Uncrushable spirit

Victor Vermeulen was 19 with an exceptional future as a world class cricketer when he jumped into a swimming pool and broke his neck. Eight years later he has become one of South Africa’s leading motivational speakers Nawaal Deane spoke to him about his school days.

What was most memorable days at school?

I loved primary school and attended North Ridge Primary.
It was a down-to-earth school. Every music and physical education period the headmaster would throw tennis balls for me to practise my batting (cricket) techniques. In standard 3 I was the first student to score 100 runs and I won a cricket bat. My score just increased each week and after winning the third bat the headmaster said, “Cricket bats are expensive and you are the only one who keeps winning.”

I excelled in sports throughout my schooling career. I was head boy at school and sportsman of the year. My primary school put up a board in my honour after the accident. I got colours to play for Northern Transvaal soccer and cricket. I was cricket and soccer captain. In primary school my average mark was 75%.

You sound like a model student. Did you ever get into trouble?

Wait a minute, that was my primary school years. In high school it was only about trouble. I was offered a lot of bursaries because of my cricket but I eventually decided to attend St Stithians and stayed in the boarding school. That is where all the mischief started. If the cat had kittens I got into trouble. I did not do much work but went to school for my friends and my sport.

I did not enjoy boarding school because my life was run by bells. Bells to eat, bells to wake up, bells for study time ... bells, bells, bells. I got up to all types of things. Even if I was not part of a scam I was still blamed.

Sports took up a lot of my time. I played everything from rugby, cricket, and athletics. At “Saints” I broke Graham Pollock’s record. In standard 9 I went to Jeppe High and I was happier there.

Who was your favourite teacher?

What did you hate about school?

What advice would you give students?

—The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, February, 2001.

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