South African fast bowler and Nissan ICC Brand Ambassador Kagiso Rabada took advantage of the last day before the domestic cricket season officially began to hold a coaching clinic at Vorentoe High School, in Auckland Park on Monday afternoon.
The coaching clinic – a two-hour session Rabada did with fellow Nissan brand ambassador and former SA all-rounder Shaun Pollock – is in line with the car manufacturer’s attempts to help the ICC grow cricket in all corners of the world.
The idea to hold a coaching clinic came when the 22-year-old Rabada, who has played for South Africa since 2015, wanted the opportunity to give back to a game that has given him so much in the two years since his debut.
When it came to how to do it, Nissan decided to back his initiative and approach Kaya FM to help promote it. The idea was for players, teachers, cricket coaches or cricket moms and dads from schools to write to the national team bowler through the station and plead their case as to why the school were deserving of an afternoon’s coaching by him.
Vorentoe High School – situated in Auckland Park and better known for producing long and middle distance athletes for South Africa like marathoner Mapaseka Makhanya and the Phalula twins, Lebo and Lebogang – was the winner thanks to parent Farid Manuel’s letter.
Manuel, who has two sons, Muzzamil (14) and Muneeb (13), at the school, explained his motivation for writing and phoning into the radio station: “The kids are not going to school, doing nothing during the day and they are looking up to guys taking drugs and stealing as their role models.
“I wanted them to see what real role models look like. This is a great opportunity for the school to start building a foundation for its cricket team, these things come once in a lifetime.”
Rabada, who has done a few coaching clinics before, said this one was one with a difference, that this one had more of a purpose to it with that letter that was sent through.
But both Rabada and Pollock were less concerned about whether theirs is the beginning of a new cricketing revolution at the school or not. Rather they were more interested in kids being out in the sun and having fun playing sport.
“I think at this stage it’s still just about sport … there’s so much more to it than just sport, like keeping them active,” said Pollock. “So maybe cricket isn’t their biggest thing but for some of the kids that don’t do the athletics and soccer maybe this is their opportunity to be part of a team and show what they can do.
“I love seeing what the kids have got and maybe passing on two or three pearls of wisdom about where they might improve, it’s the same with my little kids – if they’re doing something and I can help them improve I feel good about helping.”
Rabada said for him the education part of it was most important: “What we taught them was to apply their minds, basically learning a skill is like stimulating your brain. So all we did today was stimulate their brains and they can use their brains to work in other facets of their lives outside cricket.
“But ultimately it’s all education, education in motion.”
Rabada, who himself is learning in other respects, said he found being coach instead of a player a little challenging.
One youngster who’ll never forget the experience is opening batsman Tristan Trican. Trican, from Florida, got to face Rabada during the two-hour session, which included fielding drills and bowling and batting in the middle.
“Just meeting him alone was a blessing,” said the 17-year-old. “It was a good experience even before training. It was scary facing him but he was good to me because he gave me something I could cope with.”
School coach JP Scheepers, a former wrist spinner and lower order batsman who now teaches Geography at the school, said the impact of having Rabada and Pollock at the school could not be underestimated.
“Coaching at the school is quite a challenge because most of the boys only pick up a bat for the first time in Grade 8,” he explained. “But this is huge for us because in the sense that while I was teaching learners earlier today kids who are not even interested in cricket where asking if they could come.
The school hopes to get more and more kids to come to cricket so they can grow and have A and B-teams for the senior and junior teams they already have.
With Nissan having donated new cricket kit (bats, balls, helmets, pads and more) to the school, growing the interest, and numbers, in the game at the school shouldn’t be too tough an ask.