Former Springbok Women’s Sevens player Marithy Pienaar is among seven female rugby coaches selected to participate in the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy for High Performance Coaches (WSLA HPC) as part of a pilot programme in partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Pienaar, who received the SA Rugby Women’s Achiever award at the 2016 Player of the Year awards, is the only South African selected to participate in the programme.
She entered coaching this season with Bridge House School in Franschhoek after retiring from the game following several seasons a contracted Springbok Women’s Sevens player.
The programme – which features Pienaar, Filoi Eneliko (Samoa), Berta García (Spain), Victoria Grant (New Zealand), Royce Chan Leong-Sze (Hong Kong), Rachel Taylor (Wales) and Inge Visser (Australia) – supports Recommendation 6 of the IOC’s Gender Equality Review Project, which seeks to increase the proportion of female coaches at the Olympic Games.
Pienaar was honoured about the opportunity and said: “I’ve had the privilege to represent my country as a Springbok Women’s Sevens player for a number of years and it was without any doubt the greatest achievement ever in my career.
“Sport has the most special ability to create unexpected opportunities that can change your life and my selection as part of this exciting female coaching program is indescribable.
“I am thankful for the career I could build and for the mentors, role models and systems that supported me, and it is fantastic that I am now able to serve and use my experience to give back to the next rugby generation,” she added.
Six international federations have teamed up with the IOC to offer the 14-month programme, namely World Rugby and the international summer sports federations of cycling, rowing, tennis, triathlon and wrestling, with the objective of helping to develop the leadership and technical skills of 25 high performance female coaches from across the globe.
The contingent convened for the first time this week in England for the first of two residential sessions, with the wider programme designed around three key objectives: identifying sport-specific skills and experience, developing leadership competencies, and building confidence in the high performance coaches.
Additionally, the project will facilitate the sharing of good practice as well as developing close links and networks between the participants and international federations.
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux congratulated Pienaar on her selection for the programme: “Marithy was one of the key players in the Springbok Women’s Sevens team in the last few years, and we are delighted that she is receiving this opportunity to develop her coaching skills at the highest level so that she can share her knowledge and experience of the game in the best possible way – by teaching others.
“Her work ethic and dedication to any cause she puts her mind to is admirable, which makes her the perfect candidate for this programme. We certainly hope to see her make her mark in the South African rugby coaching ranks in future,” said Roux.
Katie Sadleir, World Rugby General Manager for Women’s Rugby, said: “On behalf of World Rugby we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to work alongside the International Olympic Committee and the other international federations on this exciting project.
“The seven coaches selected to be a part of this programme are an extremely talented group of individuals with a varying range of playing and coaching experience.
“There is no doubt that their involvement in the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy will be of great benefit to them and to our sport as we strive to increase the number of females coaching at the highest level of the game.”