Female rugby coach’s World Cup dream

Trailblazing female rugby coach Precious Pazani says her dream is to officiate at the Rugby World Cup.

Trailblazing female rugby coach Precious Pazani says her dream is to officiate at the Rugby World Cup.

Pazani (PP) spoke about her remarkable career as a teacher, rugby referee and sports coach on the platform In Conversation with Trevor, which is hosted by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN)

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Precious Pazani, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.

PP: Thank you Trevor. Thank you for having me.

TN: Fantastic. Precious, you are considered a trailblazer, you are actually a trailblazer.

You have broken the ceiling, I think, broken the glass ceiling. You have been a first in a number of places, in Zimbabwe, and on the continent when it comes to rugby.

How does that feel? Do you feel the weight of breaking the glass ceiling, the burden of being the first?

PP: It is not exactly a burden per se. Yes, you have people looking at you and they are like, she is representing us and everything, but for me it is also like a very good moment.

Like I am achieving all these things, like when I look back from when I started and I am now getting to where I am ticking some of the boxes that I said I was going to [and] I would want to achieve and now I am doing it, I look back and I am really happy and I am like this is good. I am like proud of myself.

TN: We are going to get to the boxes that you are ticking and where you started because that is all very important.

But you have got one burning ambition, which as I was reading and researching seems to be very important to you, which is to become the first Zimbabwean rugby referee at the Rugby World Cup?

PP: Yes.

TN: Why is that so important?

PP: Well, I feel like the World Cup is the greatest event that you have in any sport, so when you get to officiate at a World Cup it is a world thing, world event.

A lot of people are watching; you are involved in it.

For me it is the involvement with the different people that you get to meet there.

 It is just an amazing scene to be part of.

 So yeah for me being part of World Cup, and having done that when you look back, even teams when they are playing they want to qualify and make it to the World Cup, and then me having played and then gone and then choose a different route to try and get to the World Cup and then finally getting there would be like an amazing thing.

TN: Does it not frighten you? Stage fright? It is huge.

PP: It is huge. It is. But I guess the more you do it the calmer you get.

I guess if you get to be like the first one [referring] the opening match of the World Cup that is very huge.

But then if you're just then involved later on it gets to calm you, and you are calm and you are in it.

 So yeah, it may frighten a little bit, but I am sure as it goes you realise, I can do this. I am here. So this is my moment.

TN: What do you need to do for it to happen? Are there any milestones? Are there any things that you need to do for this to happen?

PP: So, at the moment because we are part of [the] Women's World Rugby Panel; so there are games that go on as well, there are appointments that you get.

You get games, [and] your performance is also what gets you there.

The more you perform, the better you perform, the more likely you are to actually get to be part of the World Rugby Cup.

Well, fortunately for the other guys, I feel like it is quite easy for them because they already referee at at that level, with the games at that level.

You have got people in South Africa, in Australia, in England.

So, they already have these top rugby games.

New Zealand, you name it, they have top rugby games, and these are the top teams that are normally seen at the World Cup.

So, for them they already are referring at that level. People like me, and other guys that are coming from smaller unions, we have to like step up a little bit more.

Maybe at some point in time getting involved in games of that kind of calibre. And when you get there, if you perform you actually stand a chance of getting forward yes.

TN: You spoke about ticking boxes? What boxes are there out for you right now? And you are like I want to tick these boxes?

PP: So, at the moment, like we spoke about the World Cup.

 I know it is a big ask, especially with our nation, with a lot going on, but just being like a professional referee it will be nice to know you are just focusing on that and you are literally putting all your energies in that, specialising in that.

And also, I was part of the World Cup 7s.

It could still be a chance, could not, but now my hopes are World Cup 15’s, but 7’s would still be nice. Just taking centre stage is is always a good thing yeah.

TN: There is a box that you ticked, which is that you and Kat Roche, an American, were the first female officials to referee at the World Rugby Cup Under 20?

PP: Yes.

TN: How did that feel?

PP: It was good. It was the Junior World Trophy.

TN: Yeah.

PP: I was excited because my first involvement...

TN: Where was the tournament?

PP: It was in Kenya, Nairobi.

TN: It was in Kenya. Alright.

PP: So my first involvement with world something, under World Rugby was actually [the] Junior World Trophy when we hosted it in 2016.

TN: Right.

