WATCH: Coach with high aim

Linda Odolo’s programme will take netball girls all the way

Despite retiring from netball, former Eastern Province player Linda Odolo has not let her talent go to waste. She is now mentoring and grooming young girls around Nelson Mandela Bay with the hope of one day reaching the national netball team.

Born in Zwide Township, the 30-year-old mother of one is the founder of Hope for Kids Netball, which develops female players from the age of five up to 15.

She said the aim of the programme was to put players in the national teams to represent South Africa and the province.

“I want to see our black girls being part of coaching if they do not qualify for those teams. We want to see them developing as coaches to players at national level.

“The aim is also to insure that there is still sport taking place in the location, because there is nothing happening in the schools. Through this programme we want sport to continue,” she said.

Odolo, who is also the netball coach at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, started the initiative in 2013 with only five schools from the Zwide area on board. By the end of that year, the programme had spread to Kwazakhele and New Brighton.

The former EP netball player said pupils and teachers had welcomed Hope for Kids Netball with open arms.

“We go to the schools and teach the kids the basic skills of netball,” she said.

“We have a five-day course where we also teach educators from different schools how to conduct a training sessions, so that they are able to take over if we are not there.

“The programme includes league matches every Wednesday and Friday. On a Saturday we play against local teams.

“At the moment we have four zones, which are Zwide, Kwazakhele, New Brighton and the northern areas. We have a total of 33 schools in the region that are part of the programme and there are 110 teachers that we work with.

“In those different areas we have assistant coaches who take care of all the zones.”

The project also has an academy which is called Let’s Play, where the girls play against the best schools around PE.

Through this initiative some of the girls have been selected to play for some Model C schools.

According to Odolo, five of her players have been absorbed and are now studying at Alexandra Road High School.

Zandile Welleme, 14, left; Linda Odolo Msila (coach) and Zola Maqefuka, 14, right, during a training session with her netball team at Zwide Stadium
Picture: Brian Witbooi

The 30-year-old sport enthusiast has now branched out to the northern areas because she saw there were many challenges when it came to netball there.

“I received many phone calls from the northern areas last year asking to be part of the programme.

“I am the head coach there because when I take on a new school, I don’t want to give one of my assistant coaches the role. I want to do all the groundwork and then after a year hand it over to someone else,” she said.

“At the moment we have about 10 schools that are already on the list for next year. The programme is growing each year.

“I get so many phone calls even when we are doing tournaments. We get teams which just come and want to part of the tournament even if they were not invited .

“But we make space for such teams because there is a lot of need for sport development in our region.”

Odolo said the NMB Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture and African Bank had been a great supporters of her organisation, as they were getting no help from the NMB Netball Association.

“The Nelson Mandela Bay Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture support us big time. They even made new netball courts for us.

“The only sponsor that we have at the moment is African Bank. Everything that I do is because of that bank. They are our biggest supporter,” she said.

“Our biggest challenge is the Nelson Mandela Bay Netball Association. They do not support us at all.”

Despite the challenges, Odolo says her dream is to see the programme grow bigger and attract more sponsors.

Nwabisa Mahlahla, 40, who is one of the assistant coaches at Hope for Kids netball, said the programme was a great initiative to keep young girls busy and out of trouble.

“I joined the programme last year and I am in charge of seven schools. For now our focus is on primary schools but we want to also penetrate into the high schools so that there is continuity.”

Shining Stars male team coach Ovayo Tshapu 29, applauded the great work done by Odolo and her team.

“I am not part of the Linda’s programme but whenever she needs assistance I do not hold back my services because I am inspired by the great work that she is doing in our community.”

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