When Noluthando “Thando” Msweli, PeacePlayers South Africa’s Operations Manager, first joined 11 years ago, neither basketball nor meeting people different from her were anything new to her. Noluthando “Thando” Msweli was raised in the township of Lamontville, located south of Durban, but went to school outside Lamontville at Montclair Senior Primary School. So, by the time she joined PeacePlayers at the age of 16, she had already been playing basketball competitively at Montclair, where she also encountered young people from different racial backgrounds. If Thando already played basketball, and already had opportunities to interact with a diverse group of people, what was it about PeacePlayers that kept her coming back for 11 years? – What led her to continue on from participant to youth leader, to area coordinator in the Professional Development Program, and finally to Operations Manager?
As a participant in PeacePlayers, Thando shifted how she looked at basketball, how she saw her team, and made her reconsider what was really important to her. Thando refers to herself as a very competitive person, both on and off the court. In PeacePlayers, Thando started to see the significance of being on a team, beyond just winning and looking out for yourself. “In my competitive sport, it was like if you don’t score a goal, or someone pushes you, you get angry and aggressive. But with peace players, they teach you to relax, calm down. It’s a team sport; we’re here to learn and grow and get exposed.”
At Thando’s school, she “got exposed very early to other things, other races and other places and opportunities, but it was more on a competitive level, where you need to be good at something, you need to beat someone else in order to be the best, but when I got to PeacePlayers, it was all about, it’s a journey you meet people along the way, you learn a few things from other people, you teach people other things, and you help each other get to a certain point.”
When Thando became a coach, that’s when this idea of creating equal opportunities on the team really hit home. “I had to change my mindset, because now I’m teaching young kids and the aim as a coach is not to win, it’s to make sure that everyone is participating, everyone is engaging, everyone is involved and everyone’s learning and growing cause at the end of the day our mission is not only to develop sportspeople but rather leaders. You give people equal opportunities on the court. You don’t only put in the star player. You need to put the worst player because that’s how they also grow.”