10 March 2023 | Story Jóhann Thormählen | Photo Rooistoel
lesle ann george
The former University of the Free State hockey captain, Leslé-Ann George, played 168 tests for South Africa and is transferring her knowledge to youngsters at the NextGen Hockey Academy in Bloemfontein.

She knows exactly how hard it is to make the adjustment from the sports field to the real world.

Leslé-Ann George has not only made a successful transition to working life, but the former Protea hockey star is assisting the current crop in making the big leap a bit easier.

The Marketing Specialist at Vodacom has represented her country in more than 150 tests and believes in planning for life after sport.

She obtained two degrees – a BA Corporate Communication and Marketing and BCom Honours in Marketing – at the University of the Free State (UFS), and is working part time on a third, a master’s in Development Studies.

The former Kovsie captain is an ambassador for the UFS Sporting Legends project, which celebrates current and former Kovsie sports stars by featuring their stories in a video and story series.

The series looks at the impact the UFS has had on their careers, how it has uniquely shaped and helped them excel – whether in sport or the world of work.

More than sport

“It was tough making the adjustment. You are never prepared for the transition from sport to the real world,” she says.

“I remember going through the emotional roller coaster of redefining who you actually are.

“Often when you compete, you think you are your sport. And there is much more to you as a person than just the sport.”

She played 168 tests and represented South Africa at two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008 and London 2012), two World Cups (Madrid 2006 and Rosario 2010), and two Commonwealth Games (Melbourne 2006 and Delhi 2010).

The former international player also played club hockey in the Netherlands (Kampong; Utrecht), Belgium (Gantoise; Ghent), and Ireland (Old Alex HC; Dublin).

UFS networks

George praises the support network she had as a UFS student athlete, which assisted her in excelling on and off the sports field.

“It is also that (university) network that helps you in your working career. I am truly thankful to the University of the Free State for building those networks that have carried me through.”

She says young sports stars often don’t see the importance of completing a degree while competing. She believes more can be done, such as mentoring, to prepare athletes for a life after sport, “as those discussions aren’t often held”.

It is also the (university) network that helps you in your working career. I am truly thankful to the University of the Free State for building those networks that have carried me through. – Leslé-Ann George.

This is also why she is involved in the interim committee of the South African Olympians Association, which is affiliated to the World Olympians Association and works closely with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee Athletes Commission.

The goal is to assist former and current athletes through things like internships, networking, job opportunities, and more. 

“It is the alumni of Olympians. Once an Olympian, always an Olympian. We try to support Olympians post-competing.”

Sharing knowledge

Together with former Protea Sulette Kotzee (Damons), George is making a difference locally as the co-founder of the NextGen Hockey Academy. Kotzee is the UFS women’s hockey coach.

It provides learners – boys and girls from Grades 1 to 7 – the opportunity to get extra coaching and learn from former Proteas. They share their knowledge at the open academy on Saturdays at the St. Michael’s School for Girls astro.

“It started because we both have a passion for sport and it is easy to transfer our knowledge, as hockey comes naturally to us,” she says.

“It is fantastic to see how the little ones grow.” 

• Watch the video feature to get a glimpse of Leslé-Ann George’s journey and life.

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