I have gone back to the fundamentals

THE world has been brought to a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Life as we know it has changed drastically; with the prospect of never being the same again. Everyone is trying to adjust to the changes, even in the sports industry. Ideas about live streaming some sports at empty venues have been teased and I am sure other alternatives are being considered. It seems there is nothing that can be done about sports without tampering with sporting rules and contravening the law.

As most should know by now, the basketball governing bodies have postponed games indefinitely. The National Basketball Association (NBA); Basketball Africa League (BAL); and many other national and local leagues have issued statements suspending all games until further notice, to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, it would be irresponsible to be oblivious to how the lockdown has affected basketball players.

Personally, the impact of COVID-19 has been multifaceted. In terms of basketball, being off the court has meant that I have had to improvise my training. I can no longer practice as effectively and my love for competition cannot be satisfied. This has forced me to go back to basics and hone the skills I possess. I have found satisfaction in the cultural reset because it reminded me why I fell in love with the game in the first place. My daily routine consists of morning jogs; stretching; full body strength and conditioning exercises; and ball handling drills in the evening. I am still looking into getting a basketball hoop to practice my shooting. Under the current conditions, I believe that this routine is a winning formula as it helps my mental state. The basketball court has always been my haven, my escape from reality. Doing anything that is even remotely connected to basketball is enough for my peace during this time.

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Siphumle Qanya on a Basketball Africa League quest. Pictures: BTO

My career thus far has been quite unpredictable, dependant on factors beyond my control. Nevertheless, it has been quite a success. Since captaining the University of Cape Town (UCT) basketball to a Varsity Basketball final in 2018, I have had the opportunity to represent Phenomenal Phenoms at the 2019 Annual Ashraf Lodewyk Basketball Tournament hosted at WITS university, in which we were victors. After that, I travelled back and forth between Johannesburg and Cape Town to represent Phenoms in the Johannesburg Basketball League (JBL) and CPUT Alumni in the Cape Town Basketball Association (CTBA). During both seasons, I left for Spain to attend the Europrobasket International Academy 6-week training program, which enhanced my experience and exposed me to a higher level of basketball. Upon my return, I continued playing for CPUT Alumni and lost the CTBA Championship in Game 3 of the finals. Earlier this year, I represented Phenoms in the JBL Playoffs and we lost in Game 2 of the semi-finals. Amidst my playing of the game I have also been involved in several basketball photoshoots, commercials and interviews.

Shortly before the lockdown was implemented, there was an opportunity to explore another career path in Johannesburg whilst furthering my basketball career. At the moment, these plans are lingering. I hope things come together and the opportunities align with my expectations, post COVID-19. However, if the status quo reverts, I will be looking into permanently joining a basketball team that plays in the JBL and hope to qualify for the BAL in 2021.

Currently, teams are gearing up to compete in the BAL qualifiers and many coaches are looking at the pool of players they can work with. As a professional player, it is your responsibility to ensure you are always ready for whatever may come. As such, I believe that professionalism is a state of mind; it is more than just a label. So, I am presently trying to make sure I stay ahead of any hurdles and plan on being the best player I can be.

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Siphumle Qanya hustles for possession of the ball.

It is difficult to speculate how things will be post COVID-19. Will we ever get back to square one? Maybe, maybe not! The bigger picture involves recovery of economies and re-imagining how our societies will be structured. Post COVID-19 and post-lockdown have to be understood in the context of time. Focusing on the post-lockdown period, the pandemic will still be present but we expect to continue flattening the curve, exercising caution in public areas, and practising good hygiene. I doubt that sports will resume as before. Maybe, the live-streaming with no fans idea could be implemented. But even then, contact sports and team sports could still pose infection risk. Any current conclusive ideas on how to organise sports post-lockdown have to be taken with a pinch of salt, therefore.

To the basketball community in South Africa and at large, these are most certainly trying times for all of us. There is no formula to quench that thirst for the game, whether you are a player or fan. I would like to encourage you to take care of your mental health, protect your peace, and adhere to the lockdown rules and regulations. It is a tough journey ahead of us, but our collective behaviour will determine how long it lasts.

Find peace in knowing that we are united in the struggle as the basketball community.

Until we meet again!


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