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Passionate about youth sport

A ‘‘Kuila girl’’ who manages the publicity for Varsity Sports and the Varsity Cup is one of three women in the running for a gsport4girls award, in the category Woman in Public Relations (PR) and Sponsorship.

The awards are presented by the gsport Trust, a non-profit organisation which aims to raise the profile of South African women in sport.

Marisa Calvert (36) has been in the sports industry since 2009 and is currently the head of public relations at Asem Engage. The best part of her job is working with student athletes, she says. ‘

‘I get to arrange publicity for them and they’re always so grateful for the opportunities. They know I’m a phone call away for anything so I’m not only a publicist but also some kind of mentor.’’

‘‘Our biggest challenge is youth sport because it’s not seen as big enough sports codes, yet this is where the dreams are born.”

Calvert says people forget it was at school and varsity level, where athletes like Karla Pretorius, Leandra Smeda and Herchel Jantjies ‘‘were born’’.

“Our job as publicists is to tell that story and to nurture the talent.”

She aims to strive for athletes to be recognised by mainstream media and to offer some guidance when it comes to conducting themselves in the media.

Calvert grew up in Grabouw and moved to Kuils River in 2001.

She studied sports management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and then worked her way up the corporate ladder.

“In 2013, I found my calling in sports PR after many years on the marketing side.”

Even though she worked with ‘‘bigger names’’ early in her career – a highlight was working with the Brazil national football team in 2009, working with youngsters really put things into perspective for her.

“They all dream big, they want to reach for the stars, and they want to make a name for themselves. Not all of them will have the opportunity to do so and knowing they will have an education to fall back on is why I believe in the Varsity Sports brand,’’ says Calvert.

Calvert is also a Running4Pads ambassador.

This charity initiative collects sanitary pads for school girls who cannot afford it. She noticed the ambassadors at local races and decided to get involved.

“Too many girls are staying out of school because of something as natural as their monthly period,” she says.

Calvert took up running in January 2018 as an outlet for anxiety and joined Ommiedraai Friends Athletics Club, who has a satellite arm in Kuils River.

“The club’s motto is ‘we are an eating club with a running problem’ and yeah, they had me at eating.”

She recently moved in with her fiancé in Brackenfell.

“I finally have my own kitchen, so I have been cooking up a storm! I’m passionate about good food, good wine and good company and my favourite thing is to bring all these elements together and entertain.’’

Humanity is her other passion.

She says she hates seeing people struggle so she will try and find ways to give back to those who cannot afford necessities.

Her two-year-old son is a driving force.

“I want him to have the best life possible as my parents sacrificed so much for us to have a good life. So, every day I grind for him.” And that she gets to work with young people daily keeps her alive, she says.

  • Readers can vote for Calvert at www.gsport.co.za. Voting closes on Friday 9 August. The winners will be unveiled at the gsport Awards at the end of August.
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