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Nov 24 17

Eastern Cape triathlon season kicks off this weekend

by ZwemZa
Just under 100 triathletes from around the Eastern Cape took part in Saturday's EP Triathlon Championships hosted by About IT at Pollok Beach in Port Elizabeth (Zsports)

Just under 100 triathletes from around the Eastern Cape took part in the 2016 EP Triathlon Championships hosted by About IT at Pollok Beach in Port Elizabeth (Zsports)

The Eastern cape triathlon season will kick off this weekend with About IT hosting the 2017/18 Nelson Mandela Bay Triathlon Championships at Pollok Beach, Port Elizabeth and then following this up with the 4-part About IT Triathlon Summer Series in December.

Sunday’s event will feature 3 triathlon distances and whilst only Triathlon South Africa registered participants can contest for Championship medals, the events are open to all budding triathletes. On offer will be a Super Sprint Triathlon (300m Swim / 10km Cycle / 2.5km Run) for those 12 years and older, a Sprint Triathlon (750m Swim / 20km Cycle / 5km Run) for those 16 years and older and an Olympic distance triathlon (1500m Swim / 40km Cycle / 10km Run) for those 20 years and older.

Online registration (on is essential with a race briefing taking place at 5pm on Saturday at the Summerstrand Shopping Village. As a further incentive, Knysna Elephant Park have offered a ‘be touched by an elephant’ tour for 2 adults and 2 kids as a lucky draw attendance prize on the Saturday with some resident shops also offering specials.

All participants at Sunday’s triathlon will be treated to an ice cold organic Soga frozen orange Ice rocket with Score Energy Drink available to all finishers. Medals and sparkling wine will be up for grabs for the age group podium finishers and a host of fantastic lucky draw prizes will also be available including a R500 Caltex Eastern Cape fuel voucher.

See website for further information and to register ahead of the weekend. A late entry fee will apply to all entries received on the weekend.


Nov 24 17

Madibaz water polo teams ride crest of the wave

by ZwemZa
Madibaz water polo coach Delaine Christian has made a big impact on the sport at Nelson Mandela University this year.

Madibaz water polo coach Delaine Christian has made a big impact on the sport at Nelson Mandela University this year.

After earning the womens bronze medal at the University Sport South Africa week and capturing the Port Elizabeth mens league title, the Madibaz Water Polo Club can look back on a highly satisfactory year.

The successes over the past 11 months have provided a boost for the club, with coach Delaine Christian saying they had set the bar for the years ahead.
Christian, herself, was at the forefront of the recognition Nelson Mandela University water polo received as she was named coach of the year at the varsitys annual Achiever Awards function.
She said one of the highlights this year was their third-place finish at the USSA tournament in Johannesburg, having approached the week without any major expectations.
At the beginning of the season we had a different view because then we were definitely aiming for a top three, said Christian. Just before going to the tournament, however, two key players had to pull out because of various reasons.
This meant we went to the week with a very small and inexperienced team, only two of whom had previously attended the tournament. So we knew it would be difficult.
She added they had not put any pressure on themselves and approached it with the idea of playing hard and to play as a team, while also making sure it was fun.
To come third (behind winners UCT and Stellenbosch) was way above what we had imagined, especially as we had ended fourth or fifth in the last three years.
Its an amazing result and we know now that we are capable of so much more.
Christian said good management had been one of the keys to their success, as well as a team that worked well together.
This year was the first time we trained throughout and we had a really good structure in place.
Madibaz water polo manager Melinda Goosen said it was equally satisfying to win the local mens league.
It was very well contested throughout and the mens league is highly competitive. For our team to pull off the win was a real feather in their caps.
She added that those successes had been part of an incredible season for Madibaz water polo.
We ran our first winter water polo five-a-side tournament, had several players in the provincial teams and some in the SA womens squad.
Goosen said Christian who is an U17 and U19 national selector had made a major impact in water polo at the varsity.
She mentored the Madibaz womens team to the NMB league title in 2016-17 and was instrumental in establishing mens and womens second teams.
Full Stop Comunications


Nov 24 17

Top water polo players head for Bay

by ZwemZa
Raring to go for the interprovincial tournament to be hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay next month are, from left, Nelson Mandela Bay water polo chairman Chris King, senior captains Casey McLeavy, of Pearson, and Luke Butler, of Grey High, and Carrick Wealth Management brand director Kieron McRae Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

Raring to go for the interprovincial tournament to be hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay next month are, from left, Nelson Mandela Bay water polo chairman Chris King, senior captains Casey McLeavy, of Pearson, and Luke Butler, of Grey High, and Carrick Wealth Management brand director Kieron McRae Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

Water polo players from across the country are raring to go for next month’s interprovincial in Nelson Mandela Bay.

