lessons in life
nemato, South africa, is not your usual place to find a thriving rowing club. the township is
tiny, impoverished and education is lacking. But rowers from the nemato (nelson mandela
township) rowing Club, under the guidance of Coach Jan Blom, are making a name for
themselves and building new attitudes around them.
A series of events brought Dutch coach Blom to
Nemato. He originally arrived to visit the family of
his partner, but Blom came to love the area and
subsequently moved there. To Blom’s surprise
Nemato sits next to one of the best rowing spots
in South Africa, the Kowie River.
swimming lessons and at the end of that year we
had enough boats to start rowing.”
But Blom went one step further. The club is not
just about rowing; it is about building life skills
to empower youth from this predominantly poor
community. Despite lacking role models, Blom
says recruiting rowers is easy. Those interested
are mainly high school students and natural
selection picks who will continue.
“In no time I was coaching for Rhodes University,
one of the best rowing universities in South Africa.”
successful, not necessarily in rowing, but in life.
That is desperately needed in a township that
has not been able to shake off the legacy of
apartheid, where most people live in poverty,
and the general mindset is one of apathy.
Daily Dispatch, 9 November 2006
“With the river so close to the township,
everybody in the township knows rowing.
Living in the township and coaching for Rhodes,
many kids asked me, ‘when are you starting a
rowing club for us?’”
“The dedication we demand is very unusual
here and most kids disappear after a while. Only
those who can make the change in mindset
and start attending all sessions will make it to
competition. It is a purely natural selection.
This was the start of the Nemato Rowing Club.
“It took me two years before there was enough
funding to make a start. In mid-2005 we started
“Those who stay develop a very dedicated and
competitive lifestyle. That is what our club is
all about; developing a mindset to become
“We carefully look after this development in our
rowers. We expose the rowers to as many new
experiences as possible. Anything like taking
them to a movie is new and exciting. Also going
to competition, to the big cities, is new as well
as meeting kids from the elite schools, travelling
and eating together with them, competing >