Many women in Botswana have not joined boxing as they think it is a dangerous sport, but one local female instructor is proving that is not the case, Mmegi Staff Writer LEBOGANG MOSIKARE writes
FRANCISTOWN: Growing up in the soccer heartland of Area W, one would have expected Grace Mmolai to have at least developed interest in football just like most of her peers in the area.
Instead, the 34-year-old took a different course by becoming a female national boxing coach.
To say that the leap was unprecedented would not be off the mark for someone who grew up playing soccer from primary school up to college level.
Mmolai is now a Religious Education and Social Studies teacher at Bonwatlou Community Junior School in Serule.
She coaches the school’s male and female boxing teams.
“I grew up in the Ghetto (Area W). Some members of society perceive people who come from these areas to be undisciplined: taking drugs and being engaged in many other forms of indiscipline. A lot of women in Botswana have not joined boxing because they think that it is a dangerous sport, but that is not the case,” says the woman nicknamed ‘Queen of the ring’.
Mmolai explains that she decided to switch to boxing from football because it is associated with discipline when compared to football.
She is however quick to clarify that her comment should not be construed to mean that she is saying that soccer is not a sport of discipline.
Mmolai broke the proverbial glass ceiling by becoming the only female boxing mentor in Botswana who is armed with a Star 1 boxing coach certificate.
The certificate is recognised globally by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the world boxing governing body.
She attained the certificate after the Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) sponsored her to attend a boxing coaching course in Zambia.
She says she attended the course with other female boxing coaches from Botswana but at the end, she was the only one who managed to acquire the highly sought after qualification.
Mmolai’s achievement was confirmed by BoBA’s publicity secretary, Taolo Tlouetsile during the organisation’s interclub tournament that was held at the Business Botswana grounds in Francistown recently.
Mmolai wants to break the perception that boxing is only a male dominated sport and she encourages other women to join the sport in droves. “Women are also capable of doing what their male counterparts can do in boxing,” argues a jovial Mmolai who adds that her boxing hero is the late American boxing legend Muhammad Ali, widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century.
Mmolai also reveals that before she acquired her boxing credentials in Zambia, she conducted a number of national youth training camps under the auspices of BoBA.
According to Mmolai, her coaching skills are bearing fruit at Bonwatlou ever since her arrival in 2012.
“Since 2012, both our boys and girls boxing teams have been reaching the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) national championships. Bonwatlou is
Mmolai recently accompanied the Botswana national female boxing team as its coach to the Commonwealth Games that were held in Gold Coast, Australia.
She thinks that boxing has great prospects in Botswana.
“I feel that the country does not empower women boxers like males but looking at the latest developments, the country is moving in the right direction. The country is empowering more women to take part in boxing because it has discovered that female boxers can also do well like other sport codes in international sporting competitions,” a hopeful Mmolai says with a chuckle.
To illustrate her point that women boxing in Botswana is on an upward trajectory, Mmolai says during the Gold Coast Games, the women boxing team was represented by three boxers while the male team was represented by one.
Mmolai states that the female pugilists were all eliminated in the quarterfinals, an example she says shows that boxing is growing in Botswana.
“Our girls showed that they are future world beaters in international competitions. They showed that if the country could invest more in training camps before international competitions, they could win medals. This applies to all sporting codes in the country,” she says with a sense of optimism.
“The performance of our athletes in all sport codes should be monitored and tracked if the country is to perform well during international meets notwithstanding inherent financial constraints.”
Mmolai is positive that Botswana can do well at the 2020 Olympic Games that will be held in Tokyo, Japan. “With proper preparations all our athletes who took part in the Gold Coast Games would excel in 2020. The preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games should start now.”
Mmolai holds her mentor, Lechedzani ‘Master’ Luza in high esteem.
“I went with Luza to Australia as the head coach of our boxing teams. He is assigned by BoBA to be my mentor. This is a very good move by BoBA and Botswana National Olympics Committee (BNOC) to empower women in boxing,” Mmolai says with appreciation.
Her dream is to own a boxing team. “There is a lot of potential for boxing around Palapye, Serule, Gojwane and other neighbouring villages. I want to coach these boxers so that they can join mainstream boxing clubs in the country. They are showing a lot of passion for the sport but lack of funds is hindering their progress.
“I don’t have a club at the moment, but I am assisted by the Eastern Military Garrison (EMG) club, which is based in Selibe-Phikwe to coach youngsters from these areas since it is nearer to my place of work. Boxing can keep these youngsters away from alcohol and drugs. They can end up earning a living through boxing.”