About 200 pupils from schools in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, as well as three from Grahamstown, descended on Pearson High for the capping ceremony of teams to represent the province in the 43rd edition of the South African Schools tournament, hosted by Carrick Wealth Management.

Senior captains – Pearson’s Casey McLeavy, 18, and Grey High’s Luke Butler, 17 – said they were ready to take on the best teams in the country.

“Our junior sides are very talented, so there is good depth to choose from,” Butler said.

“While the U19 side is quite young, that could be an advantage for us in the future.”

McLeavy said: “I think both teams have the potential to reach at least the top four and, if we play together as a team, anything can happen.”

The tournament, which kicks off on December 8, will see 120 teams fill the swimming pools of nine venues across the city, as well as Grahamstown, over the first three days of competition.

The curtain will come down on the tournament at the Newton Park swimming pool on December 12.

Nelson Mandela Bay water polo chairman Chris King said teams for the tournament were selected from recently held trials as well as performances throughout the year.

“We are looking forward to a successful tournament,” he said.

Asked who the toughest challenge would come from, he said there would be strong competition from the Western Cape and Central Gauteng, but all visiting teams would be competitive.

He said the aim was to highlight the popularity of water polo as one of the fastest growing aquatic sports in the country. “Water polo involves a lot more than just swimming in a pool. It incorporates swimming, aerobic ability and playing with a ball.”

Carrick Wealth Management brand director Kieron McRae said the three-year partnership was aimed at developing and nurturing talent within the sport.

King said followers of the tournament could download an app, developed and managed by organising committee member Heather McEwan, for all the latest fixtures, venues, results, news or just to find out more about the Bay.

It is available on the Google Play and Apple iStore under the handle SWPSA.

Amir Chetty


Nov 24 17

Tips for choosing plant-based protein foods

by ZwemZa


Many athletes are choosing a plant-based diet and still want to get quality protein to build and repair muscle after hard workouts. While there is no doubt that whey and casein are the “best” proteins for muscle protein synthesis, there are many other “good” plant-based protein foods. Whey and casein are the proteins found in milk, yogurt and cottage cheese, and I encourage athletes to eat those foods because they also provide need nutrients like calcium, potassium and B-vitamins. But, there are many plant-based proteins that are good choices for those who choose not to eat animal products.

Two plant proteins that contain all the essential amino acids and are thus considered “complete” proteins are soy and quinoa. Soy comes in many forms: soy milk, tofu, edamame, and many meat substitutes found in the frozen food aisle. Some of these products have the taste and texture of meat, like burgers, chicken patties, and sausage and are good choices to get quality protein. In my house, although we do eat meat, Morningstar Farms* Chick’n patties are real favorites. Don’t fear soy. There are many who think soy is feminizing for boys or increases breast cancer risk for girls, but not so.

Quinoa is also becoming more mainstream; this Peruvian grain is great in soups and as a grain main dish or side.

You probably know that beans, peas and lentils (collectively known as pulses) are higher in protein than other veggies. Add chick peas to salads, use hummus as a sandwich spread with veggies, and add lentils to marinara sauce to boost protein in a spaghetti dinner. And, to add protein to that spaghetti dinner, try ProteinPlus pasta by Barilla* (look for it in the yellow box). A serving of protein-enriched pasta has 10 grams of protein, plus added fiber and healthy fats.

There are some newer meat alternatives showing up, too. Products like “Beyond Meat” or “Impossible Burgers” are being featured in some restaurants, as well as the meat counter. These products are usually made with pea protein, but beware, some add coconut oil, making them less healthful.

Lastly, don’t forget nuts. Peanuts, while technically not a nut but a legume, get grouped with nuts because of their similar nutrient content. Peanuts have the most protein per serving of any nut with 7 grams. And, here’s a good trivia question for you. How many peanuts are in a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter? The answer is 540, so peanut butter also packs a good protein-punch.

For some good ideas and recipes on plant-based eating, see the website of registered dietitian, Sharon Palmer, the Plant-Powered Dietitian.

*I have no affiliation with either Morningstar Farms or Barilla pasta, but I do like their products.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and professor emerita of nutrition at Georgia State University. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents and coaches. Email her at; follow her on Twitter @chrisrosenbloom or visit her website at

Nov 24 17

8 Ground rules to know about Sports Nutrition

by ZwemZa


Swimmers want to win. They want to do better than their last performance, and perform at their best every time they compete. It takes a lot of hard work to get to the next level. Endless hours in the pool, working on stroke technique, weight training and conditioning.

