For a player who is barely 17 years of age, Sarona ‘Sasa’ Hans’ love for netball and sport is incontestable. Ask her of her recent stay in Singapore, where she was playing for M1 Sunfish in Netball Singapore’s Super League, and the first thing she will tell you is how much she enjoyed playing there. Instead of showing pictures of herself touring various places of interest in Singapore, the first thing ‘Sasa’ does when you ask her about Singapore is to show you numerous pictures of herself competing in Singapore.
“Playing in Singapore made me grow as a player,” the talented youngster gushes. “When I went there, I was the youngest of the whole international contingent and many people thought I wouldn’t endure. They were worried that I would be homesick but they were surprised because I never complained. In fact, my coach in Singapore said I was the best international player she has worked with in the league,” Sasa says.
Having grown up around the netball courts, surrounded by some great netballers and strong women, the youngster’s love for the sport is inherent. Her mother, Lucy Hans, who also happens to be her main critic and motivator, is a former Notwane and national team netballer herself. “When she was still a toddler, I used to take her to the netball courts. We used to take her along when going on camps and she grew up surrounded by netballers,” she explained. Perhaps this explains why the youngster chose netball as her sport of choice.
Despite being very petite and standing at just 1.62 meters tall, ‘Sasa’ is very athletic and could have played any sport aside from netball if she had wished to. “Apart from netball, I also played basketball and softball. In fact, I excelled in basketball and I was voted the best basketball player at St Joseph’s College this past year. I was even selected to play for Botswana’s junior basketball team but I opted out because it clashed with my netball and I chose the latter,” the youngster says. Granted her successes in the netball courts, her snubbing basketball for netball is understandable.
Sasa is the current record holder for the youngest player ever to earn a senior Botswana Netball team cap, something which she did this past year as a sixteen year old when Botswana competed at the Six Nations Cup at Singapore. The youngster was an integral part of the youthful team, which earned a bronze medal at the tournament. “When she was at the six nations’ tournament in Singapore last year, I received a report from her coach telling me what a little fighter she was. It was a very proud moment for me,” her mother Lucy tells me.
And who would not? In her young sporting career, Sasa is one of the most decorated players. Her list of successes includes among others, a bronze and a gold from the COSSASA games as well as a senior team bronze medal from the Singapore six nations tournament, all to go along with the silver and bronze medals won with the Notwane Under 20 team as well as individual honours she won while playing for her school teams. A very versatile player who can play seamlessly in Wing Defence, Goal Defence and in Centre Court, Sasa is also a born leader and was the captain when Botswana Netball won gold at the COSSASA games. Having grown around a lot of independent women, the youngster is also, according to her mother, ‘very independent, though very humble and grounded.’ On the influence of her mother on her career, the youngster had this to say “My mother has always been supportive of my career.
There is obviously some pressure as I play similar positions to the ones she played but she is always there to watch me and give me advice,” Sasa says. It is this support that Sasa credits as her motivation to do better, both academically and sporting wise adding it is her own way of returning a favour to her mother ‘for supporting her career.’ While her mother’s influence is evident on Sasa’s career, the youngster also has numerous people she credits as very influential in her career. These people include her coach in the Under 17 team, Oreeditse Marakakgoro, Botswana Netball Association (BONA) President Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego as well as Mma Kesupile, who she says is her grandmother.
“Mma Kesupile has always been supportive of my sporting career. Everytime I needed something, be it training shoes or camp money, she would always provide for me. She made sure that I did not look any different from other kids when I went on camps or any sporting activity,” Sasa explains. As for Marakakgoro and Lebotse-Sebego, the youngster describes them as her ‘mothers’ and says they have always been there to give her advice.
Commenting on the youngster, Lebotse-Sebego described Sasa as a ‘very driven, assertive and results focused individual.’ “She is very humble and that is a key ingredient for a player and for her personally. Most importantly, I love the fact that she is academically gifted. She is very smart and combined with her netball talent and the support she is getting from her mother, the sky is the limit,” the BONA President said of the youngster who has just passed her Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Examination (BGCSE) examinations. Asked about her future ambitions, the youngster alluded that she would like to pursue further education, with engineering among her preferred careers. She however said she is also open to plying her trade in the world’s best Netball leagues should such an opportunity arise.