Sport plays a key role in former Proteas netball captain Bronwyn Bock Jonathan’s life. It not only gave her the opportunity to represent her country and see the world, but also significantly influenced her career pathway.
Growing up in Mitchells Plain, Bronwyn excelled in sport and competed in netball and athletics at national school’s level.
She registered for a degree in Human Movement Science at Stellenbosch University (SU) in 1994 – the same year that South Africa was allowed to play international netball again – and was selected for the SA U/21 team. During her netball career, Bronwyn played in 51 tests and captained South Africa at the World Championships in 2007. She also was the SA flagbearer at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.
“It was a pretty amazing experience to not only represent my country in my sport, but to lead my country into the stadium for the opening ceremony,” she recalls.
Bronwyn completed her undergraduate degree as well as all her postgraduate degrees at SU and was offered a position as a lecturer at the university’s Department of Sport Science in 2000.
“It was a great fit. I was playing internationally and could plan my training schedule around my academic responsibilities and research.”
After playing in the Netball World Championships in 2007 and completing her PhD in Sport Science in 2008, Bronwyn was contacted by the CEO of Netball ACT (Australian Capital Territory) to enquire whether she would be interested to pursue a career as coach and player development manager.
“I was blown away by the offer. It was a huge risk, because I was leaving a well-established career as a lecturer as SU, but I jumped at the opportunity to challenge myself. That type of role did not exist in South Africa at the time.”
After six years as coach, Bronwyn took on a new role as Personal Excellence Senior Adviser at the Australian Sport Commission (ASC) in Canberra, supporting Australian athletes’ career development and wellbeing. In 2018, the ASC launched a new strategy called the AIS Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement strategy.
“My role now is to generate resources and programmes that are implemented by the athlete wellbeing and engagement managers of national sports organisations in Australia. The purpose of our strategy is to support athlete performance by ensuring that athletes are equipped to navigate their high-performance journey. Athletes also have the unique opportunity to be able to inspire society and our initiatives provide a platform for athletes to engage in meaningful activities as well as give back to their sport and the community.”
South Africa still holds a special place in Bronwyn’s heart.
“Once you’ve represented your country, it will always be a very special part of who you are. I love how I was able to contribute to South African society and demonstrate to other women that it is possible to pursue a career in sport.
“But as much as I love high-performance sport, I value what sport can do for society – it is a vehicle for social change. It helps people to live a healthy lifestyle and gives them a sense of belonging and way to connect with other people.”
- By Pia Nänny -