Many swimmers know that nutrition is an essential part of their success. In other words, they understand the importance of food to their performance results. But sometimes they learn this information late in their career. What if the ground rules about nutrition were common knowledge? What if swimmers followed these rules from the start?

Food is fuel

Just like an automobile, athletes need fuel in the tank to perform well. And not just any fuel! Premium fuel is the nutritious, wholesome food and beverages swimmers eat to perform at peak level. Fried foods, sweets, and sugary beverages, although tasty, aren’t the ideal foods in which to anchor the diet if swimmers want to take their performance to the next level.

Carbs count

Carbs, or the carbohydrate found in whole grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy foods are desirable fuel sources for exercising muscles. They require some time to digest, allowing a slow release of energy to the muscles. Refined carbs, such as those found in sweets, sports drinks, and dried fruit, contain sugar and offer the muscles a quick source of energy. Swimmers can use a blend of both types of carbs to support their performance.

Protein matters

Too much protein can contribute to dehydration as well as other potential problems for the young athlete. Eating large amounts of protein at the end of the day, or not eating enough protein at breakfast isn’t the most effective way to grow and repair muscles. Ideally, wholesome protein sources like meat, eggs or beans are eaten at spaced intervals throughout the day, such as at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Dehydrated muscles don’t work well

Drinking plenty of fluids is a constant effort, as thirst isn’t always easy to identify for young swimmers. If it is noticed, it doesn’t mean they will drink, so gentle reminders are helpful. If dehydration does occur, it may impair athletic performance and contribute to muscle cramping.

Muscle recovery is a key to progress

The harder you train, the more important nutrition is to your recovery and development as an athlete. Eating a snack that contains protein, such as chocolate milk or nut butter and crackers,  and carbohydrate after an extended training session, helps the athlete repair muscle damage, promote muscle gain, and reload muscles with fuel for more training.

You can’t out-exercise a bad diet

No matter how hard you work, the habits of overeating, skipping meals, poor food choices, or under-eating work against optimal performance. The body performs best when it’s given premium fuel (nutritious food).

Eating habits are key to lifelong health

Swimmers may not swim forever, but their eating habits can last a lifetime. Making nutritious and balanced choices now means a better chance at optimal health later in life.

It’s all about timing

When swimmers eat is just as important as what and how much they eat. If a swimmer skips out on breakfast and lunch, how will she have the stamina and strength to train hard after school? Or, if a swimmer ‘backloads,’ eating large amounts of food at the end of the day, an optimal weight for sport may be harder to maintain.

Understanding these ground rules can help swimmers get to the next level in their athleticism, while keeping their growth and health front and center.

Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian, childhood nutritionist, and youth sports nutritionist. She is the author of Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete. Learn more about Jill at, her resources for athletes, and check out her free list of 70 Awesome Pre-Workout Snacks for Kids here. Coming soon! Eat Like a Champion class for young athletes and their parents.

Nov 24 17

Olympians set to highlight 2017 USA Winter Nationals in Columbus

by ZwemZa
Nathan Adrian of the United States dives in for the Men's 50m Freestyle Final on day fifteen of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 8, 2015 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Nathan Adrian of the United States dives in for the Men’s 50m Freestyle Final on day fifteen of the 16th FINA World Championships at the Kazan Arena on August 8, 2015 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Short-course national titles will be on the line for many of the United States’ top swimmers next week at USA Swimming’s Winter National Championships, set for Nov. 29-Dec. 2 at Ohio State University’s McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.

Psych Sheet

The meet opens Wednesday, Nov. 29 with a relay-only session at 6 p.m. ET. Thursday, Nov. 30, through Saturday, Dec. 2, prelims will be held at 9 a.m. ET, followed by finals at 5 p.m. ET.

All sessions of the meet will stream online and via the NBC Sports app.

Among the stars expected to compete include Olympic champions Nathan Adrian (Bremerton, Wash./California Aquatics) and Ryan Murphy (Jacksonville, Fla./California Aquatics), as well as individual Olympic medalists Chase Kalisz (Bel Air, Md./North Baltimore Aquatic Club), Cody Miller (Las Vegas, Nev./Badger Swim Club) and Josh Prenot (Santa Maria, Calif./California Aquatics).

