Pearson Riding the Manthe Wave
Wednesday, 12 December 2018
Within minutes of talking water polo – and Pearson water polo in particular – one becomes as enthralled in the journey as does one “Mr Pearson Water Polo and Aquatics” the affable Luke Manthe.
And that passion, that certain Luke B. Manthe je ne sais quoi
is intoxicating. I was rapt, riveted, captivated and enthralled by the tale, for the Luke B. Manthe narrative tells as much about Luke B. Manthe as it does about his successes with the Pearson water polo girls in 2018 competition against SA’s best.
“Hey Jono, do you want to be my spin doctor or what! Thanks man that’s so cool to hear.”
’Kay, Luke now I’m into serious sports journo mode: Firstly, you are Pearson water polo director and 1st
team head coach or did I hear wrong?? Sorry I am no polo guru so help me here please guy.
“Ah Jono you are there and thereabouts mate. Iam Head of Aquatics (Water Polo, Swimming, Artistic Swimming, Surfing and Surf Life-Saving) and the Head Coach of the 1st Girls Water Polo team yes.”
So Luke I hear your Pearson girls had a recent title win or a few this year? Am I hearing correctly along the sporting grapevine?
“You’re right on the money Jono. We had a really successful 2017/18 season and now in this, the start of the 2018/19 season. The 2017/2018 season started off with a win at the 2017 Clarendon Stayers' Tournament beating St Stithians in the semi-final and Stirling in the final. Later on the team went to St. Stithians' Tournament beating Reddam in the final 9-8.
Phew, pretty decent that.
“For sure. In the first bit of 2018 Pearson competed at the Brian Baker Tournament hosted by Kingswood College losing in the final to Reddam House from Cape Town. Pearson then competed in their last tournament of the 1st term which was Old Pet's hosted by St. Peters' College in Johannesburg where Pearson beat St. Stithians College 4-1 in the final.
“Next up meant Pearson had to wait until the 3rd term to carry on with the 2017/2018 season. First up was the prestigious Reddam U19 Tournament hosted by Reddam House in Cape Town where Pearson beat hosts Reddam in the final 9-7. In October 2018 Pearson travelled to George to compete in the National Co - Ed Tournament beating Crawford College Lonehill in the final 5-2.
“This brought the 2017/2018 season to an end, and the start of the 2018/2019 season: Pearson travelled to compete in the Clarendon Stayers' which they won at the start of the season in 2017/2018 but unfortunately this time went down to St Stithians 11-8 in the final. A week later the team travelled to Johannesburg to compete in the St. Stithians Tournament and beat St Stithians in the final 10-9.
OK, okay Luke I’m getting dizzy with all the silverware and trophy-laden mantelpiece visions floating across my periphery, please nail it down for us, the road to Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh as it were… okay I’m mangling my metaphors and probably going to “geddin” to trouble, so seriously, the stuff Pearson have won please Luke.
“Not on my watch Jono! So here we go. I have tabled it thus.”
- Clarendon Stayers' - Gold
- St Stithians Stayers - Gold
- Brian Baker - Silver
- Old Petrians - Gold
- Reddam U19 Tournament - Gold
- Co - Eds - Gold
- Clarendon Stayers' - Silver
- St Stithians Stayers' - Gold
Phew and more phew, Luke, I don’t know where Pearson keep all these polo accolades but it’s a measure of excellence in anyone’s book.
So, your overall opinion of the standard of competition in these events and your opinion on the overall standard of girls high schools water polo in SA?
“Jono, girls water polo in South Africa has really improved, where many schools and teams are rising to the occasion; bringing the level of girls water polo up in the country.”
Luke in that light, which were Pearson’s toughest games this year and why?
“Jono, as you know, no one likes to lose. So I would say the toughest games would be the Brian Baker Tournament where we lost to Reddam in the final and would say the St. Stithians final against St. Stithians winning the game in the last 6 seconds of the match.”
Luke, of all your matches this year, which sides were you particularly impressed with among your fellow Eastern Province schools - and secondly among the outside-province teams nationally?
“Jono this year Reddam and St Stithians have played some competitive water polo. Within the Eastern Province I have been really impressed with Clarendon Girls from East London under the guidance of Delaine Christian. Glenwood House from George have also grown from strength to strength.”
Luke, that’s interesting to hear. So Luke, what was or were the factor(s) in terms of the essential ingredients that took Pearson water polo to a new level and to trophy time? Examples – might be consistency, BMT, dedication to training and conditioning programmes, incredible team spirit, playing the crucial/big moments well?
“That’s an interesting question Jono. The Pearson team is a family. The girls work really hard to ensure that the team comes first no matter what. They have a number 1 rule - Never turn your back on your teammate. When your team is close they tend to push harder and encourage each other more to become better people.
“The team is also fortunate to see our schools bio and attend yoga sessions with Yoga Shala in Port Elizabeth. All these added extras most definitely play a role in the success of the team. They also see a sports psychologist on a weekly basis in-season, which helps to tackle all the headstrong parts of being an athlete.”
I really love that answer, Luke; we won two Rugby World Cups for much the same Team as Family reason I think. Can’t beat if all are one. So to win the water polo titles you have this year - of the quality Pearson have been up against in terms of opposition strength – how important was pre-tournament prep and what did you focus on? Or was it a case of simply doing what you and the first team group have been doing in the trainings through the 2018 year?
“Jono, Pearson water polo has gone from strength to strength over the last few years. We as a school put focus on our coaches we employ and ensured they attended clinics and camps to improve. Both in January and August the team travelled to Stellenbosch and had a training camp with Stellenbosch University 1st team and played warm up games against Herschel, Reddam House and Somerset College.
