Home » Meet our new Development Manager

Meet our new Development Manager

Cassandra Zeta Carels, MasiSports' new Sports Development Manager

Meet Cassandra Carels, MasiSports’ new Sports Development Manager, who has a vision to develop sustainable systems across her specialised divisions. Read the article below to find out more.

How did you get into the field of sports development?

While I was doing my Masters’s internship, my supervisor was supervising a Ph.D. student who was working at Waves for Change. Her studies were coming to an end the year after and she needed to find someone she could mentor. Since my supervisor knew my financial struggle he introduced me to her. I got the job as an operations manager (a fancy term for the ‘admin girl’). I had never done sports with psychology so this was new to me, and so was surfing. The work became so organic. I always believed that children learned through play, and sport is structured play.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born on 03 October 1987, to Joeanne and Cassius Carels. My parents were from different racial backgrounds. After five years of marriage, my mom and dad got divorced. My mom stayed with her parents. When I was about nine years old my mom remarried and I stayed with my maternal grandparents, in Hanover Park. I had no relationship with my dad, as he was involved in gang activity and most of my childhood he was in prison. My mom had two children, who resided with her.

After five years of marriage, my mom got divorced. I grew up with my maternal grandparents. My grandfather was very strict. I did very well in school. I was never allowed to go to a school within our area. For most of high school, I felt misplaced as I was with other children that had more – more financially and more in terms of living with their parents. I started acting out and engaged in a range of risky behaviour including recreational drugs and alcohol. I was exposed to NGO programmes due to my behaviour.

However, maintaining high marks academically my teachers did not quite know what to do with me. I clearly remember my Mathematics teacher telling me one day after I had an ‘outburst episode’ in his class that I would never amount to much. While my grandparents gave me everything I needed, emotionally they were very unavailable. I saw my mom once in a while. I only saw my dad once in prison when I was about 11 years old and then reconnected with him when I was 16. This was challenging in itself as his wife did not want us to have a relationship. Currently, my relationship with both my parents is strained.

I always wanted to be a paramedic or study commercial law, but despite having high grades, I was rejected by three universities. I eventually started a BA General at the University of the Western Cape and only did the bare minimum. In August of my first year, a few months shy of my 19th birthday I found out I was pregnant. I hid the pregnancy for five months. After Christmas, I told my family. My grandfather cut me off financially and I was left with deciding to continue my studies or live with my mom. I decided to continue my studies and work.

Though difficult, I did not drop out. After my third year, I got into Honours majoring in Psychology. I then pursued a Masters in Research Psychology. I fell pregnant with twins during my internship year, but sadly I miscarried one twin. I gave birth 16 days before my grandfather passed away.

I am currently completing a Ph.D. in Psychology and live in Mitchell’s Plain with my 2 daughters, aged 14 and 9.

What do you enjoy about this area of work?

The thing I love the most is that children can be children. Sport is unique in that while you are learning a game, you are also developing a skill personally as well as working with a team. You learn empathy, trust, social awareness as well as emotional awareness. Children that would have fallen through the cracks also develop a sense of identity. I have seen so many success stories – more successes than what I have seen in traditional counseling.

Won’t you tell us some more about what you’ve studied and your particular areas of interest (ie psychology)

As mentioned, I am currently completing a Ph.D. in Psychology, specifically Research Psychology. I have dual registration with the HPCSA as a Registered Counsellor and Research Psychologist. My specific interests are alcohol use and risky sexual behaviour among young adults. I believe understanding this relationship, which is linked to so many other social ills will help me, through research, develop targeted and culturally appropriate intervention plans for young children and adolescents. I have also done courses in Life Coaching and HR.

What is your vision for Sports Development at MasiSports?

My vision is twofold, 1) for the programme, and 2) for my personal career development.

  1. I believe that MasiSport has the potential to influence so many lives. My vision is, therefore, to develop, maintain and execute sustainable systems and procedures across my four main areas of work ­– Grant Coordination, MEL, Impact Communication and Systems, and Team development – to ensure that the programme runs not only for a short while but for the next generation and the next.
  2. For my personal career plan, I believe with the work that I’ll be doing at MasiSport, under the leadership of Vince, I will be able to grow in areas of leadership that I have not yet mastered in its full capacity. I look forward to this journey.

Lastly, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I will shamelessly say I make Tiktoks ;). My life revolves around my daughters. During the first hard lockdown, it was the first time that we were in each other’s faces, as many can relate to. We drove each other up the walls. Making Tiktoks relieved that strain. This has now become part of our lives. If I am not being a mommy, I do kickboxing, hiking, and spending time with close friends and family. And my Ph.D. (which consumes most of my spare time).