Pupils drilled to succeed at competition

Smooth moves by Hazeldene Primary School drill squad.

The beat of the drum, the uniformity, the discipline and being part of a squad melts Hazeldene Primary School drill instructor Christina Maart’s heart and gets her brain working.

Christina, 24, from Westridge, was first a follower, having started as a member of Rocklands High School’s drill squad in 2009 and now she is coaching at the Portland primary school which is close to her home.

The squad, along with 22 other schools and two community teams, will be participating in the 10th annual Mitchell’s Plain Schools Marching and Drilling Competition at Stephen Reagon sports field in Westridge on Saturday October 14.

The competition, in which the pupils will get their march on, is being hosted by Midea Events in partnership with SAPS and the Plainsman.

The competition is the brainchild of former Mitchell’s Plain SAPS cluster commander, Major-General Jeremy Vearey, now police head of detectives in the Western Cape. At the time he was very involved in community development and saw the need for youth programmes because of gangsterism (“Drilling competition reaches 10-year milestone”, Plainsman, August 16).

“I love drilling. It helped me become more disciplined,” said Christina.

She was in Grade 9, when her cousin, at Portland High School, spoke to her about the drilling competition and how their school was vying for the top spot against Tafelsig High School.

Christina was disappointed that her school was not taking part but in 2009 SAPS came to her school to tell them about the drilling and marching project and she signed up.

The next year she was chosen to be a member of the Western Province Schools Marching and Drill Exhibition Association, which performed at the Cape Town Military Tattoo, which the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) hosts at the Castle of Good Hope annually.

She sat out (of the drill squad) her matric year and in 2011 she applied to join the SANDF. Christina filled in the forms, submitted her CV and matric results.

While waiting for a response, she worked as an administrator for a civil engineering company and into her second year, after matric, she got a call from the SANDF.

Christina had to pass a psychometric and medical tests to join the defence force.

On January 12, 2014, she arrived at Youngsfield Military Base, in Wynberg, with a huge suitcase, with all of her belongings.

“I will never forget that day,” she said.

Christina’s mother cried but her dad said: “’I know how long you wanted this. It is your time.’ And I took it (the opportunity),” she recalls.

Christina said it was tough.

“I knew it was going to be tough but I had not prepared myself mentally and physically,” she said.

Christina had to change from being a civilian, get her fitness levels up and march to the tune of the defence force.

“There were times when I felt like I wanted to come home because I missed my family,” she said.

There were times Christina would call her paternal grandmother and enquire about things at home but “we’d end up talking about me and she would just give me the extra oomph to continue.”

Christina completed six months of basic training in Oudtshoorn and 18 months in Kimberley, where she chose to focus on air defence artillery.

However, she was unable to secure a contract and came home on December 31, 2015.

She was still unemployed in 2016 and, was hearing the beat of the drums at Westville Primary School, which neighbours her home, Christina decided to take a walk to the school. There she volunteered and found out about the Making an Impact Through Sport (MITS) Programme) based at Hazeldene Primary School, in Portland.

The programme trains unemployed young people as coaches and sport administrators in partnership with sport federations and like-minded organisations.

Through the programme she completed an eta College qualification, which is a higher education and training college qualification focusing on sport and fitness. She the approached the Portland school to become their drilling coach.

“I’ve always been a part of a squad now I have to lead. It is extremely weird,” she said. “I have to think of every eventuality. It is two completely differently roles but before you can lead you must be able to follow.

“What I teach is what I’ve learned from my mentors and teachers,” said Christina.

Christina said charity begins at home and it starts with you. “You have to respect yourself to respect others,” she said.