Being a full-time student-athlete is who competes in provincial, national and international competitions while tending to academic demands is not an easy feat. This is according to para-athlete Yane van der Merwe, a recent honours degree graduate who has achieved success beyond the classroom.
Van der Merwe completed an honours in BCom Sport Science and joined the March 2023 cohort of graduates at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). She was a member of South Africa’s team that competed in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, in August.
According to van der Merwe, juggling both sport and academic activities requires dedication and discipline. This, she says, requires good time management and setting priorities. “Some of my highlights over the years have been working with UJ sports teams, including the hockey team. As an athlete of the Sports for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Club, I am inspired by other club members who have completed their Master’s Degrees. This has motivated me to continue my studies and also reach that level,” says van der Merwe.
She received several awards, including the 2021 Sportswoman of the Year with a Disability Award (twice) and silver in the 2022 UJ Sportswoman of the Year division. Van der Merwe also played a significant role in the UJ Sports for Students with Disabilities Club winning Sport Team of the Year with Disabilities at the Johannesburg Women in Sports Awards.
Van der Merwe claims that studying Sport Science has provided her with useful knowledge in creating training programs and testing for athletes. “My love of sports and academic achievements have given me the opportunity to pursue a career in sports management,” says van der Merwe.
She adds, “The UJ SSD Club has given para-athletes a sense of belonging and made a difference in our lives. Reflecting on my journey, I have also discovered that where there is a will, there is a way.”
As Yane embarks on the next phase of her journey, she carries with her the lessons she has learned at UJ, including the importance of hard work, perseverance, and community.