LEARNING CURVE | Coach T gives all so youth have a sporting chance
Coaching services help athletes of all levels reach their goals
Thobela Mathemba Thoba, or Coach T as he is known to his clients, runs a sports management company through which he offers coaching services (athletics, fitness and personal training) as well as administering outreach community sports development programmes.
Thoba worked as a sports co-ordinator at Victoria Park High School before he started Thoba Sports Consulting in 2017.
What is the name of your business?
Thoba Sports Consulting t/a Evolve @ Linkside Performance, Fitness and Wellness Centre and as ACT Elite Training Academy.
I also oversee the management of our non-profit organisation which was started in 2016 — Khulasande Sports Development.
What is your core service?
Personal training, group fitness coaching, sports specific conditioning and athletics coaching (track and field).
What makes your business unique?
We offer a variety of coaching services, including track and field athletics, group fitness training, personal training and sports specific conditioning.
Our group classes are held mostly outdoors and although the classes are in groups, clients do get a feel of personal coaching as there aregenerally three coaches looking after the classes.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
They would have to start by having an absolute passion for people, both young and old, as well as a deep passion for coaching, leading, and guiding, especially young people that they will be in contact with daily.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
Funds and finances were a big challenge as it was needed to purchase equipment.
The second big challenge was finding a suitable facility from which to run the business.
Then the biggest challenge of them all was navigating through the Covid-19 pandemic, seven months after opening the fitness centre.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?
Be prepared to work your socks off, to sacrifice time with family and friends.
If anyone wants to be in the type of business I’m in, they must be prepared to literally give up on sleep as my day starts at 4am and ends at 6.30pm every weekday.
We are open on Saturdays as well, although we get to sleep in for an extra hour, sometimes two.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your industry?
For me, time is the biggest challenge. I don’t have enough time in the day to get through all the work I need to, so time-management is crucial.
The other challenge is having big, broad shoulders as some clients will at some point need emotional support and as a coach, one needs to put aside whatever they are going through and be there and be strong for your client.
What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?
Never give up! This is advice I learnt from watching my mother working up to three jobs while we were growing up to put my siblings and I through school and tertiary.
I’ve also had numerous moments where things became so tough that giving up seemed the easiest thing to do, but after pushing through difficult moments I’ve always come out on the other side grateful for not giving up.
How do you measure or define success in your business?
Success is this business is derived from my clients when they meet their health and fitness goals.
And from my athletes when they reach a goal they had set for themselves and worked for months to achieve it, and when our clients can move freely without being out of breath, when exercising was a struggle at the start of their journey.
Feedback from our clients really gives us a boost and confidence to continue our work as we can see the difference we are making in their lives.
Their feedback makes all our sacrifices worth it. Their success is our success.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
We go out of our way to serve and service our clients. There is always a way, even if it means we must make small sacrifices here and there to cater for clients’ needs.
What kind of advertising do you do?
We rely heavily on social media to create awareness for our business, but the biggest form of advertising has been word of mouth, resulting in many of our clients being recruited by their friends.
What is your company’s vision?
Our vision is to create stimulating sporting programmes for coaches, administrators as well as athletes, by introducing a professional and holistic approach to sports leadership, which will effectively influence and change the approach to sports management in the Eastern Cape.
What is your target market?
Our target market is people of all ages who wish to lead a healthy lifestyle, and sportspeople who wish to get a competitive edge over their competitors and aspiring track and field athletes of all ages who wish to represent our province and, one day, our country.
What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
The partnership between our company and Linkside High School is at the top of the list as it has opened a new world of opportunities for us to grow our business and make a positive impact on people’s lives while improving our lives at the same time.
How important is social media and an online presence for your business?
I believe it would not have been possible for us to grow as we have, without having a relatively good presence on social media.
How many people do you employ?
We employ a small team of five energetic and passionate young people, me included, to manage and implement our different programmes.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
With the help of The Bay Gas Company, who is our sponsor, we have already made some building expansions that have supported and aided our growth over the past 12 months.
We have some rather ambitious goals we wish to attain over the next five to 10 years, but these will require extreme hard work and quite a substantial financial investment.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
The initial funding of the business was through personal savings and loans from other arms of my business.
The Bay Gas Company came on board in 2021 and helped with us achieve our initial expansion plans.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?
I’ve learnt that with the help of good people, I can really achieve anything I set my mind to.
I’ve also learnt that anything worthwhile in life, comes at a big cost to self.
What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Gqeberha?
I think with Gqeberha being so small, it makes it easier for one to gain a reputation, whether positive or negative, so that is a huge opportunity and advantage.
I sometimes feel that generally we do not take sport seriously, and that is sometimes a huge challenge when it comes to the coaching of our athletes.
What do you say are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
Passion, perseverance and a never-say-die attitude!
What do you say are the key traits of a successful employer?
Being open-minded and willing to try different things. From my experiences, what has helped me the most is the ability to adapt and evolve to situations that I find myself and business in.
Also, believing in your employees and giving them the freedom to perform the duties for which you have employed them.
What do you wish people knew about your industry?
Anyone can take part in a fitness programme, and everyone needs to lead an active lifestyle to have a productive, long, healthy, and happy life.
Regular exercise reduces health risks later in life and it is therefore important for our population to develop a culture of exercising.
In our business we cater for everyone’s needs, individuals of all ages and all fitness levels.
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