My name is Dean Elgar, and I am a product of St Dominic’s, in Welkom. School sport for me was a massive part of my development. I tried to play as many sports as possible but, at the age of 16, I had to specialise. I played cricket and squash, and the sheer volume of time that those two required meant that I had no time for anything else. Squash was my winter sport, and I would spend five hours a day playing it. Cricket was always a minimum of two hours a day in summer, so there just wasn’t time for anything else!
I was very lucky to get a bursary to go to St Dominic’s, because there was no way that my parents could afford to send me to a school of that caliber. I worked very hard to get it, and had to work even harder to keep it. But I do believe in the bursary system, because it is the best way for people who have talent to get somewhere. Bursaries give the opportunity to make yourself better, and also to hopefully make your school’s results better.
I spent 11 years at the same school, but the transition from the junior school to the high school was massive! I was the shortest guy in our grade and I just remember our skivvy master being this huge guy with big muscles. You really felt like a little fish in a huge pond again but, over time, I actually became friends with him.
I had a couple of nicknames while I was at school. I suppose every Dean gets called Deabno, but one of my friends started calling me The Elg. That one has stuck to this day.
I must also add that, for a while, I was bullied at school. It is something that sadly happens. As one of the smaller kids, I guess I was a bit of a target. I’m glad to say that I worked through that, and I’m actually friends with those guys who were bullying me at that point. It’s funny how life works out, but I’m glad we worked it out.
There were a few traditions at our school, such as initiation into high school and into the first team. But they were never about belittling someone who was coming in. It was more about making them feel welcome and a part of something bigger.
If I could go back to my school days, I definitely would! We had such great opportunities to play sports and go on tours around our fantastic country. I would definitely appreciate those experiences more, because they were awesome times. As a professional cricketer, we spend a lot of time travelling, but there really is no place like South Africa.
As a kid in class, I must admit that I wasn’t necessarily an A student. In fact, I was easily distracted by the noises outside – and those tended to revolve around sport!
My favourite coach at school is someone who took me under his wing, and actually made me a part of his family. Mr Louis Klopper is someone very dear to my heart. I played sport with his sons, and so I basically became a part of his family. He had a fantastic way of encouraging you to go out and express your talent. That is something I have always taken with me.
Playing for St Dominic’s was special, and Mondays after a big win on the Saturday were awesome. The headmaster was a sports nut, so he would always make a point of making things special for any team or individual that had performed well. He did that for each sporting code, and it was something to look forward to. We were not the biggest school, but we took our sport seriously, and we were proud to represent the school.
I do recall our school song, too. But I definitely can’t sing the whole thing! There have been a few songs over the years, but one was a constant. I know that the first line of our song was ‘There’s a school we love, so real, so real!’. The rest will come back to me…
I still have a lot of friends from my school days. Even though it’s tricky to see each other, we do speak on various social media platforms.
When I look at this new streaming venture with Supersport Schools, I think it would have been awesome to have had that opportunity growing up. To be able to go back and watch your matches gives you the chance to learn more about your game, and improve as a player.
Given the amount of travel that we have as professional sportsmen, I haven’t been able to go back to the school as much as I would have liked. I think I’ve been back twice, but I’ve been invited to a few events where I was just out of the country at the time. It’s definitely something that I want to do more of once I am done playing, and I have the time. St Dominic’s gave me the opportunity to go to great places through sport, and even being a pupil there is something that I am really grateful for.
I was obviously lucky enough to eventually play and now captain my country, and I would like to think that the school and the coaches know that they played their part in that journey.
I do also know that there is a Dean Elgar billboard at the school, so I think that means they are proud of what I became too!