Head of volleyball at UWC, Elmien Cloete, will be the head coach of the team, while students Tamlyn Thomas and Lukholo Jooste will be part of the team participating in the championships from 6 to 10 September 2022. Thomas will pair with Nelia Thembe from Tshwane University of Technology in the women’s section, while Jooste will join forces with Danilo von Ludwiger from the University of Pretoria.
Thomas, a second-year BEd (Foundation Phase) student, was over the moon with her selection. "It is both satisfying and an honour (to be chosen for Team SA), knowing that the sacrifices and hard work paid off. I also feel that there is a sense of belief from my coach and teammates for trusting me and allowing me to be in this position."
Incidentally, Tamlyn has a twin sister, Tamzin, who is a 100- and 200-metre South African sprinter who also studied at UWC and competed for UWC and USSA teams.
Jooste, also doing his education degree on campus, echoed Tamlyn’s and fellow UWC students’ sentiments. "I feel honoured and excited to represent South Africa and UWC on the world stage. It won't be easy, but I feel ready and confident for what is coming. Representing South Africa and UWC is really huge, which comes with a huge responsibility of winning."
Cloete has been employed at UWC for more than a decade, but she has represented the university as a volleyball player at the national and as a netball player at the provincial level. She started at the university in 2009 as a sports administrator for volleyball, netball, and basketball. Soon after, she got involved with coaching, “kind of a natural process, stemming from me being a physical education specialist, so teaching came naturally”. She got her international coaching qualification soon after and now manages the ladies’ football and volleyball teams at the university.
"It's only through more competition and exposure at the highest levels that athletes can test their skills," Cloete comments. "They can learn from their experiences, share that upon return and improve all the time. Sport evolves all the time and if you are not part of what is happening globally, you will always play the catch-up game."
Traditionally, the UWC volleyball teams have always been a force to be reckoned with, so having three UWC Sport members as part of the overall team travelling to the FISU World University Beach Volleyball Championship is not surprising at all. Testament to this is that both members of the South African beach volleyball men's team are UWC alumni. Despite having major successes at a provincial and university level, the sport does receive the same level of support as other codes, from the big wigs, according to Cloete.
"Our ladies’ indoor team over the last few years managed to either win the National Volleyball Club Champs, or finished second. The same for the USSA competition (both indoor and beach)," a very proud Cloete stated. "Our men’s team were national club champs for many, many years, so UWC has always been strong in Volleyball. We have been dominating the beach volleyball circuit for a very long time in recent years. Our alumnus Grant Goldschmidt and Leo Williams participated in the recent [2022 Birmingham] Commonwealth Games.
"I think like with all sports, grassroots development is crucial to success at the international level. Volleyball is not a code being played at schools, of course, due to various reasons. It's also not very high on the SASCOC [South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee] priority list of codes, which means it’s not very visible, and therefore not pulling sponsors to invest in the sport and the players. The pool of good quality players is therefore very small."