This is the first chapter of a two-part series about former athletics coach, academic and author Winston Kloppers, 77, of District Six.
WINSTON Kloppers’ knowledge of and passion for athletics runs deep.
His contribution to non-racial athletics was immense – an interest piqued while still at Zonnebloem Primary School in District Six.
He had coached some of the finest athletes in the Cape in the 1960’s, and by 1986, brought out a 207-page publication: School Athletics, A Practical Guide to Organisation and Officiating.
“Coaching is not only about inspiring. Fitness, sports psychology and training are integral to the development of the athlete. You have to know what makes the athlete tick. Sometimes, you have to work on the athlete’s lack of confidence and his negativity toward his ability. Sometimes, they [athletes] can lose badly in one race and win the next race. These are things one has to work on. You have to look at what went wrong with the athlete, for example, his studies, home circumstances and so on. An athlete has to have track finesse, not track beauty, but understanding and knowing how to run the 100m differently from the 200m; the start in the 100m and how to run the bend in the 200m.” explained Kloppers.
Kloppers, who grew up in District Six, coached the Trafalgar High School sprinters Sedick Kalam, Phaldie Kalam, and Henry Davids in the late 1960’s. All three sprinters were record holders, with Rapport newspaper reporting about their special sprint talents alongside a 13-year-old Terrence Smith, 19-year-old Herman Gibbs, 16-year-old John Wippenaar and the women’s sprinters Moira Terhoven and Lynne Eagles.
The article also included George van der Ross (long jump), Regina Bastiaan of St Augustine (high jump), Denise Oliphant of Kensington High School (high jump) and Anthony Dick.
Rapport’s athletics writer Chris Botes further wrote in 1970 that besides these athletes, there are many more standing on the brink of a great breakthrough.
That Botes had seen the talent his white government of the day did not see, speaks volumes for the policy of apartheid which isolated white and black athletes from the international spotlight for the next 22 years – 1992 being the year in which South Africa returned to the Olympic family in Barcelona.
Sports isolation in South Africa was the environment in which white and black athletes competed under their own nationally segregated athletic unions.
Black athletes (coloured and black) had been given the worse possible facilities to use for training and competition. Not much has changed after 1992 with regards to athletic facilities for schools in the southern suburbs where not a single synthetic track is to be found (beyond Athlone).
Those athletes who have come through and excelled on the world stage are not the beneficiaries of excellent school programmes or development programmes.
South Africa’s international track stars are the beneficiaries of private coaching and sponsorships.
Kloppers had no privileges of plush facilities in District Six and at the schools he taught in the southern suburbs, mega sponsorships and a high media profile for his athletes which the modern-day South African athlete enjoys.
His interest in athletics was piqued at Zonnebloem Primary in District Six where he saw the older athletes Aljee Wynne and Gus Jacobs in the sprints.
“The senior athletes while I was at Zonnebloem Primary were Aljee Wynne and Gus Jacobs. The PT teacher was Mike Coetzee,” recalls Kloppers, a pupil there in the 1940’s.
He attended Trafalgar High School and qualified as a schoolteacher at the Hewat Training College in 1965. Further studies include a BA (Phys Ed), B.Ed and an M.Ed from the University of the Western Cape where he retired as Head of the Physical Education Department in 2003.
He was born in 1941 in Greatmore Street, Woodstock where he stayed with the family for one year.
“My parents moved into a room in Greatmore Street, then to Upper Ashley Street in District Six with my father’s brother, Abraham Kloppers. My father, Alexander Kloppers, was a teacher at St Phillips Primary School in District Six. Syd B Lotter [former president of the Western Province Amateur Athletic and Cycling Association] stayed next door at 74 Upper Ashely Street,” says Kloppers.
The Kloppers family moved to 34 Duke Street in Walmer Estate when he was five years old.
“The house was big, my father rented there from a Mr Curtis. I remember the house having a duck pond. From Duke Street, we moved to Chappell Street,” says Kloppers.
Kloppers, 77, remembers Chappell Street Primary School being called East Park Primary. St Phillips Primary, an art and drama school, was also in Chappell Street where his father was the deputy principal. The principal of the school was George Veldsman.
Kloppers’ stay at Trafalgar High saw him interact with characters Small Boy (Yusuf Bavasah) and the gangster only known as Sakkie who was in charge of the Star Bioscope.
“Sakkie was a menacing bloke, he always had this long blade, a sword-like instrument with him. He was feared,” says Kloppers.
- Next week, Kloppers’ migration to the southern suburbs, the South Peninsula Amateur Athletic Club and him being a co-founder of the Grassy Park Amateur Athletic Club in 1982 and more.