Women’s standouts expected to swim in Columbus include 2016 Olympians Melanie Margalis (Clearwater, Fla./Saint Petersburg Aquatics), Olivia Smoliga (Glenview, Ill./Athens Bulldog Swim Club) and Kelsi Worrell (Westampton, N.J./Cardinal Aquatics). The Breakout Performer of the Year winner from Sunday’s Golden Goggle Awards, Mallory Comerford (Kalamazoo, Mich./University of Louisville), also is slated to compete.

USA Swimming

Nov 24 17

One on one with Aussie medley ace Blair Evans

by ZwemZa

Aussie swimmer and Funkita athlete Blair Evans is on a high after a successful Australian Short Course Championships. Evans won bronze in the 200 metres individual medley and swam a blistering 4.29.20 to win gold in the 400.

Evans is straight back into training with her coach Bud McAllister in preparation for Commonwealth Games Trials set for February 28 – March 3 on the Gold Coast. We caught up with the 26 year old medley swimmer to discuss her year and what she has in store in the months ahead.

Blair gets Strapped into the new Inked print from Funkita

What does your typical weekly training schedule look like?

It’s pretty chilled out being an older athlete. I just need to listen to my body. I’m doing about 8 or 9 pool sessions, 2 Pilates sessions and a physio session once or twice a week.

What element of your training are you enjoying most at the moment?

All of it. I lost my love of the sport a while ago but I’m loving it more than ever now. A break from the pool helped me feel refreshed and I’m loving every aspect of it. I’m really enjoying challenging myself.

How was your preparation for the Aussie SC Champs different from other event preparation?        It was pretty interrupted. I had a small injury 3 weeks out so I pulled back training a bit. I had confidence moving forward with my coach, moving in and out of the pool.

Blair wears Funkita Tie Back One Piece in Frosty Fruits

Are you doing anything differently in your training that you haven’t done before?

I’m taking it day by day. Some days are good, some days aren’t. I’m try to get as much in between now and the Commonwealth Games Trials. I think consistency is important moving forward.

How did your results compare to your expectations and against your plan for the year?

They were definitely above my expectations. I had small PBs and was swimming faster than a month ago. My plan for the year is to get good training in.

Was Bud happy with your progress?

He’s a man of very few words, but he was happy. I think it gave him confidence in what he’s doing.

Blair lights up pool deck in Funkita Tie Down Bikini Top and Brief in Flash Bomb

What were his words when he saw you after your swim?

He said, “That was good” and rattled off some stats. I know when he’s happy. We don’t need to spend much time talking about it.

Did you taper for this meet?

No, I don’t usually taper for many meets. I usually enjoy a 3-4 day taper but for this meet I did a 2.5 day taper, which I call a “drop taper”.

Did you approach it differently being a short course competition?

I’m terrible at short course. My skills don’t match up with the girls I’m racing but I did the same tapering.

Blair wears Funkita Single Strap One Piece in Dotty Dash

How do you feel in the preparation for Comm Game Trials?

I feel confident. Moving forward I am going to trust my coach and enjoy training with the squad. If I can link these 2 things up, I think it will be successful for us.

Do you tend to put pressure on yourself and if so how do you manage it?

Sometimes I do. I have high expectations for myself and I have throughout my entire swimming career. I accept when things aren’t going my way and sometimes I have to step back and realise it’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. I’m pretty laid back these days.

Tell us about your race plan for the 400IM, what plan did you have in place and how closely did you stick to it?

I didn’t really have a plan. I knew the first 200 had to be solid since my better half was the back half. I had to stay with the girls until the breaststroke and then I knew it was going to be a good race. The freestyle leg didn’t sting as much as I thought it would so I could pick it up a bit. The plan always changes for it. I just try to keep air in the butterfly, keep up the stroke rate for backstroke, for breaststroke I think “long and strong” and for freestyle it’s whatever I’ve got left!

Channel summer like Blair in the Funkita Tie Me Tight One Piece in Pina Colada

How did you approach racing the 200IM compared with the 400IM? It was such a blur. I knew it was competitive so I thought “whatever happens, happens.” I told myself that I know I’m swimming well, so get up there. I wanted to stay with the girls in first 100 and then the last 100 would take care of itself.

Do you have a favourite?

I really enjoy the IM in general. It’s really tactical. I probably like the 200IM better because it’s shorter. But I do like the pain and the challenge of the 400IM.

What would you like to achieve in 2018?

I’d love to go to the Commonwealth Games and be successful there. I’m not sure what “successful” is just yet but being in front of a home crowd and doing my best is enough for me.

