Sport: the kick-off to suc­cess

Schools tri­umph against ad­ver­sity, but bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties are still vi­tal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - METRO - CHELSEA GEACH [email protected]

SCHOOL sports are an es­sen­tial part of a child’s devel­op­ment and lay the foun­da­tion for South Africa to achieve in­ter­na­tional sport­ing ex­cel­lence. How­ever, roughly 34% of schools in the West­ern Cape may have no ac­cess to a field.

Spring­bok cap­tain Siya Kolisi came un­der heavy fire this week for com­ments he made when point­ing out the dif­fer­ent lev­els of sup­port for bud­ding sports stars, depend­ing on which school they went to.

“Imag­ine if I did not go to an English school. I wouldn’t have been eat­ing prop­erly, I wouldn’t have grown prop­erly and I wouldn’t have had the prepa­ra­tion that the other boys did,” he said in an in­ter­view with Ja­panese me­dia.

While pupils diet at dif­fer­ent schools is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine, the con­di­tion of sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties be­tween dif­fer­ent in­come level schools is stark – and many schools do not have any ac­cess to sports fields at all.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 sur­vey, 66% of West­ern Cape high and pri­mary schools had ac­cess to a sports field. Out of the 1 454 schools, 959 said they did have ac­cess to a sports field, while 495 said they did not.

This was the most re­cent in­for­ma­tion the West­ern Cape Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment (WCED) was able to pro­vide and is po­ten­tially in­ac­cu­rate be­cause schools may have in­ter­preted the ques­tion dif­fer­ently, ac­cord­ing to spokes­woman Mil­li­cent Mer­ton.

One school known for sport­ing ex­cel­lence, despite min­i­mal re­sources, is Mon­dale High School in Port­lands, Mitchells Plain.

The school’s sports co-or­di­na­tor, Val­hatiem Ray­nard, said his young stars suc­ceeded despite not hav­ing ac­cess to pris­tine tracks and fields.

“We don’t even have proper grass re­ally,” Ray­nard said. “We’ve got such a lot of pro­fes­sional soc­cer play­ers com­ing from our school, but we don’t have a soc­cer field. Last year we were crowned the Su­per A cham­pi­ons for ath­let­ics – yet we don’t even have a field that we train on.”

It’s up to the teach­ers to spot kids with po­ten­tial and give them the chance to thrive.

“Teach­ers play such a vi­tal role in the devel­op­ment of chil­dren and their sport­ing abil­i­ties,” he said. “We try take them to the Bel­lville Sta­dium to train. We put in a lot of ex­tra ef­fort. It’s very dif­fi­cult to even get a pro­fes­sional coach into our area, be­cause there’s the stigma of Mitchells Plain.”

Ray­nard also said it’s risky for chil­dren to stay late af­ter school for train­ing, when they may not have trans­port home and could fall vic­tim to crim­i­nals.

“It’s dan­ger­ous for the kids to be around af­ter hours, so that also takes the time away from want­ing to train,” he said. “At the af­flu­ent schools, it’s no prob­lem for kids to stay un­til 6 o’clock for train­ing.”

The dis­ci­pline and am­bi­tion dis­played by Mon­dale’s young sports stars also re­flects in the class­room. Ray­nard said the school achieved a 100% pass rate out of 254 ma­tric­u­lants in the 2018 class.

“The fact that they are achiev­ing what they are achiev­ing, with the cir­cum­stances and fa­cil­i­ties they have, is ac­tu­ally a mir­a­cle,” Ray­nard said.

Mon­dale offers soc­cer, ath­let­ics, net­ball, chess and ta­ble ten­nis – with cricket start­ing up again this year.

“We are re­ally try­ing the best with what we have. If fa­cil­i­ties would be im­proved at most schools, our sport­ing achieve­ment through­out our coun­try would im­prove. If you want an Olympic 100m cham­pion one day, you need to find kids at grass­roots and make sure the fa­cil­i­ties are there for them.”

Proteas crick­eter JP Du­miny has ded­i­cated him­self to im­prov­ing crick­et­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren in Mitchells Plain and Strand­fontein through the JP21 Foun­da­tion.

“In­fra­struc­ture for any sport or­gan­i­sa­tion is a cru­cial part of suc­cess, so if we are able to pro­vide that for up-and-com­ing young­sters in any sport­ing code, that can only stand them in good stead for an out­stand­ing ca­reer,” Du­miny said.

Good grass­roots ac­cess will trans­late to ex­cel­lence at a na­tional level.

“It comes down to ex­po­sure,” he said. “If young kids are ex­posed to top level in­fra­struc­ture and op­por­tu­nity, you’re go­ing to have an in­flux of kids with ex­treme tal­ent com­ing through to the top lev­els.”

Sports are a cru­cial part of help­ing a child de­velop in ev­ery way, ac­cord­ing to sports sci­en­tist Caylee Cook, and have reper­cus­sions through to re­la­tion­ships in adult­hood. Cook is do­ing a PhD in ex­er­cise sci­ence, fo­cus­ing on early child­hood ac­tiv­ity.

“Phys­i­cally, it de­vel­ops mo­tor skills and fit­ness, a healthy body and bones. It also gives social emo­tional ben­e­fits, as learn­ing to in­ter­act with team mem­bers teaches chil­dren to reg­u­late their emo­tions,” Cook said.

“Sports also very much ben­e­fit a child’s cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment and their per­for­mance at school aca­dem­i­cally.”

When chil­dren don’t have ac­cess to sports at school level, Cook said, they never learn the joy that comes from play­ing sports and never con­sider them as a ca­reer.

“You also see they’re of­ten get­ting in­volved in things that might not be pos­i­tive – seden­tary be­hav­iours like too much time watch­ing TV or on an iPad or they could be get­ting in­volved in things that aren’t safe.”

Mer­ton said the depart­ment funds an af­ter-school pro­gramme to make sure un­der­served young­sters have ac­cess to sport and other ac­tiv­i­ties in the af­ter­noons.

“The Mass par­tic­i­pa­tion, Op­por­tu­nity and ac­cess, Devel­op­ment and growth (MOD) pro­gramme pro­vides school-go­ing youth with ac­cess to var­i­ous fun-filled, play-based and mod­i­fied ac­tiv­i­ties in recre­ation and sport, as well as in arts and cul­ture, on a daily ba­sis,” Mer­ton said.

“There are cur­rently 181 MOD cen­tres across the province that pro­vide sport and recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties to over 40 000 reg­is­tered par­tic­i­pants from dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties and un­der­served schools.”

African News Agency (ANA)

The soc­cer ground at Bu­lumko High School in Khayelit­sha con­trasts poorly with the ar­ti­fi­cial turf at Bish­ops High School. AYANDA NDAMANE|

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