PP: And I was just officiating at the table.

I was [in the] technical zone, and when I was looking at the other guys, I was like this would be nice, to actually be one of the referees and be part of it.

And there was last year, I got involved in it, and being nominated for that and I looked back, and I was like wow I have come a long way and I have actually managed to be part of this.

For me it was a very good moment.

I looked back and I am like if even the other girls back at home want to achieve this, this is something that they would look forward to, like Precious managed to start off in 2016 just doing technical for [the] Junior World Trophy and now she is actually referring at [the] Junior World trophy.

It also showed me the amount of patience that I put into it, to just be patient, keep working until I got there.

So it was a very good moment for Kat and me. We looked back and we were like wow Kat, we were actually here yeah.

TN: You spoke about where it all started?

PP: Yes.

TN: Where did it all start? This passion?

PP: I have always been an athletic person. Sport has always been a thing for me.

I love playing sports. So even sometimes you may even find me playing soccer with the boys just so I can stay active and everything. I started off playing basketball.

When I was playing club basketball, the ladies that I was playing club basketball with from varsity decided to play rugby.

When I discovered that they went off to play rugby, and I had always been passionate I was quite like kind of heartbroken.

TN: Hahaha.

PP: I was like these guys went without me, yeah. And then they were like no do not worry about it, you are writing your ‘A’ Levels this year.

Next year when you are done you can come through and you can join us. Because you are underage just let it go for now, you are under 18.

TN: How old were you?

PP: I was 18 [years old] then.

TN: 18 [years old].

PP: Yes. So they were like no just wait for it, when you are done with your exams and then next year join the team.

And I definitely went out there and I joined the team.

So at that point in time I was playing rugby, and I was playing basketball at the same time.

So [during the] offseason [for] rugby I was playing basketball, [then during the] offseason [for] basketball I was playing rugby.

Then as time went by, I picked up an injury as I was playing, and I had to go for surgery.

Then after that, also in 2014, I was still playing but I then also decided one day, I could referee. It looks like it is something that I can do. You are running and everything.

I could referee. So I then decided to take up the path of referring. I asked my friend Abigail Kaunza, what does it take for me to get involved and be a referee?

He was like nothing.

You just come to Monday meetings at Prince Edward every evening at 17:30hrs and then you can be part of the society.

From then, that following Monday, I went and that is when it all started, and from there I just started going forward.

TN: So the injury in a way played a role in directing you towards referee?

PP: Actually yes.

TN: Let us talk about that. What happened?

PP: I was playing a match and then I ruptured my ACL and tore my meniscus at the same time.

They managed to fix my meniscus. At that time, we did not have the technology to manage to fix an ACL with an arthroscopy.

So the doctor said we only managed to fix the meniscus.

So I still had that injury from like 2012 until 2015.

So, it kept giving me grief, and every time I played you would be thinking ah now, I am in a good moment, I am in a good space.

You run and then the next thing [my] knee pops out, pops back in and you are out for two weeks. So that also got boring, and I got tired of it. So after surgery...

TN: Boring or painful?

PP: It was painful. Not the leg that was painful, but then having to sit out.

TN: Yeah.

PP: And the recurrence of the injury. Yeah it really got painful.

TN: Yeah it did.

PP: So after when I got surgery done, and the rehab of the surgery. When I looked at it I was like do I want to go back and play or maybe I should just stick to referring.

And even at that time Rugby Africa had put forward a couple of us to go to South Africa at Stellenbosch, there is a referee academy there. And they put us forward for like, they call it...I am forgetting the word.

Just to push us forward so that we can learn quicker, learn a lot more in a short space of time.

So yeah, they did that.

I had already gone through that process, and I was thinking you know what maybe I should just stick to the line of referring. Less worries about injuries.

I did not know if I wanted to go through the whole process of picking up injuries and then having to go through surgery so maybe I should just stick to referring.

TN: There you are. Because of that accident you were now in this trajectory. Talk to me about that in terms of the choices that you had to make because of that injury?

PP: Because of that injury I feel like I made a better choice now.

TN: Hahaha.

PP: I feel like I made a better choice.

TN: Fascinating isn't it?

PP: Yeah it is. Yeah, it was then directed in a different way, God's like no okay you can play for a while, I do not see you stopping playing anytime soon so let us find something to deviate and from there...

l “In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor.  

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