BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
MAIN PICTURE: May Pinto, Bernard Adams, Leon Pietersen and Reneé Symonds
THESE days there are sports leaders’ programmes and literature to develop young players into becoming leaders in their field of sport.
Programmes are scheduled and outcomes are reached, ending with a certificate for the successful candidate.
Leadership has been identified as an important but underdeveloped life skill among youth athletes, according to the article in Journal of Sports Psychology in Action: Youth Sports Leadership Development: Leveraging the Sports Captaincy Experience, Daniel Gould & Dana K. Voelker, published in 2010.
Absence of social media
In 1981, in the absence of social media; the internet, literature and courses, Livingstone High School field athlete May Pinto had to showcase the leadership skills the selectors and teachers identified and saw in her.
Born in April 1965, she was only 16 years old when she led a 70-strong Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union (WPSSSU) Track and Field team to the South African Senior Schools Sports Association’s (SASSSA) meeting in Johannesburg in 1981. She had turned 16 after the SASSSA championships.
Privileged to captain
“I was in Std 8 (grade 10) in 1981 and in my first year as an under 17 athlete. There was no under 16 age group at the time. However, the boys had under 16 and 17 age groups. I was privileged to captain athletes older than myself. My parents (Cynthia and Mervyn) were always supportive of my schoolwork and sport. They never missed competition days,” she says.
Pinto wasn’t alone in leading the team. She had excellent support from the late Bernard Adams of Livingstone High School, vice-captains Leon Pietersen of Alexander Sinton and Crystal High School’s Reneé Symonds. Adams passed on in 2015.
Packed with WP stars
The team was packed with star WP athletes such as Gawa Moyce (shot put and discus), Jennifer Martin (high jump), sprinters Gillian Kay, Dianne Carelse , Amanda Forbay, Carol Esau (javelin and shot put) and Helena Marais (high jump).
The only two athletes to feature in the boys’ open section was Bernard Adams in the shot put and discus and Mark Bowers in the high jump.
The boys under 17 comprised of the De Kock twins Jonathan and Nathan, sprinters Caval Marthinussen and Andre Alexander, and the 800m runner Mark Waverley.
Ian February and Shaun Henry
Ian February (javelin and high jump), Mark Bowman (discus), Leon Brink (shot put), Ivan Nefdt (sprints and high jump) and the late Shaun Henry (100m and shot put) made up the rest of the stars in the lower age groups.
Henry and February would participate in the field events with February winning the javelin and Henry the shot put. They even participated in a third field event, the high jump at SASSSA level where Henry would win this time ahead of the specialist field athletes of the other provinces.
Presentation function at Moedertjie
“We had to count the athletes frequently and report the number to the team managers,” she says, as a way of keeping a check on any would-be errant athletes.
She remembers the presentation function being held at a place called Moedertjie, near the Newlands athletics track in Johannesburg.
1979 was May Pinto’s best year as a WP athlete
But May says 1979 was her best year as a WP athlete, but not because she won the title.
“Our names (the WP athletes) were read out directly after the Champion of Champions meeting at the Athlone stadium. The occasion was exciting. Then, on the following Monday afternoon, we had to get our WP gear at the Alexander Sinton High School in Crawford,” she recalls.
The Spes Bona five
May Pinto was joined by high school teammates Shaun Henry and Gillian Kay for the short trip to the SASSSA meeting in Paarl in 1979. And they were accompanied by terrific WPSSSU athletes such as Avril de Waal, Patrick Meyer, Freddie Williams, George van der Burg, Taurique Achmat, Leon Pietersen, Isaac Arendse, Michael Chitter, Caval Marthinussen, Theodore Williams, Quinton Arendse, Ingrid Arendse, Zaida Bardien, Colleen MacKay, Sandra May, Gillian Kay and a further five WPSSSU athletes from Spes Bona High: Wilton Pick, Mark Bowers, Charles Isaacs, Steven Ganger and Argyle Stanfliet.
- Next week, we bring you the story of the former State Security Agency director general Arthur Fraser, Athlone Stadium, the Dal Josaphat Stadium in Paarl and more.