Can Wits wear both hats?
by Barry Morisse
AS A Wits student-sportsman myself, the constant battle that goes on in my mind and those of my teammates is to ask what is the strength of Wits Sport relative to the other universities around the country? The question we all end up asking ourselves is this:
Can the university wear two hats – both as an internationally recognised academic institution and a sporting powerhouse? Popular opinion says no. But I believe it can.
When I arrived in 2011 and joined the Wits Hockey Club, I was well aware of the entrenched philosophy that would govern the relationship between my academics and my sport. I was coming to Wits to get a world-class degree, while playing hockey on the side to keep myself fit, enjoy the team atmosphere and to improve myself as a serious hockey player. I didn’t get the impression that Wits was competing with the best – but rather represented a pleasant break from lectures.
I worked on the Hockey committee for two years, before chairing it in 2013. What I saw was a dogged determination from everyone involved to build the sport section into a semi-professional, competitive, self-sustaining enterprise with the view of taking our performances to the highest level.
Traditionally, it is no wonder that Wits struggles to compete with the other top universities, simply because the financial and authoritative support allocated to Wits Sport is minimal compared to our rivals.However simply by throwing more money into sport won’t automatically turn us into a sporting powerhouse, it needs something more than that.
Instead we need to focus our attention and energies into crafting world-class facilities and a professional support structure to attract top athletes and allow them to reach the highest levels in their code while still maintaining the quality of their studies. That’s the unique proposition that would make Wits a viable option for the top young sportsmen and women of our country.
We are not there yet, by any stretch of the imagination, but we are making large strides towards it. If Wits can continue to offer the unrivalled academics it does while accommodating the needs of top sportsmen and women – that is an offer that cannot be matched across the country.
Once the sporting support structures are at the required level, the academics will draw in top young talent, thus catalysing the transition towards a truly holistic academic and sporting powerhouse.
Wits, wearing two hats.