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Marijke Nel

Dartmouth, NS
Wheelchair Tennis

Working together is best for everybody’s wellness

Privileged is the word Marijke Nel uses to describe her upbringing.

It’s not about the material things she had, but about the experiences, Marijke was able to soak in while living on a farm on South Africa’s east coast in an area known as Zululand. Growing up, she rode dirt bikes and horses, went swimming in the river, and generally enjoyed the life afforded her on the family farm, including the opportunity to learn about tribal culture from the Zulu people who worked there.

One of the lessons she learned was that working together is best for everybody’s wellness – a principle Marijke uses as a coach and in her role as technical director with Tennis Nova Scotia. “The more we have this tribal, or community, attitude in sport, the better off we are because then we take care of everybody,” says Marijke, who first came to Canada in 2006 as a member of South Africa’s national rugby team, later landing a coaching job in Nova Scotia.

Marijke now works to develop tennis at all levels in the province. Funding from Nova Scotia Gaming’s Support4Sport program pays part of her salary. Implementing a wheelchair tennis program is an important part of the effort to advance the game. “It’s very important that we include everybody, whether one has physical disabilities or not,” she says. “Every club, actually, should be able to offer it to anybody who comes through the door who wants to pick up a racket and try the sport.”

The wheelchair tennis program has enjoyed significant growth over the past two years. Part of its success is directly linked to volunteer coaches who make a one-to-one, coach-to-player ratio possible.

Marijke also benefitted from a trip to British Columbia where she saw two top-notch coaches in action with their wheelchair athletes. Sarah Hunter is a Paralympian in wheelchair tennis and Kai Schrameyer is the national team wheelchair coach – both coaches use wheelchairs themselves.

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