First started in 2008, the development programme at Natal Canoe Club, thanks mainly to outstanding support from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation, has in recent times achieved outstanding success.
The programme has introduced the sport to thousands of children from previously disadvantaged communities, while at the same time also teaching them life skills.
The NCC Development Team’s results have been on an upward spiral, with the age group paddlers especially proving to be among the best in KwaZulu-Natal and the country. The Team has also served their communities with outreach programmes.
With the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation’s holistic support, the lives of the Development Team have been hugely uplifted. Some have travelled abroad to participate in canoeing events, some have received jobs because of it, while others have received support for their tertiary education. All equipment and team-wear is provided too.
The Umpetha Challenge, formerly known as the NCC Development Race, has become a major success of the Development Programme. Run by the NCC Development Team, it is an early season Dusi Canoe Marathon qualifier, which was first held in 2012. By the following year, it was recognised as the best one-day race at the annual KwaZulu-Natal Canoe Union Awards. It continues to grow in stature and provides the development paddlers with important skills beyond those needed on the water.
Other generous sponsors have provided team members with opportunities to attend prestigious schools.
In addition, support from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLTDF) has enabled NCC to provide all paddlers with an excellent gym, which also features times reserved for members of the NCC Development Team and the High Performance Programme hosted by the club.
NCC General Manager Brett Austen Smith said the development programme and its beneficiaries owe a big thank you to the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation, which is also one of the headline sponsors of NCC’s jewel in the crown, the world famous and iconic Dusi Canoe Marathon.
“We are very proud of the outcome of the NCC Development Programme, and at the same time, we are very proud of the members of the various programmes. I believe we have not only achieved great sporting results, but we have also helped develop a group of polite, willing, hardworking ambassadors of the sport and of themselves,” he added.
“One of the cornerstones of the development programme to create a balance between sport and life, and I believe this has been successfully achieved.”
The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation, Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha is upbeat about the programme as it exposes the youth from disadvantaged background to the joys of canoeing.
“KwaZulu-Natal is blessed with beautiful rivers and the Indian Ocean. Therefore this programme will go a long way towards exposing the youth from rural and township areas, where these rivers pass through, to water sport,” said Sibhidla-Saphetha.
She said that, in line with the provincial government’s vision of developing active and healthy citizens, the Department will ensure that its partnership with the NCC is strengthened so that more young people can participate in canoeing.