Recruiter of tomorrow’s rowers

Rowing fanatic | Development officer | Nation builder

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The Virginia Mabaso story

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."

The journey

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 belonging.”
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