Their respective journeys in their chosen sports taught Mandela University students Meghan Maartens and Warren Bower valuable life lessons.
The national water polo star and squash ace reached the pinnacle of sport at the Gqeberha university when they were named Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year last month.
With the hard work behind them, they reflect on their transformation from nervous first-years to fully fledged sport stars who have left a lasting legacy.
Maartens represented South Africa at the Tokyo Olympics and other high-profile international events and is currently completing her PGCE while teaching at SACS Junior in Cape Town.
As the 24-year-old goalkeeper adopts the role of shaping young minds, she believes there are aspects from her varsity life that will stand her in good stead.
“I think the greatest things that I learnt from water polo were communication and accountability,” she said, while also pointing out the value of being a great motivator in a team setup.
The fellowship that emerged from striving to achieve at the highest level will stay with Maartens until long after her playing days.
“It was such an incredible experience.”
During her time, the Madibaz developed into an experienced and resolute outfit committed to helping each other grow.
“We were all good friends!”
The most important thing was being surrounded by teammates who would motivate her even when she fell out of love with the sport.
Bower, whose time at Madibaz will come full circle upon completion of an advanced diploma in quantity surveying in 2024, also emphasised the role of team dynamics while discovering new aspects of his game.
Having come through the Eastern Province age-group system, he integrated seamlessly into varsity squash in 2018.
“I remember I was selected for the first league team at number three and already knew some of the players from our school days.”
An ankle injury a year later and the subsequent loss of fitness and strength demanded by competition led to the 25-year-old developing the mental side of his game.
“I had no strength and limited ability to move when I came back, which made me realise that I needed to play smart.”
Prior to his Madibaz journey he mainly prepared on court but coach Jason le Roux taught him the importance of fitness work off of it, which improved his movement and endurance.
Bower, who won the Madibaz Open for the first time and earned silver at the USSAs to earn selection to the national team competing in the FISU Games next year, dwelled on the importance of the team unit.
“Even though squash is an individual sport which calls for you to stay positive, having teammates supporting you during a tough match makes a big difference in your willpower to play through the pain and tiredness.”