YOUTH DAY PROFILE
Champion pool player from Lavender Hill Shaiyene Fritz focuses on community upliftment
Shaiyene Fritz has represented South Africa across the globe playing pool, but is now focused on giving back to her local community.
In March this year, Shaiyene Fritz jetted off to Qinhuangdao, China, to represent South Africa at the Heyball Masters Grand Finals.
Things didn’t go particularly well on the individual pool table for Fritz as she failed to get past the second round. However, at the end of last year, she was part of the South African team that clinched the World Championship in Morocco at the Blackball World Championships.
In May this year, the third-year Stellenbosch University Bachelor of Arts Humanities student started a programme — the Shaiyene Fritz Foundation — to help matriculants apply and gain access to tertiary education.
To say Fritz has a lot on her plate is to put it mildly. The 22-year-old is from Lavender Hill in Cape Town, an area notorious for its gang-related violence.
But instead of picking up an armed weapon, Fritz elected to shoot solid (or striped) balls into small velvety pockets instead.
She started shooting the wooden cue as a nine-year-old growing up in Capricorn, near Muizenberg.
“When we were staying in Capricorn there was a [arcade] games shop next door and I would go play there,” Fritz told Daily Maverick.
“It was R1 to play and it was fun, I really wanted to beat the boys … There was a bit of natural talent there but not too much, but it developed from there onwards.
“When we moved to Lavender Hill, I found a [arcade] game shop around the corner where I also started playing and then from there we played against the other [arcade] game shops in the area.
“So, we had a little social league in the area and from there the manager affiliated us to Western Province and we started playing League pool there.
“From there on out it just kind of took shape. We would get opportunities to trial and to go represent Western Province and if you did very well at national level you got to represent South Africa.”
Fritz’s first overseas trip as a professional pool player was in 2018 when she went to Russia where she represented South Africa in a nine-ball under-21 Championship. She was the number one ranked player in her age group in the country at that point. And she was only 17 years old.
There’s a pretty penny available to be made by the winners of international competitions. The first prize at the tournament in China, at the start of the year for example, was R13-million — although the prize money differs from competition to competition.
“When there’s a lot of money involved there’s always pressure because nobody wants to lose, especially if you put in a lot of effort and you put in a lot of money to reach a certain point,” Fritz said.
But it also costs a lot of money to get to the various competitions. Fritz started a GoFundMe to help raise funds for her trip to China and received R30,000, the young athlete had to contribute R10,00o out of her own pocket in order to have enough funds.
“It’s quite a blow [to not win], but it’s a bigger blow when people donated and they’ve supported me because I always want to make my community proud so the pressure ends up being way more when I’m there on sponsored or funded money,” Fritz said.
“I’m not gonna be going anywhere this year as I’m taking a bit of a break from pool. Not a break from playing League but from international tournaments and national tournaments because it gets too expensive.”
Instead of touring the country and the globe, Fritz’s attention is more closely focused on giving back to her community in Lavender Hill this year.
Her newly founded foundation is aimed at providing the youth in Lavender Hill access and information to higher education.
“Our focus is on getting kids from impoverished communities access to bursaries and universities by applying for them, helping them through the application process, providing them with the resources in order to apply and to provide tutoring sessions,” she said.
“Coming from the area that I do, I see a big need and the things I’m doing have been done for me.”
“Before I got into university I didn’t know how to start, I was so scared that I’d do the applications wrong. There wasn’t always access to Wifi to a laptop and I couldn’t always print all the necessary documents to upload it.”
Fritz’s longer-term goal is to complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Education after she completes her undergraduate degree next year, in order to continue providing resources for success to the youth in her community. DM