TuksSport High School celebrates 21 years of excellence

Posted on October 23, 2023

From its humble beginnings in a basement at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) newly established High Performance Centre (hpc) to the monumental achievements of its student-athletes, TuksSport High School is taking stock of its impressive trajectory over 21 years.

On 10 May 2002, the University’s hpc was formally opened by the then Minister of Sport Ngconde Balfour. Among the audience were 30 excited people who shared in the enthusiasm of the day – 27 were the inaugural students of the TuksSport Study Centre, a sports school that was part of the all-encompassing sporting environment provided by the hpc. They ranged in age from 12 to 16 years old. The remaining three included two teachers and the principal.

Today, the school bears little resemblance to the one that started out in a basement classroom at the hpc in 2002. More than 200 students attend the school, and there are 25 teachers and professional staff.

Now located on De Villiers Sports Ground in Hatfield, TuksSport High School was founded with the aim of implementing a comprehensive curriculum aligned with international elite athlete development programmes. These programmes offer academic, emotional, sport-specific and sports science support to exceptionally talented student-athletes at secondary school level. The school offers a broad and balanced curriculum, and seeks to equip its learners with knowledge and skills that will not only prepare them for their roles as future sports personalities but also for their chosen career paths.

Tatjana Schoenmaker, an alumna of TuksSport High and a graduate of TuksSwimming Academy, in the pool

Olympic medallist and graduate of TuksSwimming Academy at TuksSport High School Tatjana Schoenmaker. (Image: World Aquatics)

Principal of TuksSport High School Hettie de Villiers says she constantly urges learners to take their education as seriously as they take their sporting endeavours.

“I always stress the idea that any athletic career, regardless of how talented the athlete is, only endures for a short time,” she says. “A sports star’s career could be abruptly halted due to an injury – then what? There are never any guarantees in sport. When that happens, it’s critical to have a strong intellectual foundation to fall back on.”

The school exists to serve the needs of budding athletes who are a part of accredited TuksSport academies. When the school started, gymnastics and tennis were the first two academies, and swimming and soccer academies were introduced a year later. The remarkable levels of success achieved by learners in various sporting codes paved the way for the addition of more academies. These include golf, tennis, triathlon, cricket, judo and athletics. Despite being a sports school, TuksSport High places a lot of focus on encouraging individual learning.

Throughout the school’s history, several teachers and students have made significant contributions to its many accomplishments. TuksSport High has consistently maintained an outstanding academic record, exemplified by its 100% pass rate in 2022. Notably, graduates Chris-Dian Haasbroek of the TuksGolf Academy and fellow student Rivers Williams achieved six distinctions each. In the realm of sport, the school has produced remarkable feats, with Viwe Jingqi recognised as the fastest under-18 female athlete globally in the 100-metres and 200-metres sprint events. Additionally, Tatjana Schoenmaker, an alumna of TuksSport High and a graduate of TuksSwimming Academy, secured a gold medal in the 200-metres breaststroke at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, further cementing the school’s pride after her earlier gold win at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022. She also won two gold medals at the Olympic Games.

A group picture of TuksSport High School's current students and staff

There are currently more than 200 students and 25 teachers and professional staff at TuksSport High School. (Image: Reg Caldecott)

“We’ve had several athletes that competed at the Olympic Games,” De Villiers said. “Clarence Munyai and Gift Leotlela are two sprinters that have been to two Olympic Games. On the first occasion, they were both still at school – Gift was in Grade 12 and Clarence in Grade 11.”

TuksSport High School and the hpc form a community of people that are united by their passion for sport and their commitment to excellence. National federations and private clubs have recognised and valued the academic support and flexibility provided by the school, the training facilities provided by UP and the sport-specific packages provided by the hpc. Some national federations that joined the hpc and TuksSport High include the South African Football Association, SA Table Tennis and SA Rowing.

“Whatever changes have been made over the past 21 years, the school’s progressive growth has always been and will always be influenced by an unwavering dedication to providing education of a high academic standard in a framework flexible enough to support the aspirations of the best young South African athletes,” De Villiers said.

- Author Mmaradikesa Prudance Minyuku

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