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29 Aug, 2012

Diepkloof Athletics Club - Empowering the Youth

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Diepkloof Athletics Club - Empowering the Youth

Diepkloof Athletics Club was founded in 1984 and today still inspires the Diepkloof community in Soweto by providing enthusiastic and inspiring runners a platform to maintain a healthy lifestyle and spirit of running. The club thrives on youth development and athleticism in the wider Soweto region, and focuses on keeping young athletes away from township boredom that could potentially lead them to drugs and criminal activities.

 

“In short, the club believes that excellence is cultivated from a young age,” says Stan Itshegetseng, the club’s chairman and financial advisor. ”We believe we create leaders here. We have produced them over and over again. What we lack in funds and technicality, we give back in strength and community,” says Stan.

 

A PILLAR OF STRENTH

The club’s primary goal as a community institution is to change the idea of athletics in the area. While the club is open to both young and old to uphold healthy, fulfilling lifestyles, the club focuses more on the youth. The idea of promoting running and the significance sport has on a person’s life is a chief idea for the club. The club’s manifesto stands proudly as a democratic one, encouraging young, old, all sexes and all races to join in on the fun week after week.

 

In a black community, the club’s impact is crucial, believes Stan. The club aspires to use running as an education and mindset, giving people a way to live a better life when so often theft, drugs and alcohol appear easy ways out of poverty and unemployment. In doing so, the club is looking to introduce athletics camps during school holidays. “This is one area of focus that we have to seriously look into to keep our athletes from township boredom that could potentially lead them to drugs and criminal activities,” says Stan.

 

SHINING STARS

In its first two years as an athletics club, only 20 members were part of the movement. Now, close to 28 yeas later, around 250 members are registered, including juniors, teens, seniors, masters and grandmasters. Most notable of the athletic stars the club has produced are

?         Tshamano Setone, 3 000m & 5 000m Junior SA Champion in 2006, who also represented South Africa in the Commonwealth Games in the same year.

?         Abraham Khumalo, 4km cross-country SA Champion from 2004 to 2006.

?         Petrus “Qcoga” Monyai, 3 000m steeplechase SA Champion from youth and junior to senior categories from 1998 to 2005, and who has won marathons in England, France and Mexico.

?         Violet Raseboya, 800m SA Games Champion in 2002 as well as 6km cross-country SA Champion in 2006.

 

The club’s vision is to develop athletes who can compete at a regional, national and international level. “Our goal is to produce champions and in doing so we are trying to unearth talent in Diepkloof or any of the previously disadvantaged areas. Even though we do not have many resources and use a gravel track in Diepkloof, we have produced good athletes,” Says Stan.

 

RACING AHEAD

The club used to organise a 15km and 5km race and prominent ‘celebrity’ runners like Sonja Laxton, Kim Laxton, Gladys Lukhwareni, Dimakatso Morobi, Shadrack Hoff, George Mofokeng, Coolboy Ngamole and Lucky Mohale have all run the race. The event changed in 2005 and 2007 due to the club playing host to the Central Gauteng Half Marathon Championships, and the annual event now comprises a 21km and 10km run, with a 10km walk and 5km fun run.

 

The Diepkloof Athletic Club sees its growing membership and participation in regional races as testament to the power of running and a sporting lifestyle, and how they can improve one’s mindset into a positive, optimistic one. And the club is planning to continue with its focus of not only producing great athletes, but also giving the youth of Soweto a way to live a better life.