Xoli Zondo - A woman making waves in the sports industry

Xoli Zondo - A woman making waves in the sports industry

We caught up with Xoli Zondo – one of South Africa’s most loved female sports presenters.

Xoli Zondo
Xoli Zondo/ Supplied

It’s August - a month dedicated to celebrating women who strive for the top and crush social stereotypes. 

One of those prominent women in South Africa is Xoli Zondo. Not only is she an outstanding sports presenter, but she also works full-time as an Environmental Consultant, is a mother, and an MBA candidate.

She has also been nominated for two 2019 gsport Awards under the categories 'Woman in TV' and 'Style Star'. 

We had a chat with her to find out how she juggles so many roles and still manages to shine.

Have you always been passionate about sport?

Absolutely. Growing up in Soweto, sport always felt like my escape. I would immerse myself in politics of the sport for different federations, clubs, etc. and how these would filter through to the performances of different teams. Then it was just a hobby, little did I know that the extent of and passion for the research would be preparing me for sports broadcasting.

I cannot imagine my life without sport, from the action in stadiums and the boardroom politics which surround the different sporting codes. I live for it all. 

Did you always dream of being a sports presenter or did you want to pursue a different career path?

I always have wanted to be in the Sport Broadcasting industry. In addition, I have always felt that I’m a multi-skilled and multi-faceted individual, therefore, Sportscasting was never the sole dream, but it was definitely one of the many career paths I felt I wanted to pursue. 

What has been the highlight of your career?

It has to be winning the SABC Sport Presenter Search in 2013. When I was announced as the ultimate winner from over 10,000 hopefuls nationwide, it marked the beginning of my journey.

I remember that day as though it happened yesterday and remain grateful for all the doors it has opened up for me. 

Do you play any sport?

Growing up I played netball and swam quite often. I had dreams of being a synchronised swimmer but that never escalated to a professional level. 

If you were not a sports presenter, what would you be doing?

I would definitely have been a sport researcher or football scout. 

The industry you work in is male dominated. How do you cope?

Societal perceptions have to be the hardest to deal with. We have to continuously prove that we are more than just a young girl, more than just a pretty face, but that we are just as passionate and committed, if not more than our peers. This industry is still very much a 'boys club', but the slight improvements are visible. It will not happen overnight but with the growing inclusion of more female sportscasters, we are definitely headed in the right direction.

I cope because I remind myself of what my purpose is and why I need to deliver a stellar job when the opportunity arises. It’s about having a tunnel vision approach and turning down the noise to focus on the task at hand. 

What are some of the challenges you have faced as you paved your way to being where you are today, and how did you overcome them?

Convincing people of your credibility. I have now learned that it comes with time and that credibility is about putting in the work - constantly, even when no-one is looking. To be respected in any line of work you need to have a great track record and you should allow yourself to build up that track record. The notion of instant gratification, instant success or instant uptake in society is one we should shy away from. Don't despise your small beginnings.  

Apart from being a TV and Radio presenter, what else are you busy with?

I am pursuing my MBA, work full-time as an Environmental Consultant, and, most importantly, am a mother to my seven-year-old son, Njabulo, who is my primary concern. 

How do you find the balance?

I have come to accept that you never find the balance. I allocate my time on a need-to-do basis. When I have dedicated time to my son I ensure that in that time I do nothing else but spend quality time for him; if I have allocated four hours to school work it becomes my sole purpose for that period. I never strike the balance but I get what needs to be done, done. 

What are some of the misconceptions society has about being a media personality?

Usually, society removes the human element from media personalities, which is unfortunate. Just like everyone else we go through the motions of life, we have good and bad days, we err and more often than not it happens in the public domain.  The misconception is that our personalities are larger than life and at times society is underwhelmed when they do meet us in person.

What would you like to be remembered for? 

I want to be remembered as fearless in the pursuit of my dreams. Leaving no stone unturned... constantly challenging myself.

What is on your bucket list?

Travel, travel, travel... the goal is 50 countries, I haven't even scraped the surface. 

What is your message to a young girl who aspires to be like you?

The journey will be tough, but you are tougher. Preparation is key and treat every job as an audition. Never forget how much you wanted it when you now have it - that's the key to keeping it!

READ: Meet the boy who could read and write at the age of one

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