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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Most of our sports people after they retire, they have to start from scratch' - Khotso Mokoena

After been elected to chair the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee's (SASCOC) athlete’s commission in March 2021, Khotso Mokoena has hit the ground running faster than he did during the days when he sprinted and soared into the long jump pit. Pointing out that just under 80% of athletes globally go broke within three years of retirement, the Olympic silver medalist is pioneering an athlete financial education programme and he has started it in the province where took his first jumps as an elite athlete.

“Being someone who was an athlete for over twenty years competing internationally, there’s a huge stigma in our country that most of our sports people after they retire its almost like they go back to zero - it’s almost like they have to start from scratch to rebuild themselves. And I’m talking all sporting codes, not just track and field. So we are launching a programme that is going to be called the Youth Athlete Skills Development Initiative (YASDI) that’s going to help athlete to develop their skills,” he told the Central Gauteng Athletics Athlete’s Commission which is chaired by former top runner Zongamele Dyubeni.

Mokoena addresses the CGA Athlete Commission chaired by Zongamele Dyubeni (far left) during November 2022 to explain the new YASDI programme which is a partnership between SASCOC and CGA. Photo Credit: MWMedia.

Mokoena who competed in some of the most prestigious and well-paying track and field meets around the world on the Diamond League says the twelve month long programme has been tailored to equip both current and former athletes with the practical skills they will need to thrive during their post competition years and he chose CGA because it’s where everything started for him.

“The point is to help athletes in certain spaces such as entrepreneurship, business and corporate understanding and also how they can build their brand. We do know of many of our legends who are now in their fifties and they have come forth to say that they have never been offered an opportunity to grow outside of sports. And being someone who was there myself, I know that once I had retired I had to work really hard to try and get myself in different positions,” explained the man who hails from Ratanda in Heidelberg in the Far Eastern corner of Gauteng.

South Africa's national record holder in the triple jump Khotso Mokoena in action during the 2014 Commonwealth Games where he won the gold medal in the same event. Photo Credit: Roger Sedres.

In addition to equipping athletes with the skills they require to be competitive in a tough South African economy, the YASDI programme will also offer them counselling to help them deal with the pressures of post-competition life. Mokoena says after all the bright lights go out, many struggle to cope with adjusting to a new life combined with new financial challenges which can lead to depression.

“Sometimes we advise them to get certain help from psychologists but what tends to happen is that they just get presentations - they don’t get the gist on how to combat mental health issues. This is the space we want to cover where we help athletes to know the rituals or the formulas and methods they need to take to be able to fight mental health issues,” he said.

To find our more about the programme and express your interest to be part of it click HERE and complete the questionnaire.

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