Virginia Mabaso is a busy woman. At any point in time, you are likely to find her behind the
steering wheel of her over-worked Chery Tiggo, travelling to remote places in Mpumalanga,
Northwest, the Northern Province and the Eastern Cape – always on the lookout for the next
best talent in rowing. As the official Development Officer of SA Rowing, Virginia is playing an
indispensable part in putting SA Rowing on the map and growing the next generation rowers
for future success.
Virginia’s advice to women who want to break into sports administration is that: “anything is possible if you are determined to achieve something. Women are naturally national builders – so if you empower a woman in sports, you have empowered the nation.
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With no rowing background and little knowledge of the sport, Virginia was literally thrown into
the deep end when she landed an administrator job at RowSA ten years ago. Her mandate was
to grow the base of indoor and outdoor rowing from grassroots and introduce the sport to new
communities in all nine provinces, and in as many districts and municipalities as possible.
Virginia’s first stop was at the Phayizane High School in her home province, Limpopo. Up until
that point, no one in her village was exposed to rowing, nor have they seen a rowing boat or
indoor rowing machine. Virginia’s enthusiasm and dedication for the sport soon lead to 72
rowers aged between 13 and 20 working on the indoor rowing machines.
Considering the Programme started
with just 25 rowers in 2010 and the
fact that there are currently over
1 154 rowers nationwide, shows that
Virginia is clearly doing something right.
This ability to turn things around has also earned her a nomination for Administrator of the
Year at the SA Sport Awards in 2015.
One of the joys of doing her job, Virginia says, is the fact that she can introduce members of
the SA Rowing Team to youngsters at their development camps. SA Rower Sizwe Ndlovu
often accompanies her on her trips to encourage youngsters to participate in the sport.
“These kids are now able to put a face to the famous name and
learn from the best. Sport plays a huge role in developing and
grooming a child. Through sport we are able to address a whole
lot of social skills as well,” adds Virginia.
“As a federation we have a responsibility to find our next Sizwe
Ndlovu. Virginia’s Programme’s end goal is to identify talent and
grow the base from which our development, junior and U23 teams
can be selected from,” says RowSA President, Sean Kerr.
RowSA’s Development and Transformation plan
One of the areas that Virginia is actively involved in is RowSA’s Development and Transformation
plan – the “Learn to Row Rural Programme” that aims to transform indoor rowing into a
competitive, mass participation sport that simultaneously identifies talent and transcends
rowing across all ages, genders, disabilities and geographical locations. In doing so, RowSA
strives to cultivate a healthy society, provide volunteering and leadership opportunities and
generate employment in the sport. The ultimate goals are to increase the number of para, indoor
and water rowers, hire coaches with international expertise and win gold medals in the Olympics.
“In the end it’s not just about rowing,” says Virginia – “we provide
more than just a competitive sport to many of the learners who
take part in the Programme. For many we are helping them to be
a part of something, creating communities, and a sense of
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