Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University has appointed former Sascoc team preparation and academy systems manager Yoliswa Lumka as the new director of Madibaz Sport.
Lumka took office at the beginning of September and has already unveiled ambitious plans for the university‘s sporting programme.
“My goal for Madibaz Sport is that in the next five years we will be among the top three sporting institutions in South Africa.”
Lumka said NMMU had great, untapped potential as a centre of sports and learning in the Eastern Cape and that there was a huge provincial talent base from which to draw.
“We need to focus on developing the talent that is already here, bringing the best-performing athletes to the university and taking us to those higher levels of sporting excellence.”
She said building stronger ties with local schools and surrounding communities was the only path to success.
“People tend to look at universities in isolation but the bigger picture, and part of the reason for us existing as institutions of higher learning, is to engage with the community at large.
“As much as we are a sporting department, we also have research units and academic departments attached to us. So, as a ‘tripartite alliance’, there’s a lot we can do for the students, staff and other people around us.”
Lumka said it was her disappointment with the national developmental structures that had reinforced her decision to move to a position where she could make a difference.
“Considering that we are 21 years into the new dispensation, our development systems should be much further along than they are.
“From a funding perspective, a lot of the budget sits at the top of an inverted pyramid, where only a few hundred high-performance athletes benefit from the structures.
“Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of children who should be playing sport and benefiting from proper coaching aren’t getting it.”
She said she would use her experience to put the necessary structures in place and ensure that existing student-athletes and the future talent pipeline were properly nurtured.
This was particularly relevant in light of the recent announcement of South Africa as the host nation for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, said Lumka, who was part of the original bid process.
“From a university perspective, we are in the best position possible. We are hosting the games seven years from now and where are all those athletes that are going to be part of Team SA in 2022?
“They’re in Grade 10, 11 and 12 right now. The people who will have the most impact in getting them to the national team are us – everything we do has an impact on the bigger national picture.”
The 36-year-old said her relative youth meant that she was still in touch with students’ needs and wants and that she was looking forward to interacting with the NMMU student body.
“As a woman in a male-dominated environment, I perhaps also bring a different way of looking at things, an ability to multi-task and possibly a more collaborative approach to leadership.”
Lumka completed her bachelor’s degree in human movement sciences at Rhodes University before moving to the University of Pretoria, where she obtained her honours degree in sport science.
“I was never the sportiest person around and fell into sport by chance, taking it as a minor subject, which soon became my major. For me, it was always about working in the background – I fell in love with the analytical side of sport.”
She also holds a Fifa/CIES certificate in sport management, which she passed cum laude, from NMMU.
Her previous leadership positions include assistant director of scientific support services for the national department of sport and recreation, head of sport performance at the Stellenbosch University Sport Performance Institute and director of high performance for Wheelchair Basketball South Africa.
Describing herself as “a stickler for policy”, Lumka said she had used her first few weeks on the job to meet individually with staff to get a feel for the people, culture and systems of Madibaz Sport.
“Now it’s time for us to get to work.”