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Reaching for his Dream, UWC and CHS Alumnus Heads Proteas Cricket team Physiotherapy (Read his life story and journey)

Author: Craig Govender

Reaching for his Dream, UWC and CHS Alumnus Heads Proteas Cricket team Physiotherapy (Read his life story and journey)

My Journey – Craig Govender – Sports Physiotherapist

Some say athletes are born and not made.   My dad was an incredible long distance athlete in his youth to mid 30’s.  Having broken many a 3000m and 5000m record, in the then “non-white” ( Tamil, Hindu) South African Championships and completing 2 Comrades Marathons under 9 hours.  Surely I would have been born with some good genes. 

Well, I did not achieve any provincial colours in athletics, though I did participate in the 100m at a junior provincial meeting.  I most definitely got the sports bug from my dad.  Playing every sport possible and representing my primary and high schools in most of them.

It was 1992, I was 10 years old, and my dad came to school (Indian school), I remembered clearly that he told the principal at the time that I needed to go to the doctor.  In hindsight, I am pretty sure, there would have been hundreds of doctors attending the first cricket Test match, played at Kingsmead, Durban against India.  This was the first Test match in South Africa, since isolation.  I remember sitting in the Friendship Stand, going on the field and watching the Indians warm-up, running to Sanjay Manjrekar, Anil Kumble, and Preven Arme with my autograph bat.  Barry Richards was also one of the spectators in the Friendship Stand, what a baptism of fire.  Thank you dad for introducing cricket into my life.

Dad was at it again, I don’t know if mum was happy but, watching Allan Donald getting a noticeable edge off Geoff Marsh from the first ball of the 1992 World Cup Tournament in Australia, created a cricket craze.  I probably watched as much televised cricket matches as I possibly could.  The love for the sport began.

Mini cricket was introduced to my primary school, but I never played, however I would go to the field every Saturday to support my school team.  Dad bought my first cricket bat, it was a Duncan Fernley Clot and boy did I treasure it. 

During my high school years, I began playing the game at club level.  This was purely by chance, as one of my volleyball mates, asked me to join their cricket club.  Which I did and the rest was history.  I only began playing competitive cricket in grade 9 but in grade 11 I knew I had to become a Cricket Physiotherapist.  Sport and cricket was my passion and this was the only way, I thought I could be involved in sport and cricket in particular.  I dared to dream about it…

As a cricketer I progressed into regional and district teams as a leg spinner and also played Premier League cricket for Chatsworth United, with the highlight of attending the Terry Jenner (personal coach of Shane Warne) Leg Spinning Academy at Kingsmead. 

During grade 12 I applied to the then University of Durban-Westville (now University of Kwa-Zulu Natal), for B.Sc Physiotherapy.   I was not accepted into the programme and hence in 2000, I started my first year of Sports Science.  At the conclusion of 2000 and still having that dream to become a physiotherapist, I sent an application to the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Bellville, Cape Town.  Low and behold, due to my Sports Science marks I was accepted into the programme. 

A day I will never forget, I had received the acceptance letter in the mail and was with Kyle, my younger brother.  The excitement of being accepted was overwhelming, immediately I showed this to Kyle and then called my folks.  When they got home from work, we discussed the idea of leaving Durban for Cape Town.  I had to deal with the fact that, I order to reach “for the moon” (my dream), moving to Cape Town on my own had to be done.

In 2001, my dad and I drove down to Cape Town together, without mum and Kyle, arguably one of my saddest days of my life.  Dad only spent a few days with me in Cape Town, this was just to settle me in and stock me up with, Two Minute Noodles.  I was definitely not a chef.  The only person I knew in Cape Town at the time was a good schoolmate, whom I got to stay very close too.

Moving to Cape Town still remains the best decision my parents could have allowed me to make.  I had to instantly become independent and had to work things out for myself, that is, taking taxis, making meals, budgeting and passing University in the social haven, called Cape Town.

My first steps to achieving that dream had begun.  When accepted into UWC for the B.Sc Physiotherapy programme, my research into cricket injury prevention also began.  I spent many hours on the Internet, reading up on cricket research and people involved in the game in South Africa.  The name of Prof Richard Stretch popped up.  He has dedicated his life to cricket research in South Africa and in 2001; I promised myself that he would be my supervisor in Postgraduate Degree in Physiotherapy.

