Over just a few weeks, Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed almost everything. From how students are educated around the world; and, of course, our passion that is sport.
However, these changes have also given us a glimpse of how technology can reshape our spaces and this time has almost forced us, in a good way, to do things differently – to implement changes that probably should have happened a long time ago.
The positives are that new challenges in the education space has pushed us to change and this could lead – and in some cases, already has led – to a number of innovations, while the pandemic has also become a catalyst for sport worldwide to search for innovative solutions in a relatively short period of time.
Partnerships between public-private institutions could grow in importance and hopefully sport will reap the benefits in many ways.
Technology Sets a Trend in Education and Sport
Over the past few weeks, we have seen diverse stakeholders – including governments, publishers, education professionals, technology providers and telecom network operators – coming together for us to access digital platforms during the crisis.
This development has the possibility to become a prevalent and consequential trend to how we learn and educate – including in sport.
Students across South Africa had to quickly adapt to online teaching and learning and this digital divide could both strengthen us or widen the gap because we should remind ourselves of the less privileged.
We know that many of our student-athletes and athletes are finding themselves in difficult circumstances at this time. There is therefore a need for us to embrace all platforms to access and benefit for everyone.
Universities Lend a Helping Hand to Student-Athletes
Many organisations, including our universities, have gone the extra mile to support our students and we trust that our student-athletes across South Africa are being taken care of.
This pandemic has affected every sport at every level, including the postponement of events as large as the Olympics to the cancellation of community, school and university sport activities.
Many areas such as sport networks are challenged to find content and yet so many initiatives have been shared of you, our student-athletes across South Africa, once again demonstrating your resilience.
We are also aware that these changes can be hard and stressful, yet it is a great time to experiment – and if they don’t work, you just try again because that is what you do as athletes. It is, however, also okay to feel vulnerable but even more important to share how you feel and seek support.
“During times of crisis, it helps to be with family support where possible and I want you to soak it in and enjoy it.” – Maties Sport Chief Director
We know that you miss your residence room and roommate; the lecture theatres; the gymnasium; training and competitions fields; your fellow teammates, colleagues – and you might even miss the residence food ?
However, during times of crisis, it helps to be with family support where possible and I want you to soak it in and enjoy it. I am also acutely aware of the less privileged whose residence room could be the best place for them right now due to individual circumstances.
I do, however, hope that you are coping and making the best of it because no matter what, family and even the support of our communities is what stands out for me during this time.
Coaches and staff had to quickly adjust and learn about technologies to continue performing our duties and I can assure you this includes placing your priorities first. If this is not the case, I urge you to make contact with your respective Sport Departments.
Stellenbosch University Reveals a Support System Guide
Even though there are no sport activities happening, we need to do whatever we can to make sure that you are well because you remain our dose of inspiration and we would love to welcome you all back in good health.
I believe that every person forming part of the student-athlete support system should focus on the following areas during this challenging time:
- To have a clear direction while enabling both student-athletes, coaches and support staff to adapt to changes – be it organisational or internal team changes – and learning about emerging industry trends,
- Create a safe environment where we can experiment and adapt and learn fast; and
- We need to drive collaboration, encourage continuous feedback and deepen our relationships.
During these uncertain times, creating an agile environment is even more relevant than ever. Not many of us have been exposed to the virtual space to the same degree and this means that all of us have much to learn.
The University Aims to Protect the Health of Student-Athletes
We also know that there has been immense disappointment among all athletes that you are not able to finish your season. Some of you cannot get this missing time back because of your different years of studies. We also know that you would have loved to do and achieve so much during 2020 and that you needed closure to this year on a high note.
We want to assure you that we understand what you are going through. However, when it comes to decision-making, our commitment remains to protect your health and safety and as your sport support team, we now have a responsibility to make sure that you complete the academic year successfully and that we rethink how to build more resilience into our sport systems.
Many of our students-athlete across South Africa are some of the smartest people in the country and I would like to urge you to share your thoughts with us. We require all the brainpower that will enable us to return to a positive space and to continue to lead, manage, participate and compete.
I am going to greet you with a well-known quote by our late President, Nelson Mandela, who said ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ This period too shall pass, continue to be resilient, apply the lessons learnt in sport – and please stay safe and blessed.
Photo 1 Caption: Maties Sport Chief Director, Ilhaam Groenewald blogs to encourage student-athletes to remain in a positive state of mind during COVID-19 times and how Stellenbosch University is using technology to keep the passion flowing. Groenewald previously pictured at the 2019 Momentum gsport Awards where she was honoured with the Ministerial Award. Photo: Supplied
With editing by gsport