Looking into the future: UCT's Keith Hart has been appointed to the Transformation and Development Portfolio in the WP Rowing Association's executive committee.
WITH his appointment to the transformation and development portfolio in the Western Province Rowing Association's executive committee, UCT's Keith Hart has been tasked with the mission to change the face of rowing in the province.
Currently the Sports Centre Supervisor with UCT Sports Administration, Hart's new position follows his longstanding involvement with the UCT Rowing Club, and the role he's had in the development programme it has been running with Livingstone and Grassdale high schools this year. Tackling transformation across the province will expand that role even further.
â€œWhen you talk about rowing, there's an almost immediate perception that it's an elitist sport,â€ Hart observes. â€œThe message is clear that rowing falls far short of reflecting the demographics of our society, both in the Western Province and, sadly, nationally.â€
The first thing he's had to do in his new portfolio is meet up with the 10 or so clubs affiliated with the Western Province Association, specifically to evaluate its existing development programmes. He also had to work on a transformation plan with those clubs that had none in place.
There are a number of barriers to getting more people involved in the sport, says Hart, notably the financial investment required and the fact that many black people interested in the discipline are put off by the fact that they are unable to swim. Tokenism and sustainability are other concerns that have to be addressed in any development programme, he adds.
The appointment to the Western Province executive committee is something of a personal milestone for Hart, who started off incinerating hazardous waste and carcasses for the haematology laboratory in the Health Sciences Faculty, before moving to Sports Administration in 1996. He also completed the Associate in Management (AIM) programme at the Graduate School of Business recently.
His first association with rowing at UCT was a rather macabre one, as he was the person responsible for retrieving some of the wreckage after two top rowing students died in an accident on the N1 in 1997 while on their way to the SA rowing championships. Since then – and as a direct result of the accident – he and his sports attendants team have been responsible for hauling boats around the country for the UCT club, and – of late - for setting up the courses for the SASSU sprint regattas.
â€œI've become a familiar face at most regattas,â€ he says with a smile.
Hart got involved in the UCT club's development programme after his daughter Melissa, a student at Grassdale, took a personal interest in the sport. He persuaded the club to include Grassdale, who had participated in a similar programme in 1996, in the project.
Over the years, says Hart, he's cultivated a genuine interest and love for the sport even though he is not a skilled rower himself – and recently passed the provincial umpire's exam in preparation for a national certificate. â€œIt's a very special sport, and it encompasses all aspects of your life,â€ he notes.
â€œYour ability to work in a team is really stretched to the maximum, because you cannot perform without your teammates. It is really unlike any other sport.â€