Craig Govender. Where do we start to describe who this gentleman is. Master in Physiotherapy, with a focus on cricket research. Former Lions Cricket Franchise Physio. Current Proteas Physio. Director of the Wanderers Sports Medicine Centre in JHB.
More important than all these titles is the leader and industry role model that he is. Believe it or not, I’ve never met Craig in person. We’ve chatted on the phone, whatsapped, emailed even Instagram messaged, but we’ve never met. Despite that, he’s been a huge influence and supporter of our Enhanced Physio Platform, this BLOG, as well as our social media content. Such is the world we’re living in – influential people like Craig are a click away, and guess what? Not only are they great professionals, but also really great people.
We’ve been back and forth for over a year now about having Craig feature on the blog and the time has finally arrived. The format of this piece is in a Question and Answer style, similar to our interviews with Nick Moffitt, Dolphins Cricket Physio, as well as SPT Western Cape Chairman and Running Guru Chris Allan. We have also featured some questions from our IG followers, some of which were already answered in the main section of this article.
Enjoy this interview and make sure you follow Craig in the UK with the Proteas via his social media handle: @911Govie
NP: Where does the 911 come from? Govie is cool nickname,but give us some background.
CG:911 – As in Rescue 911 – Call Govie, when there’s an emergency. And Govie is short for Govender as you may have figured.
NP: You hold a masters in physiotherapy, did it make a big difference to your career path?
CG: I think it did. I’m a man of goals and, I’ve always wanted to do my Master’s on Cricket Research. I was extremely focused, I set my goal in Grade 10 in order to become the South African Cricket Teams Physio.
NP: Tell us about your passion for cricket, from your IG, seems you’re decent leg spinner! Would you say you need to be a fan of the sport you work in?
CG: To be passionate about something, you do need to be a fan. Cricket has been in my blood, due to my dad. He took me out of school, as a 12-year-old to watch the first Test Match, after isolation at Kingsmead. I watched Alan Donald, knick of Geoff Marsh, during the first ball of the 1992 World Cup (He was given Not Out). I watched every World Cup on tele and got up early for many an Ashes Series.
I played a lot of cricket. Being a leg spinner is a huge passion of mine. I have read all Shane Warnes books and have them in my library. I still bowl plenty to the boys, which keeps me going and the stress levels down.
NP: You’ve been in professional cricket for a while now – are there any differences between working for the Lions franchise and the proteas?
CG: Absolutely none. The environment can change but your philosophies should never change, depending on the environment you find yourself in.
NP: What advice would you give to young physio’s aiming to work in professional teams, where should they start?
Invest in your goals and ambitions. Invest in time and courses which you feel that will assist you in achieve your dreams.
NP: Is there a lot of pressure when managing the proteas players in terms of making decisions about match and training availability?
CG: There’s always pressure, because of the nature of international cricket/sport. And the scrutiny around the team and players. However, pressure is an honor. Breathe and back your skills.
NP: How do you stay up to date with evidence-based literature specific to cricket and sports?
CG: Loads of reading and making sure all my CPD points are up to date. I read a lot about Leadership and Business, which helps me grow as a Leader.
NP: Thinking on your feet is a big part of sports physio, tell us about the run of finger injuries and your creative solutions to solve them in the recent tour (I think it was AUS vs SA a year ago, you had some splints made and attachments to their batting gloves)
CG: Yoh…. We had our top six with finger injures and we were playing on bouncing pitches. I needed to make sure our boys, felt comfortable and confident batting on these pitches. Yes there was some innovation, special splinting material was used, but loads of other stuff like silicone gel was used between the glove and the splinting material. It’s my trade secret.
NP: What’s in your physio run-on bag?
CG: There’s so much. Where do I start? Basically, I have everything, for an emergency. From wound stuff, to strapping, to ear and eye drops, finger splints, etc. etc.
NP: What is in your travelling medic bag?
CG: For this World Cup, I travel with, 5 coffins (HUGE BOX BAG, think Flight Case), 2 roller physio bags, a plinth, a Game Ready and a Normatec.
I’m stocked for 2 months and have enough of everything. I get very anxious when I don’t have something.
NP: What would you say is the handiest travelling tool for your work with the Proteas and what do the players enjoy? (normatec, game ready, compex, shockwave etc)
CG: We have everything you can imagine, but my stock and trade are my hands and my ability to communicate. Communication is to key to healing…
NP: Some might say that physio is separate from team management, coaches and players – how does the role of physio fit into the Proteas side?
CG: You must create a good rapport to form a good team relationship with your staff. I speak the “cricket language”, and that also does helps. I feel that we as physios need to spend more time, understanding people and personalities. I spend a huge part of my time doing this. Physio is physio and you can treat an injury, but there’s more to injuries…
NP:Many physio’s in SA (myself included) look up to you as someone who is an industry leader, but you’re also creating more leaders as you go – why is this so important to you?
CG: I was a young physio once upon a time and I wasn’t given the time of day. I wanted to learn as much as I could to grow but I had to do this on my own. I had to hustle. I’m grateful to the people that I have come across in my career, that believed in me. Due to my experiences in life, I promised myself that, I will never “be that guy”.
Education is free, my parents paid for my education and I can’t repay that. I will repay them by paying it forward and helping others.
My life mentors are, My “GODS”, My parents, my biggest supporter my brother Kyle and my wife Prenitha. Adv. Nick Kock, from UWC and the Director of UWC Cricket and the Sports Skills for Life Skills Program; Evan Speechly, the world renowned Sports Physiotherapist in Johannesburg; Dave Nosworthy, he was coach at the Highveld Lions, who backed me and gave me my first opportunity and taught me a lot about professional sport. Also Vincent Barnes, he a massive contributor to my career. These are all honest and humble human beings.
NP: Where would you like to see sports physio go in South Africa? What can younger physios do to create a better industry in 10-20 years’ time?
CG: Never be scared to believe in your profession. We are a huge part of sports teams. Without a physio, not much can be done. We need to stick together and grow each other to grow out profession.
What are some of the sacrifices you’ve had to make on your way to becoming the Proteas physio?
Leaving home, in 2001 to begin a journey. I have not been home since and living without your immediate family for that amount of time is extremely difficult.
Are student Physio’s allowed to shadow you at WSMC? If so who can they get in touch with?
Without doubt. We have had many at the center already and a few have started Physiotherapy due to our passion for the profession. WSMC Sports Physiotherapist , Ziyaad Mohamed is instrumental is guiding young students, in this regard.
What type of mobility, activation do you do with the Proteas before matches and training?
I deal with the players that have chronic issues, about 15 minutes before the official team warm up. There shouldn’t be division during a team warm up, hence the guys come in earlier to get their shoulders, backs activated. Thoracic and Hip mobility with and combination of core is what we focus on generally. But some guys need specifics depending on a current condition.
What recovery strategies to you use with the Proteas?
Recovery is individual specific. The players have a menu of things to do. From ice baths, massages etc, but our main focus is on sleep management. We have also invested in memory foam pillows for each player and staff member to keep the pillow consistent on all our different hotels.
NP: I just want to take the opportunity to say a massive THANK YOU to Govie, for this interview and everything he contributes to physiotherapy in South Africa. I honestly feel that among all the incredible physio’s we have in SA, Craig is really taking his leadership role to new heights and paving the way forward for the future of our industry. We wish you and the Proteas all the best for your World Cup Campaign, we’ll be rooting for you!