Drive, old-school discipline and time-management skills are shared traits of the latest crop of Madibaz Sport graduates. That – along with support from their families, friends, lecturers and coaches at Nelson Mandela University – have seen these student-athletes excel in their chosen fields. Rugby scrumhalf Dundre Maritz, who graduated with an honours (cum laude) degree in economics, believed an unwavering commitment across the board had been his key to success. "My mantra was what my father always told me to do – 'to show up'," said the 24-year-old, who had been a key figure in Madibaz gaining promotion to the Varsity Cup. "Every day you need to show up in terms of work ethic, commitment, loyalty and determination. "Looking back to matric, I probably should have been the last person to make it to where I am today. But I made a choice to rebuke mediocrity." From the onset, Maritz associated himself with individuals from various spheres who could help with his progress. "They have played a massive role in my development as a student and athlete. I always had and still have access to valuable expertise and wisdom that you simply cannot buy." Supporting his sense of commitment was netball player Lindokuhle Manyisa, who sported a diploma in civil engineering. "It is all about having discipline," she said. "I had to pitch up for every practice and game, while keeping up with my academics. "My coach, who rooted for us to do well academically, also motivated me." She said her teammates were brilliant on court and in the classroom, which made her believe that she could do it too. Her message was to be as dedicated in your academics as you were in your sport. "It's not easy, but it's possible." Alex Penhall, who is busy with his honours in psychology, said it was important to absorb the holistic experience of varsity life. "I would say students must enjoy every second they get because time goes by so fast," said the hockey star who believed discipline on and off the field was key. "Manage your programme well and know when it is time to have fun and when it is time for work." Penhall said the Madibaz management team lent plenty of support, especially when it came to handling the inevitable injuries. "There was always patience and understanding and that, combined with my passion for the game and will to succeed, drove me." Hannah Werth, a BSc graduate and top water polo player, emphasised the importance of always delivering her best, a quality that netted her academic and sports bursaries. "The sports bursary was a great help, but to reach your full potential you have to give absolutely everything in all aspects," she said, pointing to the fact that the sports aid motivated her to study hard, which led to the academic bursary. She also spoke about finding the right balance. "There is a time to work and a time to train, but importantly, there is a time to rest and have fun. "Don't be too hard on yourself. Don't add to that pressure." By his own admission, soccer player Kaashif Jassen faced tough academic times, but the support structure in his personal life and at the varsity was instrumental in him graduating with a degree in human movement science. "I was challenged in my academics – a lot," he recalled. "I think my peers and lecturers can testify to that. But their support was critical. "Also, my friends have been crucial to my growth and successes. It is very important to have people around you who not only make you happy, but push and motivate you." Volleyball ace Bogolo Moloisi, now with an advanced diploma in business studies behind her name, said the backing she had received on the academic front was essential to her growth as a player. "The biggest thing was the letter [of permission] when you needed to go away for games. I am so thankful that I had such supportive lecturers, because I know that there are some who reject those letters." She also emphasised the importance of time management. "Balancing academics and sports is not easy. On one side you need to get that qualification, but there is also this sport you are so passionate about. "The fact that I had the same load of work as other students was hard. I just developed my time management skills and learned to prioritise." Commitment was non-negotiable, said Moloisi. "It is not easy, but nothing that is worth anything ever is. There will be hard times but as long as you have the desire you will find a way to make it all worth it." Sprinter Aidan Tuohy, who graduated with a sports management degree, emphasised the importance of a support structure and the role his parents and coach had played in helping him balance the workload associated with sport and academics. "My parents would motivate me before every race and they were always proud of me no matter where I came. They just knew how to take the pressure off," he said. "It was the same with the Madibaz coaching staff, who helped me to work on my weak points. They also understood the importance of studying, allowing us to re-schedule training when there were academic commitments." Tuohy is also a proponent of proper planning. "You have to stick to a timetable to balance academics and sport, because if you don't, your marks will slip and you may under-perform in competitions." He enjoyed meeting new people, but emphasised the importance of controlling your lifestyle. "Go out and socialise, but you must learn to balance social and athletics life and never forget your priorities in order to meet your goals."

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