Thursday, July 18, 2024

Botswana’s kitty Katse moves mountains in female squash

18-year-old Leungo Katse has written her name in squash annals as the first ever female Professional Squash Association (PSA) player in Botswana.

The Alpha Squash Academy product is now the country’s only world ranked player and is set to break more records. Her breakthrough is expected to open ways for other female squash players seeking to break into professional ranks.

In Squash World rankings, Katse is currently ranked number 425. Her athletic advancement comes as she prepares for a major mega tournament. The local lass’ first professional tournament will be the $3000 Johannesburg Professional Squash Association Open in Johannesburg. It is scheduled to take place from the 11th to the 15th September 2023.

Academy coach Koketso Ntshebe says producing a professional squash player is ‘a good progress for female sports, local squash and the player as an individual.’ “Having Katse as the first female professional player in squash will help local coaches and the association to spread the belief for female athletes in particular,” he says.

Ntshebe says for women, not winning at early age makes it hard to keep them in the sport. He says coaches work hard on the female players to improve their skills and tactics.  The Alpha Squash Academy founder adds that coaches have to make sure they accommodate female players better each time so that the environment is conducive for them. 

Kates’s rise is also seen as a landmark for the Alpha Squash academy which was only established seven years ago.  While the academy started as a program for girls in the sport in 2014, it has since evolved to include both males and females, youth and adults. 

“The number of athletes from the academy in the national squad is not precise at the moment because there has been no camp lately. I cannot say exactly how many Alpha Squash players are playing in the national team for now as we have not had a camp lately. However, most of athletes have good rankings which could mean we might have more or less the same for a national call up,” he says.

With the academy’s success, Ntshebe says there are more female athletes training. The athletes are spread across the national junior squads. Alpha Squash retains grassroots to elite players and remains a feeder to the Botswana Squash Racket Association.

“Katse’s success will help attain profiles for local squash, opens up more opportunities for players and herself as now people start to talk about Botswana squash. Academic opportunities also become available as attention starts to rise,” says the coach. 

As a coach, Ntshebe says it takes a lot of commitment from both athletes and coaches to achieve success in sport. “We are aiming for higher heights and to use the present opportunity to explore its benefits,” he says. He adds that the mandate of coaches is to prepare athletes for high level competitions and to develop them for the national team.

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