Launch of sports programme brings new life to school sports in the Karoo

Hundreds of youngsters from the communities of Blue Crane Route Municipality and the neighbouring Bedford and Adelaide towns had an opportunity to showcase their love for physical activity and sporting talent at a winter holiday sports programme for schools hosted by the recently launched school sports programme, PlayerNation.

PlayerNation, an initiative developed by the Institute of Sport partnering with Exxaro as the first founder partner, through its renewable energy business Cennergi, aims to revitalise sports in schools in the Karoo and eventually in the whole of the Eastern Cape. Both organisations, in collaboration with the Department of Sport and Department of Basic Education, are intentional about fostering sports participation and promoting whole-school development and youth nurturing where academic performance and participation of the school in extra-mural activities are equally important.

PlayerNation was designed to become the ultimate schools sport programme for 28 000 schools in South Africa. The two events which took place in July in Bedford, attracted an overwhelming number of more than 1 000 young people, boys, and girls, from various communities in Somerset-East, Cookhouse, Bedford and Adelaide, as well as hundreds of community members who came to watch. Organisers at WG Olivier Primary School in Somerset-East said they planned to host just 90 youngsters and were taken by surprise when more than 500 young people showed up.

One of the indigenous games played involved ropes

The youngsters from Bedford and Adelaide kept the momentum when they also pitched up in their hundreds for the second event which took place at Templeton High School in Bedford.

Cennergi’s Economic Development and Community Programmes Coordinator in Amakhala Emoyeni Windfarm Mr Simphiwe Mbenya said, “Our objective has always been to see a positive future for the youth through our economic development initiatives. Supporting these communities in sports development has always been expressed strongly when we are having stakeholder engagements. With the support from our shareholders and other potential partners, we can really do more to close the gap and thereby we can see harmony and economically vibrant communities.”

“Seeing PlayerNation come to life is exciting, particularly so, because this is a long-term project that will not only revitalise sports in schools, but also have a positive impact on communities. For us to see hundreds of young people filling the sports facilities to compete with one another and their family members coming to give them support, affirms the objectives of this programme to revive sports in schools, while also investing in communities.”

Local ward councillor, Lorraine Smith-Johnson said an event of this nature is crucial in bringing the young people together.

“I am very passionate about sports because it brings people together. Our youth is falling into drugs and into all sorts of crimes because crime in our communities is horrible, but we can bring them to play together through sports,” said Smith-Johnson.

Yolanda Rachabedi, Project Manager at the Institute of Sport said, “Our passion is to bring children back to sports, and that is why we launched PlayerNation. We want to have more passion and more sport because we know that people who are passionate about what they do, tend to be people who have more positive outlook on life, have greater self-esteem and can overcome difficulty through problem-solving.”

She said that it was for this reason that they have partnered with Exxaro’s Cennergi and the schools in the Karoo, to give schools a sense of pride and belonging and youngsters a place to belong on and off the sports fields.

“The winter holiday sports programme is just the beginning of what’s to come in the region. PlayerNation will roll out in phases, which will include the development of a sport promoting culture in schools, training of coaches, sport organisers, the development of leagues, and inter-and-intra school festivals, competitions, and championships,” said Rachabedi.

“We are developing active young people, schools and a new class of champions that will massively increase sports participation in schools, getting young people involved in positive lifestyle activities, and helping them showcase their love for healthy physical activity and their sporting prowess.”

Rachabedi said that on the fields, the youngsters wasted no time in tackling each other. Some of the boys got down and dirty, in the wet and muddy rugby field at Somerset-East, while others showed their soccer skills in dribbling, passing the ball to each other, marking, and defending on the soccer pitch.

She further said that the girls played competitive netball while indigenous games attracted mixed participants.

Indigenous game coordinator Sibulele Magwa said that these types of games are very important as they don’t require practice but quick learning.

She said that they also help young people to bond with each other.

Netball player Lisakhanya Lawrence who was representing the netball team from Somerset-East said activities like sport keep the youth from the streets and mixing with wrong crowds.

“Drugs among the youth is very high in Somerset East, but when we play games like these we stay out of drugs and become active in sports. My team has played against three different teams, we have been struggling but we are not giving up on netball because we love it,” said Lawrence.

The Cookhouse team coordinator, Lucky Kwatsha said that these games have laid a platform that will take the youngsters out of the streets and onto the playing fields.

“We want to see the sports back in the schools and communities. We grew up playing competitive sports after school and we had tournaments on weekends. These games show us that this is still possible if we put more effort into it. We don’t need a lot of effort because these youngsters are eager to participate,” said Kwatsha.

On both sports days, all participants were winners and overall champions were awarded medals.

Cennergi described the event as part of its activities linked to Mandela Day, which celebrates the birthday celebrations of the struggle icon and the first democratic president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

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