I used rugby to escape from social ills – Ndawonde

Never allow circumstances to determine your future, Sharks star advises.
Never allow circumstances to determine your future, Sharks star advises.
Image: Supplied

Sharks rugby female player Zinhle Ndawonde had a sit-down interview with Ryobi Won’t Quit Crew – a mentorship programme meant for athletes to inspire others – to let them in on her life and aspirations:

Tell us more about yourself...

I’m a rugby player and a firefighter by profession. I love spending time with my family and helping young girls to pursue their dreams through sport. Growing up for me as a young girl was never easy, but using that as an excuse was not an option either. I had to work hard and create possibilities for me to break the stereotype of impossible. My great sport hero is Siya Kolisi, simply because his childhood story and the challenges he faced as a young boy are similar to mine.

Your family?

I grew up living with my mom who was a domestic worker. She used to leave my sister and I alone during the week as she worked for us to have food on the table. We used to stay in a one-room rented house with everything in that room. We had to move every time the rent got increased – always to different areas of Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal, which was risky and dangerous for two young girls. But seeing our mom work so hard and not giving up on us was enough love to keep us in the right direction.

Why did you choose rugby?

At first, rugby for me was an escape route to keep myself away from the things that were happening in my area. A lot of girls my age were falling pregnant, involved in alcohol and drug abuse and I made a promise to myself that was not the life I wanted. I never had friends because I was caught up in school and rugby, which was the best decision I think I ever made at a young age. After high school I realised the love and passion I had for this sport and wanted to pursue it further.

What’s your greatest challenge at present?

Not having resources and support to help other young girls like me, especially those in rural areas and townships who love the sport and want to pursue it. Girls who stay too far from the central city area where everything is available to them to enrich and pursue their careers in sport.

What advice do you give to other young, aspiring athletes who want to follow in your footsteps?

A lot of young girls are growing up in disadvantaged background and a lot of them feel that that’s what life is meant for them. But one thing I always tell them is that we can always turn our scars into stars. Many of us come from bad backgrounds but you should never allow those circumstances to define you or determine your future. Use it to strengthen you, to give you a reason why you are doing it.

What does being a part of the Ryobi Won't Quit Crew mean to you?

Being part of the Ryobi Won’t Quit Crew campaign has been a great platform for me – giving me an opportunity to tell my/our stories and the barriers we faced and how we have overcome them. I believe that the story will touch a lot of young girls and women who are going through difficulties out there and it will give them hope and motivation not to quit no matter how hard the circumstances may be. – Sowetan Reporter 

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