Class Inequalities Marginalise Working Class Girls In South African Hockey By Cheryl Roberts

28 May

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Disgusting: Lack Of Astro Turf Hockey Resources Marginalises Working Class Schools And Communities In  Hockey

 Hockey is not a mass sport in South Africa but is a popular sport for girls and women, especially at school level. However, the development and advancement of hockey is being controlled by the elite in the sport, those who have the resources, school facilities and money to participate in the sport. And subsequently control the structure, organisation and advancement of hockey.

What this control means for school girls is that working class schools are not only being marginalised in the hockey schools sports structure, but working class girls are not being given opportunities to develop in the sport.

Get this! The popularity of hockey as a school sport is largely supported to grow only at elite, suburban, private, resourced schools. That’s because present generation hockey is all about playing hockey on an astro-turf.

The working class schools, ever reliant on state exenditure and budget to fund their sports facilities, just doesn’t have the astro turf resources. Gone are the days when you played hockey on grass and sandy grounds, yet still triumphed as champions.

There exists a provincial and national school girls hockey competition, held annually in South Africa, backed by a corporate sponsor. The competition is open to school girl teams but its all about the participation and winning of the elite, rich, private and suburban schools who get to benefit from this school girls hockey tournament. Almost all schools located in working class communities and areas throughout South Africa just don’t enter this school girl hockey tournament.

Before entering and paticipating in the schools hockey championship, the working class school teams are already disadvantaged, coming from playing on uneven playing fields. Chances are they’ve never played on an astro turf and have never seen one. And then they are thrown onto an astro turf and expected to compete with the astro turf and superior hockey equipment-resourccd school teams.

 

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 In South Africa, hockey for girls is just about non-existent in working class schools and communities. Back in the day, during the horrendous apartheid era, all schools designated for ‘Coloured’ learners played hockey and had school hockey teams. Almost all ‘Coloured’ living spaces and areas had a women’s and junior girls hockey team.

World class Coloured girl and women hockey players surfaced in the anti-apartheid women’s hockey structures. However, hockey was not played in Black and Indian communities and schools. During apartheid, hockey was played by Coloureds and whites.

What has happened in 25 year old post-apartheid South Africa that hockey is now just a sport for the elite, suburban, wealthy schools and clubs? Why is hockey missing in working class communities and schools?

Its not only alarming but disgusting that girls hockey has been allowed to ‘die a slow death’ in working class communities. Yes, there are black, Indian and Coloured players playing hockey at provincial and national levels but these players have not made it through working class sports structures and schools. By attending the hockey playing schools and universities, they have made it through a very private, suburban, elite system of development.

South Africa’s controlling structure for hockey isn’t heavily corporate-supported. They get some sponsorship and funding here and there. Development of girls hockey and growth of hockey’s foundation is severely dependent on schools hockey. Most of the private, suburban and elite schools now have astro turfs. And the working class schools? That’s where astro turfs are non-existent.

Provincial and national girl and women hockey teams in South Africa are all white-dominated wih some blacks (all players NOT white) in the team. Most coaches and selectors of girls and women’s hockey in SA are white.

And then there is the white gaze that oversees ‘white is merit’ in hockey. The gatekeepers of white-dominated representation in hockey are in the schools and suburban clubs where white coaches and selectors see talent of mostly white players and advance the white players with the black players getting little game time on the field and much more bench time on the field.

 

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Girls and women’s hockey in South Africa must be challenged and called out for allowing white domination and advancement in hockey and presiding over the maginalisation of working class schools and communities; this, in 25 year old post-apartheid SA.

What is being noticed is that when a black woman coach is appointed at provincial and national level, she does select much more black players, plays black captains and gives much more game time to black players than their white counterparts.

Get this!  SA Hockey Association has got to address its white gaze and disrupt and eliminate the white gaze that prioritises white selection and player advancement in hockey.

Hockey in SA is not the preserve and ownership of the elite, private-schooled and whites. It belongs to South Africa and South Africans across social classes must be given opportunities to participate in the sport. Astro – turfs must be provided in working class communities and to accomplish this, government and corportae partnerships are needed.  Gatekeepers of white schoolgirl hockey must be cleansed of their ‘white is merit’ thinking!

When given the few chances that have come their way, black hockey players have taken them and go on to record world class performances for their schools, provinces, universities and national team South Africa. The era of white-dominated girls and women’s hockey ruling the hockey fields in SA must end because we’ve had enough of black girls and women being marginalised, ignored and benched whilst white players are favoured and supported in hockey development from school to international stage.

   

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