"Do Not Just Play, Perform": a Conversation with the Coach

By Ashley Dube

The country was commemorating National Youth Day, a public holiday in our country. As a result, the normal business had come to a halt for the majority of organizations, providing respite from the hustle and bustle from the streets of Harare. I managed to escape a long day of having to sit through an arduous Robotics lecture scheduled for that day. Instead, I made my way to Harare Sports Club, the home of cricket, for a twenty-twenty fiesta. It was a six-team tournament pitting the crème de la crème of all cricket sides across the country.

Turnout was low, which is not surprising, as local cricket as popular compared to when the international games come to town. I joined a few fans sitting by the embankment section, and a variety of conversations ensued. Among us was a current national Under-19 coach, who offered better insights on the ins and outs. One question raised was why white batsmen performed better than our fellow black players at the international level. The coach said the issue stemmed the upbringing of these players. From his career’s perspective, he observed that black players were raised to be just competent enough, while white players are raised to perform at a higher level.

And before you go on an uproar and pull out the racial card, hear me out dear reader: the numbers are there to back it up – white batsman score more points on an international platform. The coach said he is now working on helping players develop a performance mind-set rather than just playing, to motivate black players to become top-level performers.

It is a common theme among many sportsmen: those who perform consistently week in and week out are the ones remembered as best in their class. These “GOATs” (Greatest of All Time) in sporting generations are known to be top performers. The likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Virat Kholi, and Connor McGregor just to mention but a few. These sportsmen have made a name for themselves by demonstrating consistent, top-level performance.


Following the end of the game, I retired back home with the coach’s words still ringing in my ears. I did a self-introspection on my current position in my life as an undergraduate student. Am I performing or playing in academics? In my primary and high school days, I used to perform, topping my class, receiving amazing grades and earning numerous awards. But bit by bit, it died down and I resorted to playing – a new comfort zone. As long as I did enough not to repeat classes, it was fine. All goal-posts shifted. Sometimes, it wasn’t directly result of laziness. However, to be fair, the course content becomes harder and increasingly difficult to keep up.

A disillusionment arises as one grows, especially in the current situation in our motherland, that is it really worth it? We all end up playing rather than performing, but is it the right way to go about it? And what are the repercussions in the future? And as a budding writer, am I performing or just writing, and is it the best I can do? These questions also apply for you, dear reader, in whatever you are doing – are you performing or are you just playing?

29 April, 2023