WPSWP has is this past year been characterised by transition. At the prior year’s AGM a new executive committee (Exco) was elected – Doug Schooling stepped down from the helm after 12 years of service to Western Province Schools Water Polo, and Cullum Johnston, Jonathan Ackerman, Chris Jones, Ian Melliar and I were elected, together with Bridget Marshall in attendance. The somewhat daunting task of filling Doug and Norma’s shoes then commenced, and it is thanks to the continuity provided by Chris, Bridget and Ian that the Exco was able to set a course that has brought us to this point, reflecting on a successful year past.
It has been already acknowledged, but I don’t believe Doug and Norma Schooling’s contribution to the organisation can be overstated. At the 2016 WPSWP capping ceremony, they were awarded the very first Honorary Life Memberships, and the foundation of excellence they built will serve the organisation for many years to come. We continue to draw on Doug’s expertise and experience, and have co-opted him onto the Exco for that purpose. Other names from the Schooling era that bear mentioning include John Schooling, Dean Ashworth and Marius Rezelman who all answered the call to go the extra mile in building WPSWP.
Another key component of our success this year has been the contribution by our valued sponsor, the Pick n Pay organisation. Not only have they contributed financially, providing us with a three-year commitment, but their generosity has extended to lending key administrative resources, the use of facilities for meetings and clinics, and through their influence and example, the soliciting of donations in kind, such as the Steri Stumpies for last year’s Schools Water Polo South Africa (SWPSA) tournament. I was able to acknowledge and thank Pick ‘n Pay founder, Mr Raymond Ackerman, in person at the capping ceremony, and we continue to be humbled and grateful for their support.
The cycle of a WPSWP year begins with the slide into the winter season, a period of relatively low activity, and this is the time to be sharpening one’s axe, because the tree has to fall rather rapidly come the fourth term. The cycle picks up with the selection of the coaching and management staff for the year-end SWPSA tournament, hosted last year by KZN. WP schools are fortunate to have a high calibre of water polo coaches among them, and it is their level of professionalism together with a collegiate atmosphere that are the first steps to reaching for gold. Of course as we know, the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary and the build up to the year-end interprovincial tournament begins in earnest with boys’ and girls’ trials throughout the age groups, and team selection.
A big thank you must go out to Reddam and Samantha Ackerman for organising a superb set of trials, which I believe produced the desired result of selecting the best teams to compete while complying with the transformation objectives. In doing so we seized the opportunity to establish and build a database of accredited WP athletes that will serve us into the future. Due to the introduction of a new sponsor, everyone was required to invest in new kit for the 2016 tournament. This also fell to Sam Ackerman to coordinate, together with several willing helpers. The financial burden on parents will be somewhat diminished in the current year as kit may be reused.
The task of moving team WP, comprising 300 athletes, coaches, managers and referees to Durban and back, as well as securing accommodation and other tournament logistics, was coordinated by Mandy Fisher. It was an enormous task that I observed first hand, and would like to record our thanks to Mandy and her team of helpers on behalf of the Exco. There were lessons learnt from the entire SWPSA tournament planning and execution, that will be applied going forward, and are detailed in a separate report.
It is suffice to say that team WP travelled to Durban and back without major mishap, returning with seven out of ten gold medals, as well as four silver and one bronze medal. We had 11 teams compete in 10 finals (U13 girls A and B teams played each other in their final), and it is hard (but not impossible) to realistically imagine a more successful outcome. The U19A boys competed in a dramatic final against KZN, narrowly losing out on gold in a penalty shootout. The tournament was well supported, and our thanks go to hosts KZN and the SWPSA organising committee.
At last year’s capping ceremony, we articulated a vision for WPSWP that included the full time employment of a development manager. After a robust recruitment process, the panel determined to offer Logan Mackie the job from amongst a small group of very strong candidates. Logan took up his office in January and his functions have included a general manager role with a strong focus on transformation, building up the B league and the development of coaching and refereeing. Logan has hit the ground running, and we wish him well as he settles into this newly established post, and sets about working towards our predetermined objectives.
The first term of a new academic year is typically taken up with the running of league fixtures, culminating in the annual Knock-out Tournament, traditionally held in mid-March at Newlands Municipal swimming pool. This year Newlands was not available to us due to scheduled maintenance and we initiated ‘plan B’, comprising a multi-day and multi-venue tournament, culminating with an afternoon/evening of finals at Reddam. The schools that came to the rescue have been thanked in writing, and we are grateful for their willingness to assist. The finals produced a great atmosphere and our congratulations go not only to the winners, but all finalists – making a final in this province in no small matter!
While schools sport is nothing if not cyclic, trophies are most certainly floating in nature and it is worth recognising the current state of WP schools water polo within the context of the rest of the country. Perhaps evidence of this is the recent result of the annual KES national schools tournament where the first three of the top four places went to WP schools. Results don’t just happen in life, and it is with some satisfaction that as the collective WP schools water polo community puts in the ‘hard yards’, the rewards are there to be reaped. It is not however an invitation to rest on one’s laurels, and the general health of SA schools water polo means that there are always plenty of contenders for the title.
What I have found most gratifying however, both in my role as parent and as administrator, is observing the life lessons and lifelong friendships that are established among the learners through their participation in this sport that demands a lot and also gives a lot. It is said that a water polo athlete can be best described as having the over-arm accuracy of a baseball pitcher, the vertical of a volleyball player, the toughness of a rugby and hockey player, the endurance of a cross-country skier and the strategy of a chess player. WP Schools Water polo is a community of likeminded people that are brought together by a passion for the game and by the will to reach beyond themselves.
I would finally like to thank my colleagues on the Exco for their support. I have thoroughly enjoyed my term as chair, and look forward to continuing to assist in furthering the aims and objectives of Western Province Schools Water Polo.
27 March 2017