A chance practice at school opened the doors for University of Johannesburg netball coach Bongiwe Msomi, paving the way to reach the highest level in the sport.
The South African captain joined the UJ operation last month, but it was only after going to watch a friend play the sport at school that she actually took up the game.
The 31-year-old Msomi said when she was in Grade 11 at Luthayi High in 2005, she went to watch a practice.
“When I got there they only had 13 players and as they wanted a full-court practice, the coach [Thembisa Mncwabe] was asked if I could join in,” she said.
She was given permission and she soon adopted netball as her new passion.
That was the start of a career which would take her around the world representing her country while also securing contracts to play professionally in both England and Australia.
The Proteas captain, however, has not forgotten her roots or the start Mncwabe gave her in the sport.
“He has been such a big part of my netball life, often helping to pay for kit which we could not afford in the early days.”
Having made her mark in the game during the latter stages of her school career, Msomi, captained the national U21 side in 2009 and graduated to the senior side two later. She has played 104 times for South Africa.
After competing for South Africa in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Msomi’s career moved in another direction, but only after an amusing incident involving her introduction to the professional arena.
Clearly having impressed talent scouts at the Games in Scotland, she received a Facebook message in 2015 about playing professionally in the United Kingdom.
“At that stage of my life I really wasn’t exposed to or aware of these sorts of opportunities,” said Msomi.
“I actually thought it was some sort of scam until I spoke to my coach a few weeks later and he said it was probably the real thing.”
Once she made contact, a new experience awaited her and she turned out for Surrey Storm and Wasps in the English Super Leagues.
While that has been invaluable in her all-round development as a player, Msomi says there is still nothing to match representing your country.
“Every time my name is announced in the national squad there is a feeling of excitement,” she said. “It is something I will never take for granted.”
Msomi completed a national diploma in sport management in 2012 at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and worked as an ambassador for the Girls Only Project, an initiative that deals with the empowerment of women and girls through sport. She also founded the Bongi Msomi Netball Project (BMNetball).
Having made her mark on the court she is looking forward to the opportunities which lie ahead in her position as UJ netball manager and coach.
“I have an awesome opportunity as a UJ netball coach to showcase what I can do for others through the sport. I am really excited for what lies ahead,” she said.