Mapitso Makena: It was time to give back

“We were making a difference and it felt good”

MY basketball journey started before I could even walk. I learnt to walk dribbling the ball every morning in the house, so to say basketball is in my blood would be an understatement. My parents, George Makena (founder of Bees Basketball Club, former men’s national team coach and former Tshwane Suns Head coach and 3x BNL champion) and Asnath Digamela (former ladies’ national team coach) gave their lives to the sport from grassroots all the way up to the national level as players and coaches. They continued to be supportive of me when I represented the country throughout my teens. 

I enjoyed my career as a player. I had the opportunity to be a part of incredibly talented teams such as the Pretoria High School for Girls (PHSG) 1st team from 2005-2009, and the University of Pretoria ladies 1st team from 2010 until an unfortunate knee injury in 2012 ended my playing career. Being frustrated by not being able to play anymore, but still with a burning desire to be involved in basketball, meant that I had to find something else that would satisfy me within the basketball space. Coaching at Girls High gave me a sense of purpose but it was not enough.

Beez Kidz Story
SHARED VISION: Bongi Nkosi is part of the coaching team at Beez Kidz. PICTURES: BTO

What about the kids at home in Mamelodi? Someone invested in you to be where you are, who are you investing in? Do something for someone who cannot afford to pay you back.” are words that kept ringing in my mind and the answer was simple: It was time to give back!

How the Beez Kidz came to life

The vision I had for Beez Kidz Academy was initially shared with Bongi Nkosi in 2014. At the time, it was only limited to being a school holiday program aimed at keeping kids off the streets, while teaching them basketball in a fun and educational way. And so during the October 2014 recess, we hosted the first Beez Kidz Holiday Camp where over 100 children from Mamelodi attended under the supervision of ten coaches/mentors. It was through basketball that we were able to attract more children and keep them interested enough to achieve the objectives we envisioned for the organisation.

The success of the camp highlighted a hunger for a basketball club that would allow the children to express themselves freely while learning valuable life skills. We had to cater for them not only during school holidays, but at least every Saturday since I was still studying full-time. The strain that Bongi and I went through, having to wake up early for a 3-hour session, almost made us quit. But once we arrived at the court and saw the dozens of children, their faces beaming with excitement to learn something from us meant we had a reason to continue. We were making a difference and it felt good. 

Today, only Bongi and I are the only coaches continuing the program. However, I must acknowledge that there would be no Beez Kidz without the input of the following people: George Makena, Asnath Digamela, Mokgoshi and Peniel Makena, Boitumelo Masenamela, Lufuno Mutungutungu, Paballo Mbedzi, Welldone Nyathi, Gordon Thema, Nobantu Skhosana and Sihle Ntsendwane. 

What Beez Kidz does

We have made it clear that we are not just about basketball. We want to create awareness of each child’s potential and their life-purpose (the reason why they were born). We want to identify and nurture talent and help children know their strengths and improve their weaknesses. 

Secondary
Bokang Boikanyo’s talent has been nurtured in the Beez Kidz academy. 

We want to help the children develop cognitive competence, moral excellence, social skills and emotional intelligence. 

We want to help children achieve academic excellence so that they can qualify for sports bursaries to high schools and universities.

What the highlights and challenges have been

The highlights of Beez Kidz have been many! The achievements we have obtained individually and as an organisation show that we are meeting our objectives. Bokang Boikanyo, Mandla Senda, Junior Makhubela and Junior Khumalo have represented Gauteng at the National Schools Games. Boikanyo also went to Italy to participate in the O.R. Tambo Soncini Games and obtained a sports bursary to attend North West University (NWU-Vaal).

As a team, we have won championships (Pretoria Schools League and Tshwane Junior Basketball League), and even the Easter Tournament. 

While highlights left us with a smile, the work behind the scenes is the most challenging. It became difficult for the children to commit to the program because most of them did not have playing shoes. Bongi and I have coached in our socks or even barefoot because we borrowed our shoes to the kids to play, so that they did not feel left out. 

As a community club, many financial limitations have almost killed Beez Kidz. The challenges have included players not having transport money to games, having to use money from our own shallow pockets to buy equipment, and struggling with registration fees. 

Product of the Beez Academy
Junior Makhubela is another player who has developed at the Beez Kidz.

But it was through the kindness of the community, the older generation of Bees players, and many people who believed in the work we do, that we have been able to get donations that help us through the tough times.

What the future looks like for Beez Kidz

There are many things that we hope to achieve, and it is sometimes difficult for me to accept that I have limitations and therefore I cannot help everyone. What we are planning is to make Beez Kidz an organisation that produces the country’s best student-athletes every year, including more girls. We want Beez Kidz to go beyond Mamelodi, having branches in different locations in Pretoria so that more lives and communities are impacted. We want Beez Kidz to be a household name that people associate with growth and excellence.

 

 

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