The much-awaited opening of the Sarah Baartman District Academy of Sport, a subsection of the Eastern Cape Academy of Sport (ECAS), took place on Tuesday 26 February, at the Indoor Sports Centre in Joza. The District Academy of Sport will look to identify elite athletes in the Sarah Baartman district, and provide them with advanced training.
The ceremony started off with a celebration of the various sporting achievements of the people of Makhanda (Grahamstown), including highlighting the 125 year anniversary of the Lily Whites Rugby Club, celebrating National Boxing Champion Mziwoxolo Ndwayana, and pointing out the large number of sign ups that the Makana LFA had received in the past three days.
The Executive Mayor of Makana, Mzukisi Mphalwa, was proud to be a part of the opening of the academy, stating that it came at the right time for local sports people. “Now we have got a facility that we can use as sports people,” said Mphalwa.
The academy will be available for elite athletes and structured sports clubs, that will be able to benefit from the state-of-the-art equipment and specialised training. Clubs from the LFA, SEDRU and the GCB will all be able to make use of the academy facility, by registering with the District Academy of Sport. Specialised training will be carried out with the help of the Rhodes University Human Kinetics and Ergonomics (HKE) Department, with students coming through to the centre to train and instruct athletes with specialised drills.
The intention is that this elite athlete training facility will help to level the playing field for poorer athletes to break into the national setup in their respective sports. “The launch of a programme of this nature is not just about athlete preparation for excellent performance,” said Eastern Cape MEC for Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Bulelwa Tunyiswa, “but about creating a home where identified athletes from poor backgrounds and far flung areas of this district will be polished and be prepared to be world class material.”
“What we achieved today as a district, I think, is a milestone,” said Mkhululi Magada, the President of the Eastern Cape Sport Confederation. “You must remember that the facilities of this nature in the Eastern Cape, you only see them in Port Elizabeth. And for us to make sure that all our athletes are competitive, you must make sure that you give them the same equipment.”
While the focus of the academy will be to train elite athletes in the district, it was also stressed that the centre is not only to be used for high-performance training. “We need to emphasise that this is not only a high performance centre,” said Hermann Terblanche, the manager of the Eastern Cape Academy of Sport responsible for high performance sport. “Obviously the core focus will be on identifying athletes at community level, for them to be nurtured into top level sports persons; to be able to compete at the highest level.”
Terblanche mentioned that the bodies such as SEDRU, LFA and GCB, that have already set up a relationship with the Eastern Cape Sport Confederation will be given first choice when gaining access to the facilities at the academy. It is therefore up to the schools and clubs to help ECAS to identify young talent and push them for selection into district squads to receive the specialised training at the academy.
Further exploration of various programmes including classes for the elderly, sick and some schools are also being looked into by ECAS as well as Rhodes HKE.