University of Fort Hare Master’s student Babalwa Malimba is on a mission to shoot the lights out in her new role as chairperson of the National University Sports Associations (NUSAs) Super Pool committee.
The 27-year-old is determined to promote gender equality in pool and also remove the stigma that the sport is nothing more than a game to be played while drinking alcohol.
The NUSAs, which are recognised by University Sports South Africa (USSA), are responsible for the planning, organisation, administration and promotion of the respective sporting codes.
Its primary function is to organise annual tournaments for member clubs during which national teams are selected to represent South Africa and USSA at various national and international championship events.
Malimba, who is pursuing her Master’s in agricultural economics, has proven to be a wonderful ambassador for the sport and in 2019 was appointed manager of the national women’s team.
At Fort Hare she has been highly influential in inspiring the university’s men’s and women’s teams to excel at USSA tournaments for several years running.
At the end of September both sides ended second when UFH hosted the varsity champs at the East London campus. This followed a win in 2017, a second place in 2019 and being named team of the tournament last year.
Pool was not at all on Malimba’s radar in high school, where she was a keen netballer.
When she arrived at UFH in 2014, she saw people playing the sport but thought it was simply to pass the time by having some fun. However, her passion took off as she learnt more about the game.
“It spoke to me. Since my first training session I’ve never gone backwards.”
Malimba was acutely aware that as a woman she was very much in the minority in terms of senior NUSA roles.
For this very reason, she would use her position as chair to make a real difference.
“I am a big advocate for women getting into leadership spaces. I want to make sure that women get the chance to grow,” she said.
“I want to make sure they are given access to the sport offered at the institutions.”
She cited the example of the USSA tournament at Fort Hare, where only three of the six universities had female players among their ranks.
It could not be that such a situation still existed in 2023, she said.
Tackling the perception of the sport will also be high on her agenda.
Scenes of smoky barrooms where groups of men chalk their cues and funnel cheap beer before lining up their shots on tatty felt unfortunately have become all too familiar, both in society and Hollywood movies.
It irked Malimba, who wanted to use her new position to show students there was a completely different side to the game.
“In pool you can compete at international level, just like you can in football or chess. We will be promoting the sporting code itself so that people know what it’s really all about.
“We want to remove the stigma that pool is attached to alcohol.”