Photos courtesy Lukholo Jooste.
For South African university beach volleyball player Lukholo Jooste, each serve, spike, and smash on the sand is a reminder of a lifelong journey, filled with continual sacrifice and struggles, but all for the love of the game.
Growing up in the rural township of Khayelitsha just outside Cape Town, Lukholo was introduced to beach volleyball through a non-profit organisation called ‘Yebo Volleyball’ who had visited his school to teach students about the sport.
“Back then, I got into the sport just because playing it was really fun,” he recalls.
His natural talent was too difficult to ignore, as the non-profit organisation assisted the budding star to attend local trials at school level and help improve his skills through advanced training and increased knowledge of the sport.
A decade later, the 22-year-old University of the Western Cape student balances his studies with volleyball training three times a week, yet mostly on his own accord. Beach volleyball is considered a minority sport in South Africa, and at the university level there are no leagues in which to participate, with only a sole national university tournament held annually.
“Being a beach volleyball player in South Africa is very challenging. There are no proper volleyball structures or programmes which makes our preparations that much more difficult. It’s a struggle to travel to the beach to train, and I do not have a coach,” he reveals.
Lukholo refuses to let these hurdles hold him back, training with different individuals he meets on the beach while taking advice from former players who have taken him under their wing.
His determination and commitment to the game he loves saw him successfully get through the trials and earn selection for the final squad that represented South Africa at the 2022 FISU World University Championship Beach Volleyball recently held in Maceio, Brazil. It was an experience Lukholo says he will forever cherish.
“It was an honour to represent my country and my university on the international stage,” he beams. “The experience in Brazil was amazing, with a level of beach volleyball I had never played in my life. I learnt so much just by watching other competitors who play regular professional beach volleyball in their countries against top teams in the world. It made me realise what it takes to become one of the best.”
Lukholo, who is studying to become a teacher, says many fond memories were made off the court as well.
“The atmosphere was amazing! There were the obvious language barriers, but we didn’t let that get in our way, and everyone was so friendly. Communicating was easy because we have this one, wonderful thing in common that we all love: playing beach volleyball. It was also a wonderful experience to get to meet different people from different parts of the world and get to know and learn from them.”
When asked about his future goals, the humble student-athlete says he hopes to be an agent of change for beach volleyball in South Africa.
“After I graduate, I will still play beach volleyball, but I hope to also try to make things better for future volleyball players climbing the ranks,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to have proper structures in place to help South Africans play regularly on the international stage.”