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Societal differences, mental agility, volunteerism, scrutinised at 3rd UJ Sports Conference

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In the past, millions of people gathered and glued to their home televisions to watch common soapies on the public broadcaster, sharing similar stories from television content at work and schools. However, nowadays, with the shift and inequalities in living standards, the South African population has become even more fragmented. This is according to Xhanti-Lomzi Nesi, a young professional in the corporate marketing and events space.

Nesi was speaking at the 3rd hybrid UJ Sports Conference on Monday, 19 September 2022. He said that the remaining, sole common thing that unites South Africans in modern day society is sport. Nesi was one of the many panelists who shared their expertise with attendees of the conference, which was organised on the theme, “How university sport impacts student health, wellness and overall student experience.”

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2022 UJ Sports Conference. Photo: UJ Sport

In his address, speaking on marketing and events in universities’ sports events, Nesi highlighted how digital content viewership has changed over the years, leaving the government, sponsors and advertising agencies with fewer options to target large groups of people in awareness or advertising campaigns.

The conference featured a number of clusters unpacking matters pertaining to mental wellbeing and performance with esteemed international speaker, Graziella Thake. In another cluster, Mr Fernando Parente, Director: Healthy Campus and Universities Relations at the Federation of International University Sport (FISU), shared insights into how university communities can help meet the objectives of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals through the global Healthy Campus Programme.

“Sports in South Africa and most parts in the rest of the world are run on volunteerism. Volunteers are not only great in aiding sports organisers, offering to share your skills and expertise in sports or the field in which you work or seek to find work is also good for getting the necessary experience and building communities.” Said Ms Lwandile Simelane, first Vice President: South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

Simelane was treading on Professor Wim Hollander from the Department of Sports and Movement Studies at UJ, who shared academic study cases on how work integrated learning should be made compulsory for workers. Prof Hollander said that although there were thousands of volunteers in South Africa, the numbers were low compared to the rest of the western world societies.

In other clusters, postgraduate students shared some of the findings of their preliminary academic research topics, with other guests giving the audience a glimpse into how e-sport can be developed for South Africa to match the rest of the world in electronic gaming.

Olympians Kaylene Corbett (SA swimmer), Louzanne Coetzee (para-athlete), and Keenan Horne (SA hockey player) shared their experiences and challenges in working hard to be selected for the national squads in international competitions such as the Tokyo Olympics.

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Panelists speaking on “The production of Olympian athletes at university level” during the 2022 UJ Sports Conference. Photo: UJ Sport

Horne said that being a student-athlete means that they have to manage time well in order to be organised academically and excel in sport. “Participating in international competitions can make one lonely because you have ample time for training while in foreign countries. So, doing my Master’s while I was participating in international events allowed me to work on my studies too when the loneliness kicked in,” said Horne.

Coetzee said an academic career has always been the number one priority in her life. “A sports career is short and, in my case, I can’t really make a living in para-sport for a long time,” she said.

Speaking on how students and new graduates need to immerse themselves in volunteerism programmes, Ms Nomsa Mahlangu said, “A degree alone will not give students a job. While it is vital that people get educated, it is also important that they invest their time in other things that will give them work experience and exposure, thus increasing their chances of getting and or creating employment. Agility and adaptability are important for Generation-Z to invest in empowering themselves with various skills.”

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Ms. Nomsa Mahlangu speaking at the 2022 UJ Sports Conference. Photo: UJ Sport

On the second day of the conference, Ramadimetja Lizzy Babili pleaded with the South African sports ministry and sponsors to invest in women in sport. “We would like to see women of all backgrounds get more opportunities and support to excel in sports like running. Women need support from those who can enable change in society, like the government and the private business sector, to create environments that empower and encourage women to have equal opportunities afforded to men in sport.”

A young black golfer from Tembisa, Phumlani Maluka, also shared how he developed love for golf as a player and later as a designer of golf courses. “I started getting involved in sport by playing football, but later switched to golf. As time went, my parents supported my ambitions and I did well to move up the ranks to play golf at a higher level (representing SA). I am also coaching kids and involved in the sport as a designer of golf courses. Golf is not only for players, but people can get involved in the business side of the sport,” Maluka said.

Palesa Manaleng, who played football and netball before she was injured in a bicycle accident that caused her disability, said sport for people with disabilities will take a while to be transformed because it is inaccessible for disabled kids and those who live in rural and township areas. “It would be great to empower people with disabilities like coaches, managers and or assistant coaches so that the disabled kids can relate and feel that they have someone who has a similar challenge or disability involved in their sport,” Manaleng said.

The other panelists such as UJ Master’s students Caileigh King and Thembisile Mbatha shared their preliminary research findings on academic research conducted on “Head Injuries (concussions) of players in hockey” and “Female coaching staff in football teams.”

Dr Amanda Claassen-Smithers, together with the conference facilitator, Dr Heather Morris-Eyton and Tavis Piatolly from the Taylor Hooton Foundation shared academic papers and cases on “Substance abuse and intoxication in student-athletes.” These included dietary supplements (protein shakes, creatine, energy drinks, etc.) sold at health food stores. Piatolly said that usage begins at average age 10.8 years old and that over 60% of college students use supplements for pre-workouts. These result in mind altering effects such as mood swings, road rage, dependence, severe depression, he said.


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