In 2001,UWC was an evolving cricket institution, today they can proudly boast, being the best cricketing institution in the Western Cape.  My love affair with UWC Cricket began in 2001.  It has been amazing to see how the once “bush university”, has progressed to being one of the best-run amateur clubs in the country.  Sports Skills for Life Skills (SS4LS) is an NGO that focuses on developing life’s skills, providing tertiary education and improving cricket development in promising cricketers.  In 2001, SS4LS only provided 2-4 partial bursaries to local talented cricketers.  Today, they provide full bursaries for more than 25 cricketers, from around the country.

I had the privilege of representing UWC in the Premier League, as well as 4 University weeks during my 4 years of undergrad.

I concluded my undergraduate Physiotherapy degree in 2004 and then headed to Dundee, in rural KZN to complete my year of community service in 2005.  During that year, I enrolled for my Masters degree in Physiotherapy at UWC.  I went back to UWC in 2006, due to a bursary from SS4LS, to begin the Masters programme in Physiotherapy.  This was done on a part time basis.  A full dissertation entitled; The effect of an injury prevention programme on the lower limb soft tissues in fast bowlers – An Intervention Study.  My co-supervisor was indeed Prof Richard Stretch.  I then had the honour of graduating in the summer of 2009.  I was the first student from my undergraduate class to register in a postgraduate programme, as a part-time student and full time work commitments. I was able to play for my beloved UWC and represent them in a fifth University week.

I have always and will always be passionate about the game of cricket and all I wanted to do was become a professional cricket physiotherapist.  In 2007, I was interviewed for a cricket team physiotherapist post for a SA Emerging Tour to Australia.  The Chairman of the SA Cricket Medical Committee and High Performance Manager of SA Cricket interviewed me.  I did not get the job, due to lack of experience and not working with a cricket team.  I needed to work for a team.  This drove me to write up a proposal to the Chairman and brainchild of SS4LS, Adv Nicolas Kock.  The proposal detailed the idea of a Medical department for the SS4LS programme.  The cricketers were exposed to assessments and fitness done at an elite level as well as physiotherapy twice a week.  This programme proved to be a huge success and still continues today.  During my postgraduate years at UWC, I was selected as the South African University Team Physiotherapist from 2007-2009. 

In 2009, Evan Speechly, the then Highveld Lions Physiotherapist called me, out of the blue.  He had kept my CV at hand and asked if I would be interested in joining him at the Lions for the last 4-day game of the season, which I did with great excitement.  At the end of the 2009/2010 seasons Evan again called, asking if I could again help the team, but this time for a month.  I would now be in charge of the team as he was attending the IPL. 

At the conclusion of that season, the South African National Cricket Academy came knocking at my door and selected me for a tour to Bangladesh.  Whilst in Bangladesh, my dream finally came true.  The head coach of the Highveld Lions, called me whilst in Bogra, Bangladesh, and asked if I would accept the offer, of being the first professional cricket physiotherapist in South Africa and the Head Physiotherapist of the Highveld Lions.  Dave Nosworthy, received the answer immediately.  When I returned to Cape Town, from Bangladesh, I had a month to pack up my home in Cape Town and head off to Johannesburg to begin the latest chapter in my life.

There is nothing better, then getting up every morning and heading off to a cricket ground to work with elite cricket players.  I dared to dream…

Five years down the line, I still see this as a great opportunity and a huge privilege to be living my dream.  Through the years at the Lions, I have been selected as the National Cricket Academy Physiotherapist for another year, I then progressed to becoming the current South African “A” Physiotherapist and my ultimate dream came to reality, when I joined the Proteas in April 2013, for 2 ODIs.  In May 2013, I was then asked to fill in for Brandon Jackson, in Amsterdam and London for the Proteas Pre Champions Trophy Camp.  I dared to dream……

The dream is far from over.  I would like to re-register for my PhD, a programme that I enrolled in before getting the Highveld Lions job.  I had to deregister due to the high workload.  Becoming the national physiotherapist on a full time basis will become the dream come try.  I have had a taste of working at the highest elite level and I firmly believe that’s where I would want to work.  Passion for the game drives me, as well as the passion my dad has for sport, and the belief he and my mum had in me to fulfill my dream from a tender age.

A year and 8 months ago, I opened a multidisciplinary sports medical centre at the world famous Bidvest Wanderers Cricket Stadium.  The medical centre, houses 11 specialized medical professional, as well as a fully equipped gym, supplied by Origin Fitness SA.. The vision of the centre, is to bridge the gap between the elite and amateur sports person and develop a Long-term Athletic Development Program.


Craig Govender

M.Sc Physiotherapy (UWC)




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