Sunday, November 27, 2022

Reikeletseng takes Karate into the boardroom and life

It is often said that the way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death, this meaning seeing things through, being resolved.

For former Karate practitioner, Solly Reikeletseng, this perhaps is the creed with which he is living his life. While his Karate career may have ended more than a decade ago, for Reikeletseng, it is the lessons and the discipline he learnt from Karate that drives him both in business boardrooms and in life.

“For me, Karate means the perfection of character. It teaches you values like respect for all, patience and, above all, perseverance,” Reikeletseng explains as we sit for an interview in his office, which, not so surprisingly, is decorated with memorabilia from his karate days.

Aged just 39, Reikeletseng is almost as decorated in the boardroom as he was in karate. He is currently the youngest ever Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) Chairperson, the founder and Director of Itekanele and also sits in various boards of different organizations, all these whilst balancing being a family man.

For Reikeletseng, it all started in his youthfulness in the Somerset Extension in Francistown when his father, whom he regards as his role model, showed him and his seven brothers martial arts movies.

“When the time came, I, as with my brothers, took karate as our sport. Fortunately for me, I excelled and became a national team player and later a karate coach,” he explains.

According to Reikeletseng, it was this gradual rise in Karate that molded the way he would look at life and how he would face life’s situations.

“In karate, you start from being the lowest ranked and gradually rise through the ranks. Everyday, you train the same things over and over again. If you persevere and do everything, even things which you think you know, you learn to be patient and you ultimately learn to be perfect in what you do. This is the same principle that applies in everyday life and in business. You start from the bottom, then patiently work and rise through the ranks to get where you want to be. As with in Karate, in business, you learn and practice everyday if you want perfection,” the BNSC Chairperson says.

True to his word, when he started Itekanele eight years ago, it was these lessons from the dojo that he used to get ahead of his competitors in the game.

“I get inspiration from doing things that others may deem difficult. I like breaking boundaries and barriers,” Reikeletseng said when asked to describe himself.

“When I started Itekanele back then, no one had done it before and I wanted to break the barriers. It was not easy, but through the years we have managed to bring into this medical scheme some of the packages that were not available to Batswana,” he says. According to Reikeletseng, on his way to building Itekanele, one of the lessons that he took from the Karate Dojo was to respect and listen to everyone, no matter what their standing in life is.

“In Karate, sometimes even if you are a black belt, you come up against the lowest ranked white belts in competition. If you underestimate them, they will beat you. In life, you have to respect and listen to the advice of all, even if they are not as experienced as you are. If you do that, you can avoid many failures,” he opines.

In his rise to where he is, the BNSC Chairperson says he has had to do what others dared not to do or advised him against doing. “When I was called on to lead the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC), it was in a very bad state. On the very day that I was appointed, I got more than twenty calls from different people, among them legislators advising me not to take the position. They opined that the BNYC was beyond redemption and I will be tarnishing my own reputation if I did. As a person who likes breaking barriers, I heeded my own advice and went ahead. I wanted to prove that I can do it and that building Itekanele was not just mere luck and I succeeded in effecting change there,” Reikeletseng reflects.

It was this same tenacity that led him to accept chairing the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the Africa Junior Championships under a very stringent budget, and he was successful as well.

Now as the Chairperson of the local sports’ governing body, Reikeletseng is transferring all the experiences he has gained in Karate, building Itekanele and playing Mr fix-it in crisis to try break barriers and propel BNSC into new territory.

“Through all these experiences, I have learnt that the best way to succeed is to build a good team and to have the best qualified people to help you. When I ascended the BNSC chairmanship, I knew I would need to have the best leader to head it. I wanted a person who could drive the BNSC vision and fortunately, I ended up netting one of this country’s best young leaders in Percy Raditladi, to lead this vision,” he says.

Now into his second year as the BNSC Chairperson, Reikeletseng says he is happy with the way things are turning up, moreso that the council’s affiliates have bought into his vision. Despite all this, the BNSC chairperson says there are still a lot of challenges in his job.

“The worst thing about this job is the sports politics. This is the only thing I hate the most, but still, it is part of the job and I have to deal with it though it’s not easy to navigate through them. These are always baseless and based on innuendos and lies created to look true. All you can do is not take sides but at the same time ensure that you make decisions as you see fit, whether they end up right or wrong,” he says. Going forward, Reikeletseng says he wants to see the BNSC not being reliant on government for finances.

“In future, the vision is to see the BNSC being commercial and not relying on the government. We also want to see our local athletes making a living out of sport. It may not happen during my tenure at the helm but the foundations are being laid and eventually it will be achieved,” he says confidently.

With his vision for the BNOC now ‘having been bought into by the affiliates,’ the former Karateka is optimistic that things will go well for the BNSC.

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