“Unfortunately being in Port Elizabeth we do not have many schools in the area to play against which forces us to travel. In the off season we made sure the team was fit and conditioned so when the season starts (which is a real short season) we then managed to focus on the smaller less things we don't always get time to do.”
Luke, the quality and popularity of SA girls high schools water polo. Is it improving and why?
“Jono, yes. With more tournaments, interprovincial tournaments and more international tours - our players in South Africa are getting exposed to more, which then improves the quality of water polo.”
Relative to other provinces, where does EP stand - ahead or behind the powerhouses as far as development and popularity plus standard of polo is concerned?
“As mentioned we do not have the same amount of water polo playing schools like Western Province and Gauteng so our selection pool is smaller. However, we do manage to keep up there, somehow. Nelson Mandela Bay (EP) U16A water polo girls won gold in December 2017 and the NMBU15A girls won bronze at the same tournament. And the NMBU18A team narrowly lost to Gauteng in the Currie Cup final in 2018.”
Well, like Kiwi sport – and rugby in particular shows – you don’t have to boast massive playing numbers to excel and even dominate, as the All Blacks do, which is so-oooo frustrating for us Saffas.
So Luke who are the Pearson players who have been consistent in 2018? Please indicate their position and why are they so good in those positions in add-value to the team?
“Jono we have had quite a few players who have really stepped up this season so to make it easier to digest I’ll table it for you and the SA School Sports readers.
- Hannah Reid - Team captain and centre forward - strength and power
- Jordyn Meyer - Team V/Capt and centre back - defensive and ability to ensure ball never reaches their centre
- Erin Harty - Left side - speed and power shot
- Dayna Bond - Utility/ Left side - strong and powerful. Can shoot from anywhere which always keep defending team on their toes
- Yanah Gerber - Utility/ Right side - Strong and fast. Able to get up and down the pool with ease. Has the ability to throw the ball hard!
- Jade Vaughan - Right side - calm, cool and collective - does her job and extremely underrated with her abilities. Sharp shooter and solid on defence
- Nerine Cloete - GK - ability to pass the ball full length and quick and agile in the goals”
Wow, Luke, that is impressive by any yardstick. Given your track record, what advice would you give to aspirant primary schoolgirl water polo players if they hope to develop match-in and match-out delivery of what’s required of them when they soon enter high school?
“Jono what I have learned as a coach over the last few years is to remind the girls to never give up. Keep doing what you are doing; always try be better than the day before. It may take time or it may come easier to you than others. Either way, stick to your guns – and,very important: you must enjoy the journey.”
I like that takeaway in the last sentence there, Luke. For without the “enjoy” there is never going to be an enriching journey.
So, Pearson water polo – what has been the one special thing that has taken it to where it is now – the special power or culture that has grown over time, both in the first team and in the age-group teams?
“Jono, we put a lot of focus into the quality of our coaches at Pearson. Each coach at Pearson has been coached by me through their years at high school. This helps, as they understand me as a coach and what I expect from their players too. This has helped us create a culture of water polo at the school.”
Luke that answer alone speaks volumes for the Pearson water polo wave that is set well on course to never end. So before you took the reins, who was the initial driver of the Pearson quest for excellence in polo?
“Mr Van Staden our ex Headmaster, now at Paul Roos; he was passionate about the sport and saw the vision of where it can go here at Pearson in Port Elizabeth.”
Luke it seems, what with the success Pearson firsts have had, that it would be churlish of me not to ask for the first team line-up:
“You’re spot on Jono.
Goalkeeper - Nerine Cloete (Grade 10) -EP u18A & SA U16
- L/Side/ Utility - Dayna Bon (Grade 11) EP U18A & Zimbabwe U18
- L/Side - Erin Harty (Grade 11) EP U18A & SA U17 Captain
- R/Side/ Utility - Yanah Gerber (Grade 11) EP U18A & SA U17
- Centre Back - Jordyn Meyer (Grade 12) - EP U18A
- Centre Forward - Hannah Reid (Grade 12) - EP U18A & SA U18 V/Captain
- R/ Side - Jade Vaughan (Grade 11) EP U18A & SA U17
- R/Side/ Centre Back - Desire Coetzer (Grade 11) EP U18A
- R/Side - Linzi Scholtz (Grade 10) EP U16A & SA U16
- L/Side/ Centre Back - Michaela Robinson (Grade 10) EP U16A & SA U16
- Centre back - Isabella de Bruyn (Grade 10) EP U16A
- R/side - Paige Black (Grade 9) - EP U15A
- L/Side - Kerri Brooks (Grade 8) - EP U14A
- R/Side - Nicola Stock (Grade 12) EP U18A
- Lisa - Nicole Scholtz (Grade 12) EP U18B”
And your first team coaching and management staff”
“Jono we are fortunate to have many staff involved in the life of these water polo players.
Head Coach - Luke Manthe
Managers - Kelly Nortje, Hannah Werth and Hannes Huisamen
Bio/ Strength & Conditioning - Brink Eksteen
Sports Psych - Wesley Kew
Yoga - Simone Jacobs”
You know Luke; I was dreading this interview in a way, as I am not that au fait with polo like I am possibly in other sports, but this has been a wonderful ride for me and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.
Your enthusiasm is contagious and I think that is possibly the Magic that is Luke Manthe. Finally, anything else you would like to add?
“Thanks again Jono you are so kind and thank you on behalf of Pearson for this opportunity. In closing I’d just like to say the following: It has been a pleasure to coach these incredible humans. The way they carry themselves both in an out of the pool is special. Their sportsmanship is like no other and it is encouraging to see. I look forward to the future of Pearson water polo!”
Aaaah, no need to say more. Good on you Pearson and long may it continue.
Credit: All photos by Teamphoto SA