Blair rocks the new Funkita Hi Flyer One Piece in Jungle Jam

Have you overcome any injuries or are you dealing with any at the moment?

My shoulder. I’m getting cortizone and hydrodilation in my shoulder every 6-12 months to help with bursitis. It’s all about management now.

Is there a stroke you’re really working to improve at the moment?

Probably all of them! I have weaknesses in all 4 so I’m working on small things that will get me an edge to get better.

How are you modifying your training for it?

With small things like focussing on skills and making small stroke changes.

Blair kicks back in her Funkita Vincent Van Funk Sports Top and Brief

Good luck to Blair as she prepares for Commonwealth Games. You can see more of the Funkita swimwear that she wears at

Press Release courtesy of Funkita

Nov 23 17

IM in training: when, where, how and why

by ZwemZa


The main purpose of IM training is a matter of debate both among swimmers and their coaches.

In reality,  the IM should not be seen as four separate strokes but as one single swim style involving a wide variety of movements. That is why there are so many different training philosophies. Generally speaking, freestyle is the main stroke used in training sessions to improve swim skills. The second most popular stroke – particularly for quality sessions or when practicing swimming at race pace – is the so-called “best stroke”.

The “best-stroke” philosophy does not apply to IM swimmers.

For IM’ers, the specificity of swim skills involved is more complex than that required of swimmers focusing on just one or two strokes.  This inevitably means training sessions are structured differently.

Let’s see how you can organize your training in three one-hour-long sessions per week. During the week:

  • Each stroke will have a particular day devoted to it with the exception of freestyle. That will be incorporated in every session.
  • After warming up and before the main training session, do a short specific IM drill.
  • This is followed by a specific workout for the day’s stroke (both the complete stroke and just legs) and a workout for just freestyle arms.

The distance set for each day should be divided up into shorter sections to recover energy so you can repeat the drill with more fuel in the tank.

In this example, lo = legs only, ao = arms only and ex = technical drills.

Session 1 (butterfly)

  • 600 warm-up (ex lo ao)
  • 300 m medley (e.g. 6 x 50) 400 m butterfly (e.g. 2 x 8 x 25 with 20 secs rest)
  • 300 butterfly lo (e.g. 3 x 100 with 15 secs rest)
  • 600 m sprint ao (possibly intervals)

Total: 2200 m (88 laps)

Session 2 (backstroke)

  • 600 warm-up (ex lo ao)
  • 400 m medley (e.g. 4 x 100 with 20 secs rest)1000 m backstroke (lo) intervals (e.g. 6 x 100 with 20 secs rest + 8 x 50 with 15 secs rest)
  • 400 m  FS lo intervals (e.g. 200 with 25 secs rest + 100 with 15 secs rest + 2 x 50 with 10 secs rest)

Tot. 2400 m (96 laps)

Session 3 (breaststroke)

  • 700 warm-up (ex lo ao)
  • 300 m medley (e.g. 4 x 75 with 15 secs rest)
  • 400 m breaststroke (e.g. 16 x 25 with 7 secs rest)
  • 400 m breaststroke lo (e.g. 8 x 50 with 10 secs rest)
  • 400 m FS ao without stopping

Tot. 2200 m (88 laps)

From a physical training viewpoint, there is also a big difference. The number of muscles involved in a medley race is higher than in a race involving just one swim stroke and your joints will come under greater stress.

That is why gym workouts tend to be longer, focusing on exercises for various muscle groups and circuit training including exercises working on different muscle groups at different intensities (or speeds).

In my opinion and from an organic viewpoint, this is the most complex, tricky and interesting swim stroke that requires most dedication but is also the most fun to practice.

Enjoy your training!

Download the training set (PDF) | Printable version

arena coaches

Nov 23 17

Two tight games in opening women’s WPWL 2018 round

by ZwemZa


The FINA Women’s Water Polo World League 2018  kicked-off on Tuesday November 21, in Utrecht (NED) and Dos Hermanas (ESP), as the two cities hosted the opening games of the season.

Spain proved stronger for the Russians and scored 9 against 8, deciding of the game’s fate in the last quarter (1-2, 2-1, 5-5, 1-0).

In the only other match of the first round, the Netherlands beat Hungary 7-6, with a lead of two goals in the second quarter.

The provisional ranking unfolds as follows:

ESP 3 pts; NED 3 pts; HUN 0pt; RUS 0pt

The second round of the European women’s preliminaries will take place on December 19 and 22 in Budapest (HUNvsESP) and Astrakhan (RUSvsNED), while the men will play on December 12.

