You initially started as a formidable rugby player and went on to become one of the best local strength and conditioning experts. Quickly take us through your journey from how you started to where you are now.
I grew up in the sport-crazy town of Mariental, where I was exposed to different sports codes from an early age, which led to my inclusion in various national teams, such as the junior and senior athletics and rugby teams, respectively. Mariental had no gyms or strength and conditioning coaches at the time, so to be a competitive athlete, I had to become my own coach and also coach my peers. But little did I know it was forming part of the process of giving birth to Kavita Sports Performance in the later stages of my life as an athlete. Kavita Sports Performance is steadily finding its feet in the sports ecosystem of Namibia
Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your growth as an athlete and as a strength and conditioning expert?
In my formative years as an athlete, I would often lean towards my senior in primary school Penny Hamunyela, as she was an aspiring athlete and portrait – some of the character traits that I admired, which were hard work and dedication.
As a strength and conditioning coach, Steffi Brink, who was my U/20 national rugby coach, inspired me a lot. She not only got our conditioning to a place where we could compete against bigger and tougher nations but also tapped into the mental side, which is imperative.
For starters, what are the jobs of strength and conditioning experts, and what is their importance in the careers and performances of athletes?
A strength and conditioning coach takes an athlete through a high-performance programme that would get an athlete in the best physical shape to compete. Simply put, a strength and conditioning coach studies patterns and movements within a sport and then works out a programme that mimics and manipulates those movements and patterns to then translate over to the athletes and elevate their performance.
Looking at your remarkable transition – from playing active rugby to becoming a strength and conditioning expert – how did that evolution come about?
It was an easy transition because, during my competitive years as an athlete, I was often coaching younger athletes and some of my peers as well – some of which I managed to help gain national colours. I was simply applying knowledge and experience gained over the years as an athlete.
Which clubs did you play for during your active days as a winger?
I played for the Unam Rugby Club. That is the club that has a massive impact on me as a person; they are my family.
Did you ever play for any of the national teams?
I played for U/16 to U/20 junior national team as well as senior national 7s rugby.
You are the founder of the Kavita Sports Performance Centre, where you conduct and help athletes with strengthening and conditioning. When was the centre established, and how many athletes did you first start with?
Without counting all the years of training athletes in my backyard, Kavita Sports Performance is officially one year old and was established in September 2021. We started with two athletes in a massive 500sqm building.
How has the growth been, especially looking at the number of athletes you currently have and the support from various stakeholders?
We have had tremendous growth because of the gap that was in the market, and we are looking to service even more athletes. We are currently preparing the Mariental Sport Clubs football team to compete in the First Division Football League. One of the players, John-Pall Beukes, who trains under us, was selected to present Namibia at the recent U/23 Afcon qualifiers in Angola. We also conduct the physical fitness of the Mariental Municipality Fire Brigade.
How difficult of a journey has it been for you to get to where you are today?
The journey has been difficult – but luckily, sport made me mentally tough, as I used to train athletes at 4h30 in the morning in my backyard – just so that I could save up enough money to attend sport seminars and do online courses. But they say tough times build tough men, and we are steadily climbing the ladder, looking to push the ceiling.
Were your parents always in support of your career choice as a strength and conditioning coach, or it took some time for them to understand and appreciate what you do now?
Try telling African parents that you want to become a strength and conditioning coach; it is one of the most insane career choices my parents have ever heard. But I was stubborn enough to go against them because I knew I wanted to pursue something I was passionate about. My mother eventually started to support me when she saw traction, and that I was on to something big. She would shed a few tears when she sees me in newspapers.
You recently scooped a prize of N$50 000 at the Old Mutual Sustainable, Economic and Empowerment Drive (OM SEED) Initiative, held in Keetmanshoop, in August. How have those funds helped in terms of transforming your performance centre?
It has helped in acquiring equipment that can help improve athletes and also in reaching out to more athletes. I can now cater for the community as well as to people who want to lead healthy, active lifestyles in a conducive and inclusive place.
Generally, is there enough financial and material support for local strength and conditioning coaches and experts like yourself?
There is not, but that will hopefully change when the private and public sector sees a lot more of us, pushing athletes on the international stage. In this industry, you have to carve your way. I started with a few skipping ropes and built my way up to a point where I have players from netball, athletics and football in the national team. However, I do learn from fellow strength and conditioning coaches like Gregory Areseb.
Where do you see yourself and Kavita Sports Performance Centre in the next five years?
I see Kavita Sports Performance not only feeding hundreds of athletes in Namibia but also developing coaches and hosting regional and national training camps. Our goal in the next five years is to replicate the same project in a different region.