While the search for a new sports role model will continue in the background, Maties hockey superstar, Kayla de Waal, has been inspired and motivated by Roger Federer and Serena Williams. The latter duo recently announced their retirement, and de Waal was an avid follower of both sporting icons’ careers.
“My sporting heroes are Serena Williams and Roger Federer, now I have to find new sport role models,” de Waal said laughingly. “They have done so much for the sporting world, both in their own right have amassed such great accolades in their lives, I enjoyed seeing the both of them in action.”
The Herschel Girls School alumnus, who took a gap year after matriculating in 2019, has been part of the Maties Hockey Club since her first year in 2020. It was, however, due to the national lockdown that de Waal only represented the university at one University Sports South Africa (USSA) tournament. De Waal has been playing hockey since grade one and having experienced the game from such a youthful stage, despite the striking differences in both approach and format she enjoys both – indoor and outdoor – equally.
“Due to the Covid pandemic, besides representing Maties in the Western Province league, I have only represented Maties at one other tournament which was USSA in 2021,” de Waal continued.
“I started playing hockey when I was 6 years old. Indoor and outdoor are very different formats of the game – I love them both a lot. Indoor is played on a much smaller court and there are only six players on the court at a time compared to 11 in outdoor hockey. There are also boards in indoor which one can play off, so the ball basically can only go out over the baseline. You also can’t lift the ball in indoor hockey unless shooting on target.”
Reflecting on some special moments as a hockey player, de Waal highlights one special Maties memory along with her achievements while representing South Africa.
“I have many special sporting memories, but I would consider being a part of the SA U18 hockey team, that came fourth at the Youth Olympics in Argentina [in 2018], to be one of my biggest achievements in my career so far. Making my debut for the Senior Indoor and Outdoor SA teams was also very special.
“My favourite Maties memory so far would be winning the Western Province league with my fellow Maties teammates, we managed this in back-to-back years, in 2021 and 2022.”
The 22-year-old was delighted and expressed her elation to have been part of the South African 2022 FIH Hockey World Cup playing squad. A tournament that has helped shaped her outlook on competitions.
“I absolutely loved playing on the international stage and felt like I embraced every second while representing South Africa out there. We achieved our first goal of reaching the cross over stage of the tournament but after that, we, disappointingly, did not get the results that we were aiming for.
“We, however, learnt a lot and know that there is a huge amount of hard work to be done in the next phases of the training and preparation to get to where we want to be as a squad.”