Should transformation be the goal?

Over the past few weeks I have been asked a number of questions regarding my view on transformation in South African sport – and more specifically in hockey. As a national player and captain it’s not always an easy topic to discuss. I do, however, feel it’s important that sportsmen and women are free to give their opinions without prejudice or fear of selection ramifications down the line.

My entire senior playing career has been soured by the word transformation. I’ve never truly understood what it meant or what the end goal of it was. Rules of who has to be selected change year by year, and you never quite know even after qualifying for an Olympics or Commonwealth Games if you’ll be allowed to attend or not. In 2000 the men’s hockey team experienced their lowest moment, after qualifying for the Sydney Olympics they were abruptly told they would not be competing in the Games because of ‘transformation reasons’. What that actually meant, I don’t even know.

Let’s have a look at what cricket, soccer and rugby have managed to achieve in the years since isolation in around 1991... With their seemingly endless budgets and backing from the corporate and government entities, they have made great strides in making their sports accessible to all. Is that not the key? A country where all South Africans have an equal opportunity to participate in a variety of sports of their choice? I believe that this should be our goal. Instead of forcing the percentages, lets strive for a country where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive no matter their sport of choice.

SA flag

So what have we been doing to make sports facilities, equipment and good coaches accessible to everyone in South Africa? Not nearly enough. Smaller sports codes like hockey – which survive without huge corporate backing – simply don’t have the funds to lay astro turfs all over the country to make hockey accessible to all. As a national player, it’s sad to see kids in smaller towns deprived of the opportunity of playing modern-day hockey because of a lack of facilities and equipment. I would far rather see attention being placed on solving that sort of problem than enforcing percentages in the national team.

The question is this: If we manage to create a country where all South Africans have the equal opportunity to participate and excel in their sport of their choice (from a young age), will our national teams be a true representation of the country’s demographics? I wholeheartedly believe they will and it will end the need for enforcing any sort of racial discrimination at any level.

Our countries motto is, ‘diverse people unite’. Are we going to achieve that with the current method of transformation in sport? As an educator and a sportsman, I have always believed that sport was the best method of breaking down boundaries between people – a way to come together no matter what your background may be.

Our focus should be on making sport accessible for all, with the end goal of seeing our diverse country uniting under one colour – the green and gold.