Ludo Tje Monyai is one of Botswana’s longest lasting female rugby players and has an inspirational journey. Many young girls do not know her story. I hope you read about her you will be as inspired as I am.
Ludo was born in Serowe, she grew up in Mmadinare and attended St. Peter’s primary school. She came to Gaborone and did her standard 7 at Boswa Primary school, followed by Maikano Junior Secondary school for form 1-3. Finally, she finished her senior high school at St. Joseph’s collage and that was when she was when she played rugby coached by Mr. Bosire and Mr. Mbaebae.
After clearing high school, she joined University of Botswana known as UB Rhinos Rugby Club. In those days, there were only two female rugby clubs, the other being Orapa, and they only played touch and tag rugby.
Full contact rugby was introduced in 2007 at club level, with three inaugural clubs: UB Rhinos, Botwana Defence Force (BDF Cheetahs), and Orapa rugby club.
In 2008, some players were invited for national team trials by the Botswana Rugby Union.
“It was nerve wrecking and exciting at the same time, we had to learn new rules which were still alien to some players.” Says Ludo.
Selected players were introduced to, then women’s national team head coach, Shaun Lees who is now the head coach for Gaborone Rugby Football Club and heads the Botswana Rugby Union Technical committee.
After training camp with Coach Lees, they traveled to Jwaneng and Francistown in preparation for their first Africa Women’s 7s tournament. The newly assembled team played against Zimbabwe in Francistown where they were divided into two teams. Zimbabwe did the same, making it four teams. This allowed everyone a chance to get experience and understand the game better. One Botswana team won and the other drew.
Ludo went on to say, “ I remember Mr. Gareth Gilbert came to one of our training sessions and taught us how to clean rucks. He used the words “socks” meaning go low as if we were pulling our socks. Khina Masinki also assisted us as a referee to understand the calls and hand signals.”. Andrew Paxinos , former Botswana national team coach, assisted them with catching and passing. Experienced male players also came through and helped them because it was the first ever Ladies National Team.
The Africa Women’s Sevens tournament took place in Uganda that year. The closer they got to the tournament, Coach Lees would cut one person every week until he had 12 players for the tournament. “Shaun made it very easy for us. We bonded and gelled very well as a team. Every two weeks he would write us what we called ‘love letters.’ In each letter he would write our weaknesses, strengths and where to improve on.” The excited girls had never been abroad let alone been on a plane.
The team with Ludo amongst them, got to Uganda, played and lost all their games but they did not despair. It was their first time at an elite level. The experience made them better players and more courageous.
PLAYER TO ADMINISTRATOR
In 2017, Ludo moved from UB Rhinos to Livingstone Kolobeng College Canon Jaguars. While she continued to play, she dedicated herself to team administration. Her dedication to team administration was noticed as Ludo was appointed team manager for the Botswana Ladies national team for the 2018 Africa Women’s 7s tournament, hosted in Botswana . A team manager leads the team, overseeing the daily operations and guiding and assisting the players with anything they might need. “In sevens, the team manager is the one who makes the subs, the coach would just say number 7 for number 2.” Recalls Ludo.
She remembers it being very overwhelming. That said, she quickly learned that rugby is a team game on AND off the field. Alleck Maphosa, the now referees manager, helped Ludo fill forms before matches. While Zinwele “Zee” Khumalo Development Manager at Botswana Rugby Union, assisted her on what she needed to do as a team manager.
“I have grown from being a player, I have learnt a lot from different coaches, from other players, rugby is a team sport, you can’t do anything alone. You need to get help from everyone and advice from each other.” Says Ludo.
Rugby has the power to bring people of all walks of life together. Ludo’s passion for the game was forged on the trip to Uganda with Botswana’s National team. The bonds she made there, through mutual passion for the game, have endured ever since.
Her advice to the new players: