Nurturing the talent
Many people know South West Academy of Sport chief executive Bernice Butlion as a passionate, hardworking sports administrator who dedicates her time towards preparing our region’s young athletes for careers in sport.
However, many may be unaware at her other creative talents — horticulture, art and cooking — all of which she holds close to her personal identity.
“I’ve always loved natural sciences,” Bernice said.
“I loved gardening so that is how my love of horticulture developed.
“I completed both a diploma and a degree in horticulture.
“I worked in a nursery and I also worked on a kibbutz in Israel — working mainly in the nursery which I did for six months.
“My other passion is art.
“I’m an artist and I paint with oils. Mainly contemporary stuff but I alternate it with my sport.
“Anything to do with arts and crafts, I love. That’s my escape and what I do during my downtime.”
All passions centre around attention to detail, discipline and creativity, which are paramount to Bernice’s role with SWAS.
“It’s like growing everything from a seed,” Bernice said.
“You water it, you nurture it and you see it develop. I think you can make the same co-relation with sport as it is very much the same.
“Very much what you put into it is what you get out if it. If you nurture and you look after it — along with doing all the right things — then you reap the awards afterwards.
“And if you don’t take good care, then you see it perish, so it’s a simple analogy.”
Born and raised in South Africa, Bernice has witnessed firsthand the importance that sport plays in helping people of different backgrounds and social economic statuses fulfil their potential.
It is these experiences and eyewitnessed situations which fuels a degree of her passion to provide high-performance sport to a diverse range of athletes throughout the South West.
“Coming from South Africa, we didn’t have a lot of opportunities,” Bernice said.
“A lot of athletes couldn’t really achieve what they wanted to in their sport. I suppose where I was based in South Africa (East Cape), there were a lot of disadvantaged athletes.
“They had nothing — although some of them still went on to succeed through adversity, still competed and succeeded despite not having any support in their home environments.
“So I think I have a real connection about seeing where they go from using this tool, which we call sport.
“And watching their journey is what I think is the most exciting part. If they succeed, it is even sweeter, but it’s so rewarding. And I think people saw the fruits of our labour on Friday night.”
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