Springbok prop Pat Cilliers and Springbok Sevens star Warren Whiteley, along with nine other provincial rugby players and a leading international women’s triathlete, have teamed up with one of the country’s leading independent telecommunications service providers to spearhead a unique skills development and training programme aimed at preparing these top athletes for lucrative business careers after their inevitable retirement from professional sport.
A joint initiative between iConnect SA and Prosport International, one of South Africa’s top sports marketing and management agencies, the programme is based on a formal contract between the telecommunication company and the 12 individual athletes.
In terms of the agreement, iConnect will provide the athletes with invaluable insights into the company’s core business – the sale and turnkey provisioning, support, maintenance and management of fully integrated communications solutions and services that meet the exacting demands of business in today’s “connected” world.
These insights will include training, skills development and mentoring to introduce them to one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic industry sectors in the world. In return for iConnect’s investment in their future after sport, the athletes will represent the company as brand ambassadors.
iConnect CEO Calvin Collett described the programme as an exciting business initiative for the company.
“We already invest heavily in skills development and training in our business partner community throughout South Africa – a programme that helps to ensure the business success of our partners and guarantee the highest levels of service delivery to our customers. Our commitments to the 12 athletes will build on this model to enable them to enter the industry after their sporting careers are over,” he said.
Collett pointed out that the programme was carefully established in association with Prosport International.
“iConnect used Gallup’s strengths-based recruiting methodology to establish inherent strengths which make each individual unique, react in certain ways and have specific key performance criteria. For each of these individuals, being anything but the best is not an option and such traits are integral to the model which has been developed,” he said.
Prosport International CEO Mike Makaab is thrilled at the opportunities that will be created for the athletes.
“It’s great to see a top company commit to the long-term future of some of the country’s top athletes,” he said. “This partnership will equip our participating athletes with invaluable business skills, which they can use when their careers draw to a close. In the meantime, I’m sure their competitive natures will drive them on to achieve great success on behalf of iConnect as brand ambassadors.”
The sole woman in the iConnect “dream team” is former teenage triathlon sensation Vicky van der Merwe, who burst onto the international scene seven years ago as a 17-year-old. Van der Merwe is on the comeback trail after suffering several injuries during past seasons.
Cilliers said he is extremely proud to be part of the iConnect team.
“iConnect is a dynamic and exciting company and I’m looking forward to learning more about their business. It’s great to be afforded the opportunity to work with a company that thinks out of the box, and I’m enthusiastic about growing along with them as part of the team.”
Other members of the iConnect/Prosport team are rugby players Anton Bresler (Sharks), David Bulbring (Southern Kings), Guy Cronje (Golden Lions), Ross Cronje (Golden Lions), Dylan Des Fountain (Golden Lions), Michael Killian (Southern Kings), Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), Mike Rhodes (Stormers/Western Province) and Callie Visagie (Bulls).