Not only is Karla Pretorius a Dietitian; she is also a Protea netball player, vice-captain and announced as the Player of the Tournament at the Netball World Champs earlier this year! Thank you Karla for flying the Dietetic flag high.
My participation as an elite netball athlete in the professional world of sports has increased my awareness and understanding of the indispensable importance of nutrition in the lives of both individuals and communities. The effective implementation of nutrition knowledge can drastically enhance the quality of every individual’s life, including athletes performance and overall wellbeing.
My path first crossed with nutrition as a science during my undergraduate studies at the University of the Free State (Kovsies) in Bloemfontein. I would later also complete my masters in dietetics and nutrition at the institution. This quaint city, located in the wide-open gold plains of the Free State proved to be a great learning experience, both on and of the court.
Balancing full-time studies with the close to year-round netball season, both domestically for Kovsies and the Free State Crinums and nationally for the Proteas proved challenging at times. Although challenging, the opportunities presented by netball could not be turned down. With support from various stakeholders and determination, I was able to manage both. I strongly encourage all athletes to pursue further studies whilst working towards their personal sporting goals. With hard work, a good balancing act and support it can be done. Also, do not be ashamed to ask for help and assistance along the way. I am most grateful for the time spent at Kovsies, playing for the university team in the Varsity Cup Netball league and at the University Sport South Africa Games.
At the end of 2016, I was approached to join the Sunshine Coast Lightning netball club in their inaugural season in the Australian premier league, the Suncorp Super Netball League. This marked my entry into the sport as a Professional Netballer. The club managed to secure two consecutive wins in the premier league in 2017 and 2018. We are currently continuing our campaign for the 2019 season, after a month-long break for the 2019 INF World Cup in Liverpool. The Spar Proteas, which I am honoured to vice-captain, excelled in the tournament by managing a win over number 2 ranked Jamaica and achieving an overall 4th place.
Noting that Netball is not a professional sport in South Africa, many athletes wanting to pursue a career as a professional netballer are necessitated to look abroad for opportunities in professional leagues, most notably in Australia, England and New
And that is what I did, firstly with a move to England to represent Team Bath, and later on the Sunshine Coast Lightning in Australia. The move abroad also meant that I had to temporarily sacrifice my professional career as a full-time dietician.
Remaining informed of developments in the field of dietetics and adding to my skills and knowledge compelled me to read towards my masters, enrol for online courses, and to do community volunteer work abroad.
Dietetics and nutrition should be incorporated in every high-performance sport and environment, including netball. From my experience, I found that the importance thereof is underestimated and valued in South African netball. There is a clear difference in the value-added to the role and profession of a dietician in the amateur league of netball in South Africa compared to the professional league in Australia.
The main objective for our team dietician, and myself, is to ensure that I am ‘nutritionally healthy’, whereby my performance is maximised. This is achieved by the development and implementation of practical nutrition strategies, guidelines and policies. The rewards of effective use and implementation of nutrition strategy have ensured that I reach my goals, enhance my performance and recovery and minimise