School sports stars and the Covid dilemma

The recruitment of school sports stars with ambitions to compete provincially or nationally must be on the minds of learners and parents.

Among many other challenges the world is facing in these unprecedented times, Covid 19 has brought with it a lot of uncertainty, anxiety and fear for many young student athletes that are looking to further their career at a professional or university environment.

The halt to all amateur sporting events since the middle of March 2020 means that all traditional recruitment and talent ID processes had to be adapted and evolved by professional franchises and the top sporting Universities in South Africa and around the world. 

The Pipeline

The pipeline is a term used by any sports coach or recruitment officer that is involved in any athlete recruitment and retainment system, and it refers to an organised pathway of players from a chosen age group to final selection or contract.

Some professional franchise system pipelines will start with talent ID from as early as eleven years old. The top Universities will start their pipeline at age 16 or grade 10 for student athlete recruitment.

This pipeline will allow these organisations to track consistent athletic performance over a period of time in order for them to make a calculated and informed decision on selection. A successful recruitment pipeline will always have room for the late bloomer. 

Advice to Athletes and Parents

Covid 19 has certainly provided us with sufficient evidence that every young student athlete must consider a quality education alongside a quality sports programme.

An academic qualification from a top University will set any athlete apart from the rest, more especially when they eventually retire from playing sport at a high level and look to find their place in their immediate communities and the economy as a whole.

It is safe to say that current school leavers that have created a successful track record on and off the pitch over the past three years will not find it difficult to find their place at the next level.

Those that were banking on their final year of high school to set the world alight at the various national weeks or sporting events will have to make some informed decisions about their pathway to the next level.

My advice would be to choose your environments wisely. Choose the University that is going to get you the best academic qualification that will set you apart in your chosen field of study and provide you with opportunities on the sports field that will allow the cream to rise.

While you might not receive a contract or a sports bursary of the bat, it is certainly not the end of the road. If you have the talent and ability and you choose an environment with the perfect balance between human resources, facilities and opportunities, you can still achieve your dreams in the years to come. 

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A Positive Future

This virus has set us all back and it will certainly separate the strong from the weak. Athletes that want it bad enough will get to the top. Those that are in the pipeline already will have an easier pathway to success, but the door will stay open until you close it yourself.

This should inspire young athletes that are still navigating themselves towards the end of their school careers to make sure they develop a plan that will help them enter the pipeline.

I see the current challenge creating young athletes that are less entitled and more willing to work harder for what they want. Most importantly, I see more future young stars focused on the idea of the student athlete. 

By Sharmin Naidoo, Sports Official, Wits University