FINA Communication Department

Nov 23 17

MeToo: Early research hints at vulnerability of young South African athletes

by ZwemZa
Photo: Mihai Surdu (Unsplash)

Photo: Mihai Surdu (Unsplash)

Of a sample size of 2,000 girls participating in sport, at least 5% have experienced some level of sexual abuse or harassment, according to research conducted by The Girls Only Project. And project leader Kirsten van Heerden believes that figure is vastly under-reported.

The #MeToo campaign has laid the sexual abuse and harassment of women in Hollywood bare and subsequently led to many other woman from all walks of life speaking out and sharing their stories. Abuse in sport has not escaped the spotlight.

In the United States, of the 108 people on USA Swimming’s list of individuals banned from the sport, at least 90 were banned for sexual misconduct. More than 50 have been arrested, charged, or convicted in connection with those crimes.

South African Bob Hewitt, a Grand Slam winner, is serving a six-year jail sentence for rape. Charges of sexual assault were brought against US Olympic Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar by gold medallist McKayla Maroney. Hope Solo, the US women’s goalkeeper, accused Sepp Blatter of harassment. The list is grim and makes for grim reading.

But away from the elite sport, young athletes, especially those from rural communities, are incredibly vulnerable.

The Girls Only Project, a non-profit company headed up by sport psychologist and former international swimmer Dr Kirsten van Heerden, has made it their mission to conduct research and hear from girls and women about the real issues they face in the sporting world in South Africa.

Their research has unearthed some disturbing findings. In a sample of 2,000 high school girls, close to 5% reported that they had been sexually harassed by a male coach or administrator. This means one girl in a hockey squad of 20, five girls in a netball tournament of 10 teams, or 25 girls in a sports festival of 500 girls.

With the help of project ambassador and Proteas’ netball captain, Bongi Msomi, the project carried out surveys across KwaZulu-Natal in both urban and rural areas. The project carries out workshops and questionnaires.

“I think 5% is probably vastly under-reported. Research from Botswana indicates that at least 25% of young girls experience some level of abuse or harassment. But it indicates that there is a problem,” Van Heerden told Daily Maverick.

The types of abuse differ in rural and urban areas with the former seeing a big issue with “transactional sex”. The Girls Only Project say they have heard stories of girls needing lifts to their games or tournaments and male coaches or managers saying they will take them if they perform a sex act on them. Many times these incidents go unreported as some of the young girls do not understand they are being abused.

“What horrified us was how little the girls know about their bodies. The issue of transactional sex is almost an expected part of participating,” Van Heerden says.

And that is true for how young girls perceive their bodies, too. Van Heerden says that some of the workshops held by the project represented the first time the girls had spoken to an adult in a safe space about things like their periods. And the issue of lack of access to sanitary wear is carried through in sport, too. Many girls simply do not have the money to buy pads.

Both rural and urban girls are vulnerable to abuse and says there cannot be a definitive distinction between which group is more susceptible. However, she does point out that the problems experienced are vastly different.

“Girls in rural areas have a big problem with transport, for example. Coming home late at night and not having a parent who can pick you up puts the girls at huge risk. Poverty has a lot to do with the scale of abuse experienced by young girls,” Van Heerden explains.

The question then is who is to blame and how can it be solved?

“I don’t have answers,” Van Heerden says.

But she does have some suggestions. Amongst the issues is the lack of mapping pathways to excellence for young athletes and simply ticking boxes to ensure “participation” is taken care of without critically examining the impact.

“Nobody asks what the consequences of intervention are. There needs to be a collective will to make a change. We can’t just say we have 1,000 girls participating and this and that, and we’ve done our job. And you can’t just build a community sports centre without thinking beyond how the facility will be maintained or where the athletes will get the proper nutrition from. Just ticking boxes really does nothing,” Van Heerden says.

But she is hopeful that there can be a shift with policy changes – which is currently limited.

“We know women are a priority group of government, but there is no real policy that dictates that you have to have a female manager or at least one female in the management team. Sometimes it’s all male coaches and all male management. Until policy changes, we will have these issues,” she says.

Van Heerden hopes to roll the research out across the country and eventually look at elite levels, too, where she says the power dynamic between female athletes and coaches is open to abuse because athletes will often “do anything” for their coach.

She encourages those with a passion for women in sport and who want to make an active change to engage with the Girls Only Project’s website and on various social media channels and hopes to appoint more ambassadors to help her carry out this very important research.

Antoinette Muller| Daily Maverick

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