Six years ago Legendary South African sprinter and two-time Olympian, Geraldine Pillay, started coaching clinics in the community of Macassar. As is the case in all South African townships, rural areas and underprivileged communities, resources are very thin, sometimes non-existent. That results in a lot of kids turning to drugs, young girls falling pregnant at a very young age amongst other scary realities.
That is why it is so imperative and ideal for anyone with the means to go back to these impoverished communities to give back. For Pillay, it was a given that she needed to use her expertise as a former athlete to plough back for the young girls in Macassar.
“We don’t have a lot of female coaches in our communities and that makes it very, very difficult even for girls to play sport and to participate because they don’t have a female figure there that they can trust. We’ve had so many nasty stories of male coaches taking advantage of young girls. But when you have a female there who can also take up the role as a mother, as a mentor so that is that is very important.”
However, the reality is that for these clinics to be successful, they need funding. As confirmed by Pillay, she has to cover the meals for the day because some of the girls that attend without having eaten at all.
“I would like, for the girls to have something in the belly, to have something nutritional, because how can I expect them to focus on it when they have an empty stomach and that’s unfortunately the reality that a lot of the girls who will come to the camp will probably come there without having something to eat and I would like to provide something for them to make sure that the basic need is met before I overload them with information and requesting them to run up and down.”
The former Olympian has made a call to anyone that can assist with funding to invest in this initiative.
Geraldine, thank you so much for such an inspiring initiative. Please tell us more about the Macassar Coaching Clinic and when it was established?
It started about six years ago. I’ve at first had a sprint event only for girls. We had 60 meters and it was for all age groups, 60 to a 100 meters. We also had a mom’s race and I could see that there was a very, very, very big need in the community for events like that.
Not just the sprint event but more the coaching side of it because there’s a lot of young girls who are interested in sport, but really don’t have access to coaching.
There are also coaches in the community who have a passion for coaching but they don’t have the formal training behind it. And I thought let me leverage on my expertise and my resources and let’s bring a coaching clinic to Macassar. A lot of the coaching clinics happen outside of Macassar but due to logistical constraints, transport issues and it is not that accessible for everyone in Macassar.
Which age groups is it open to?
The ages that I’m looking at are all the girls from grade 7 to grade 11. I know the grade 12s are now out of commission because of the final year exams. It’s not going to be an Athletics focus or athletics specific rather. It’s going to be more like a speed clinic.
So everybody can participate or anybody can attend it. Whether you’re a Rugby Player, a Netball Player, Soccer Player, or Sprinter, you will be able to benefit from this as well as the coaches.
Whether you’re a Netball coach, a Soccer Coach, Rugby Coach or even a Cricket Coach for that matter. You’ll be able to benefit from this Clinic in terms of upskilling and just adding to your skillset. In any sport, you know, the fundamentals remain the same. I would like to impart my knowledge as a former Sprinter and as an athlete who has been coached by some of the best coaches in the world.
The coaching clinic is always well attended, any success stories to tell of young girls have done well following attendance of the Coaching Clinic.
Coaching clinics are always well attended. We have seen some players and athletes go on and represent their province at National championships. After my very first Geraldine Pillay 5km fun walk/run, a fitness group for women was started, the ladies got together Monday to Thursdays, their instructor Japie was amazing in keeping them fit and fabulous, many of them stopped going to the day hospital because they did not need the meds anymore. My wish is that one day another Olympian or National player will come from Macassar.
About two months ago, I assisted a Netball Team they participated in the in the International High School Championships and it was under 14 girls and they came up here and it was lovely to see that most of the management consisted of females. I know there are also a lot of girls who have shown an interest in Rugby. I just want to be a vehicle to help, to explore, to unearth talent and also just to share my knowledge and my expertise.
Tell us about the importance of these clinics and the difference they make in the community for young girls.
We don’t have a lot of female coaches in our communities and that makes it very, very difficult even for girls to play sport and to participate because they don’t have a female figure there that they can trust. We’ve had so many nasty stories of male coaches taking advantage of young girls. But when you have a female there who can also take up the role as a mother, as a mentor so that is that is very important.
Hosting such an event sure has costs that may prove to be quite a lot, what support do you need in terms of funding.
Unfortunately, the success of a clinic like this is solely dependent on financial backing. And if you don’t have the financial backing, then it’s not going to be as impactful and as successful as one would have it. It’s very important that corporate, small businesses, even within the community to plough back to communities.
Marginalised Communities like Macassar where resources are very few and far between. Initiatives like this are not well supported financially. I would like, for the girls to have something in the belly, to have something nutritional, because how can I expect them to focus on it when they have an empty stomach and that’s unfortunately the reality that a lot of the girls who will come to the camp will probably come there without having something to eat and I would like to provide something for them to make sure that the basic need is met before I overload them with information and requesting them to run up and down.
What is the importance of business, corporate SA and government to add any resources to such projects. Your message to people that could potentially fund the clinic.
I would love to have more girls, to have not just 60 the reality is that the lack of financial support, it’s it is not possible to cater to a bigger group and to have more coaches from outside of Macassar coming in and sharing their knowledge. They would not be keen to do it for free. Therefore it is so important as part of our CSI that they do invest in these kind of initiatives just to keep communities moving.
I will never forget the very, very profound saying of one of our earlier ministers who said “A child in sport is a child out of court,” and I live by that and I believe that through sport we can change communities.
The goal is to move from 60, 60 will then become 120 and 120 will become 180. We need to have more girls participating in sport and finding a love for sport and a passion for sport.
But the only way they can do it is when they have access to resources and they people who really care about them and that really want to invest in them and making them aware of the opportunities that are out there.
Photo Caption: Olympian Speedster Geraldine Pillay-Viret is big on giving to help raise the community, and she needs support for her scholar-focussed Macassar Speed Clinic to bring the benefits of her expertise to the upliftment of the marginalised community. Photo: 2023 gsport Judge Geraldine Pillay-Viret pictured at the 2023 gsport Awards. Photo: gsport