For the past 23 years, Ilhaam Groenewald has been blazing a trail for women in sports. The SARU executive member took it one step further when it was announced that she was elected as the 9th president of ‘University Sports South Africa’; a national body that regulates, organizes and coordinates all student sports activities
Born in the small town of Keimoes in the Northern Cape, Ilhaam has come a long way since her appointment in 1994 as the manager of the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) volleyball team.
She has held the position of Director of Sport Administration at UWC, and currently holds the position of Chief Director of Sport at Stellenbosch University (the first woman to hold this position). She was also the first woman to be chairperson of University Sports South Africa and prior to being elected president, she was the Vice-President of University Sport South Africa. During her time at UWC, she is credited with vastly improving the university’s sporting profile at both regional and national level.
She was also the head of delegation for SA teams at multisport events; served on committees of SASCOC; is chairperson of the Heads of Sport forum; a member of Varsity Sports, and a board member and trustee of Varsity Cup rugby. Last year, she became the first woman who to be appointed as an Executive Council Member of Rugby South Africa (SARU).
Ilhaam credits her team at the University for making it possible her to take on so many responsibilities. She says that “you can’t achieve anything on your own” and her team has a “culture of collective responsibility and teamwork”.
She hopes to use her position to create opportunities for young people so that they can participate in all forms of sport. She says that sports have the ability to cut across all boundaries and the power to create an enabling environment which, in turn, creates opportunities for young people.
Ilhaam’s advice to anyone wanting to succeed in life is to not let negative and unproductive opinions hold you back. You should have the courage to follow what is in your heart and in your head because deep down inside, you already know what you want to become.