UFH - Dancesport - Coach - Thandisizwe Matyumza

Fort Hare’s tough as nails dancesport coach Thandisizwe Matyumza keeps his troops in line by leading by example.

The 42-year-old former professional dancer’s coaching philosophy can be summarised in one word – discipline – and he is not afraid to practise what he preaches as he and his students strive for perfection together.

“That is at the top of my list of requirements,” said the 20-year veteran of the sport, who joined the Alice university in 2012. “Whenever I meet with them, I try my absolute best to instil discipline.”

With time commitments, proper diets, fitness training and daily practice sessions all part of the deal, dancesport is infamous for the physical demands it places on practitioners – and it is not Matyumza’s style to sugar coat the truth.

“I do all the work with them and we sweat together as a team,” the mentor, who has a reputation for never missing a session, said.

Although some may view him as somewhat “militaristic” in his approach, he sees his role as no different to that of a regular teacher at a traditional school.

“You need to have a lesson plan since you have to teach them theory and do practicals,” he explained.

UFH - Dancesport - Coach - Thandisizwe Matyumza

University of Fort Hare’s Thandisizwe Matyumza has spent more than a decade instructing students at the Alice institution in the finer arts of dancesport. Photo: Supplied

As a coach a good dose of self-belief and an eye for talent go a long way.

“You may think that there is always a better dancer or coach, but, as I always say, ‘just because they’re good, it doesn’t mean they’re better than you’.”

Matyumza, who represented South Africa at the worlds in Romania last year, believes every dancer has strengths and weaknesses.

His responsibility is to ensure that they are aware of their true potential and trust the process so they can compete with confidence.

The Fort Hare mentor was introduced to dancing by his brother and sister. At the time, in Makhanda, the 12-year-old’s favourite pastime was soccer.

“I only did it (dance) for fun but, when I was 18, a serious knee injury prevented me from playing soccer again.”

He turned professional in 2010 and was awarded national colours in 2021. However, after placing 32nd in his debut the previous year, knee and groin injuries prevented him from returning to the worlds, in Germany, this year.

Matyumza’s coaching journey started in 2002 and he graduated with Associate (Level 1) and Licentiate (Level 2) professional qualifications from the United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dancing in 2017 and 2018.

Besides guiding his students to the big stage, his ambition is to raise awareness of the sport and make a difference in people’s lives. To this end, he gives people from underprivileged backgrounds the chance to experience the sport and even build careers out of it.

“One of my goals is to increase recognition for the sport at universities and schools. A lot of youngsters have misconceptions – one of these being that it is a sport for white people.”

With all said and done, having perspective in the rough and tumble world of competitive dancesport is important.

“Although every athlete wants to win, I remind my teams that they must prioritise enjoyment over winning. Winning, we believe, comes from enjoyment and being able to express that in the correct way.”

Matyumza is currently the development and technical officer of the Federation of Dancesport Eastern Cape and assistant secretary of the Eastern Cape Sports Confederation.