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Academics a top priority for Madibaz student-athletes

Apr 7, 2020
Academics a top priority for Madibaz student-athletes

Port Elizabeth - Student-athletes should make their studies a priority and maintain good fitness levels while staying safe, say Madibaz Sport managers and coaches.

This is the immediate objective for Nelson Mandela University staff and students as they continue to comply with government and university regulations during the national 21-day lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The lockdown is due to end on April 16 and the managers want student-athletes to be ready for what is hopefully a return to normal life.

Madibaz Sport hockey manager Cheslyn Gie said the situation would have a big impact on the students, but that their academic programme should be the main priority.

“When they return they will have to catch up on all the lost time with regards to lectures and tests,” he said. “Our primary goal will be to assist them with their studies first, so our hockey will be a secondary concern.

“I am also hoping that all our students return in good health.”

As per national and provincial guidelines Gie said the start of the hockey season had been postponed and they would await further direction from the national body.

Madibaz water polo coach Jono Watkins said the lockdown was a period which student-athletes could use wisely to plan and prepare for when it was lifted.

“It’s essential for students to be well rounded in their academics and sports,” he said.

“I feel it’s important that our water polo players aren’t put under additional stress as they’re already anxious about their studies.

“No extra training sets have been submitted to players in this tough time and expectations placed on players to perform at the highest level in the country will be our coaches’ responsibility when practices resume.

“Fortunately all the players understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and we’re confident our students will be healthy and relatively fit after lockdown.”

While acknowledging the priority of academics, managers are also urging student-athletes to keep safe while maintaining a level of fitness that will enable them to move seamlessly into their sporting schedules when the programmes resume.

Netball coach Lana Krige said it was an opportunity for players to work on certain areas of their games.

“We have made some plans and adapted some skills training and fitness goals to suit the confinement we are in,” she said.

“The girls will not be able to do their shooting sessions, but fitness and strength should be taken care of.”

She added that the lockdown would not have that significant an impact on the SPAR Madibaz team because they had planned to be in recess for 10 of the 21 days.

“My message to the players is to work hard, be creative and enjoy this time to focus on yourself and regather your thoughts after a very busy start to the year.”

Ironically she said the break had provided her with a chance for greater interaction with the players, albeit remotely.

“This has been a time to get to know the girls more personally,” said Krige. “You would think that this would happen when you see them as a team, but then everyone competes for your time.

“Now I have time to chat and really get to hear what they think without the face-to-face pressure.”

The Madibaz SAB Regional League team currently head the log and football manager Mark Tommy said they were geared up to take on closest rivals Bay Tigers if the competition resumed.

However, he added that their main focus at this stage was on the safety and health of the student-athletes.

“For now we're not too concerned about any permutations in terms of the league,” he said. “We just want to make sure players remain safe and maintain reasonable fitness levels.

“To this extent head coach and former Bafana Bafana player Elrio van Heerden has ensured the players are equipped with personalised fitness programmes to allow them to keep active while in lockdown.

“Players are also encouraged to share their experiences and check in with the coach via video calls and activity schedules to ensure fitness work-loads are maintained.”

Tommy said the current season was scheduled to end in the last week of May.

“We are hoping that the season will resume, even if the timeframe is extended beyond May to June.

“It is important that our players maintain a positive mindset and ensure that they control the controllables.”

Madibaz Sport cricket manager Sipho Sibande said all cricket competitions had been put on hold from mid-March following a directive from Cricket SA.

“I think we can all agree that we are dealing with the unknown and at this stage our focus is on ensuring that all our members are safe,” he said.

“In terms of planning for competitions and the outcome of leagues, we have not received any communication yet about how things will be decided.

“We are just happy that Madibaz 1 are comfortably in first position in the Nelson Mandela Bay premier league, having being unbeaten in all our games.”

Image: Madibaz player Hannah Knott-Craig in action in last year’s Varsity Hockey competition. Student-athletes around the country currently find themselves in limbo due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Photo: ASEM Engage