stressed about bills, savings and responsibilities with my barely-enough-to-go-around salary – we’re in this together.

“Adulting” is having to deal with the fact that for the first time in your life you are expected to have it all together: career, finances and relationships, amongst other things. It is finding yourself sitting behind your work desk even when it is raining cats and dogs outside and you would honestly rather be at home in your pyjamas watching series. But you understand being here pays your salary and that will ultimately afford you that first car you’ve been dreaming of.

Now that I have my newfound freedom – including no curfews – you’d think I’d have more time to hangout and party with friends but hardly any of that is coming my way. See, with “adulting”, spontaneity is almost always a myth because now you resort to planning engagements with friends since everyone is always busy. Delayed gratification becomes the norm.

The reality of taking on adult responsibilities is no easy task. There are days when I’m able to get through the ups and downs. There are other mornings when the dread and constant feeling of being thrown into the deep end can be overwhelming, making me want to crawl into bed next to my mother and have her comfort me through it all.

The reality of “adulting” is having to make things work even when you don’t have it all figured out.

So, excuse me and the other young adults who want to self-celebrate and give ourselves a pat on the back every now and then for even the smallest achievements of this “adulting” life.

Future of journalism in the spotlight at local conference

COVERING THE BIG NEWS: Business Day editor Songezo Zibi. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

COVERING THE BIG NEWS: Business Day editor Songezo Zibi. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

This year’s Menell Media Exchange conference played host to much needed debates and commentary about the future of the media industry. 

The conference, which took place in Sandton, Johannesburg this Friday and Saturday, was not short on humour as delegates and speakers confronted the prickly issues of the future of the media industry and sustainability in the digital age. The second day kicked off with a comedy roast of South African media by the Late Night News (LNN) team of Loyiso Gola and Kagiso Lediga.

The duo took a stab at almost everyone in a media roast, including controversial media veteran Allister Sparks, to news organisations like the Sunday Times and the Mail&Guardian to radio host Redi Thlabi.

 

Celebrated radio personality John Perlman of KayaFM joined media strategist Shaka Sisulu, commentator Palesa Morudu and Business Day editor Songezo Zibi on the first panel that focused on how South African media covered the big stories of the day. These included the coverage of xenophobic violence in South Africa along with Nkandla. Perlman offered advice to journalists struggling with coverage of big stories which can be chaotic: “We need to be comfortable with confusion and not being right,” he said.

Sisulu was critical of what he referred to as a predetermined narrative in the media and added that the South African story needs to be told in a more diversified way.

While Zibi received much applause for his contribution to the panel discussion.

Wits University had a strong presence on the second day of the conference. Wits Journalism’s Ashfaaq Carim and Dinesh Balliah  formed part of the panel discussion on new ways of storytelling. TV lecturer Indra de Lanerolle presented a short talk on the 10 things you need to know about South Africa’s digital space.

Andrew Phelps from the New York Times highlighted the challenges when faced with breaking news in the digital world. “No one remembers who was right first but everyone remembers when you were first and wrong.” He said that journalists need to choose accuracy over speed when working with online stories.

The conference wrapped up on a positive and optimistic note although the uncertainty around the future of journalism and in particularly, sustainability, will linger long after.

 

Allister Sparks talks papers and politicians

Long time journalist and public commentator Allister Sparks (82) found himself at the centre of a social media storm when he declared Apartheid architect Hendrick Verwoerd was a ‘smart politician’. Wits Vuvuzela spoke to Sparks at the Menell Media Exchange conference in Sandton about the state of journalism in South Africa and the shifts in the political landscape. 

VETERAN JOURNALIST: Allister Sparks spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about dying newspapers, the 'gimmicks' of EFF, and Baleka Mbete. Photo: Dinesh Balliah

VETERAN JOURNALIST: Allister Sparks remains vocal about dying newspapers, the ‘gimmicks’ of the EFF, and the ‘unbalanced’ Baleka Mbete. Photo: Dinesh Balliah

What stood out for you at this year’s conference and is there anything you expect to hear?

I was particularly taken by yesterday’s session by Catherine Kennedy (of the South African History Archive). I didn’t go to the branding, maybe I missed something there, I guess I feel it’s a bit too late for me to brand myself at my age (laughs). For me Catherine was the highlight. Particularly John Perlman and Songezo Zibi, I thought there were wise thoughts that came out of them.

On parliament in South Africa today …

Parliament has been a very refined and remote place, now it’s in the public eye and I think that’s good. [However] it will have to take a grip on itself, and it needs a better speaker than we have at the moment, because it can easily become a laughing stock, it can really damage its reputation.

On the EFF and their disruption in Parliament, and Baleka Mbete …

I do think the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters), has brought something, but it’s got to be very carefully monitored by a much better speaker than we’ve got. I think Max Sisulu would have managed it, Max was a very good speaker and Frene Ginwala likewise, not a partisan speaker who’s the chairman of a party, and her lack of balance shows so glaringly, nobody takes her seriously.

I think the red garments [of the EFF] was a gimmick, I guess once you’ve got them it’s very hard to get rid of them, I don’t  think it has any impact anymore, it had an impact in the beginning. The gimmicks need to be limited, but they can only be limited by the speaker, and that’s got to be by persuasion, not by bringing in the police. She (Mbete) needs to call in the whips and say ‘How do we deal with this?’

I think a lot of it [parliament] is archaic language and it’s a bit absurd; it’s meant to preserve a tradition, but at the same time its got to give way to the modern world and the modern South Africa where not everybody shares the British tradition. There has to be some kind of control in the transformation of parliament and only a really wise, strong, and influential speaker can do that.

On Business Day editor Songezo Zibi …

I think he’s a very thoughtful young man and I think he has some very important insights … he’s a real asset to the media. He’s a young man and he’s a very important addition to our galaxies of editors, he’s thoughtful and cares about the media. John Perlman has been around for a long time, but this is a newcomer really [Zibi] out of a different profession, and he has a great career ahead of him.

On newspapers in the new digital age …

I think two kinds of newspapers papers are going to survive in the new digital age: One is the local paper, the small town paper and the other is the serious paper. I think the popular press is going to die, and we have an awful lot of popular press here and its days are numbered.

There’s got to be one black newspaper that’s going to emerge as a serious one, [maybe] it is the Sowetan, City Press is getting there but it’s only a Sunday paper.

Media gathering takes off in Johannesburg

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NEW TOOLS: Laura Grant of the Mail&Guardian demonstrated some new applications for producing digital journalism. PHOTO: Katleho Sekhotho.

The 2015 Menell Media Exchange conference started today at Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg. 

Some of South Africa’s most respected journalists, media practitioners, educators and students joined international visitors and guests for the second Menell Media Exchange conference.

Peter Ndoro, Lester Kiewet and Jeremy Maggs were some of the prominent speakers and guests on the first day of the conference in Sandton, Johannesburg, which focused primarily on training and workshops.

Themed as “innovation, brand and sustainability”, the opening panels focused on brand building by individuals and journalists in particular. Veteran journalist Gus Silber provided key insights into the use of social media for journalism and as a tool for journalists to increase their visibility.

The Mail & Guardian’s Laura Grant and SABC’s Tegan Bedser, demonstrated various apps that can be used in digital storytelling. 

Jeremy Maggs joined eNCA’s Patrick Conroy on a panel that explored the difficult subject of funding journalism in ways that does not impede it.

Andrew Phelps, senior product manager for the New York Times, gave the afternoon keynote address and stressed the importance of innovation in newsrooms.

The conference continues tomorrow.