By Barry Hendricks,
President of the Gauteng Sports Confederation
This article first appeared in City Press on 11 October 2015
The resolutions taken at the recent national sports conference held in Mangaung will go a long way towards accelerating sports development in the country.
The first of its kind, the conference brought together SASCOC along with national and provincial government and sports federations and most significantly the SA Local Government Association, representing municipalities.
The objectives were to develop plans to implement and monitor sport programmes, and to provide the “tools to the sports movement at all levels and agencies to act professionally and effectively to deliver high performance teams with districts identifying athletes in preparation and support to form part of Team South Africa in the next 2020/2024 Olympics”.
The anchor of all the work the sports fraternity is concerned with is the resolution to: “Perform our constitutional mandates in support of the development of an active and winning nation through the provision of sport facilities, availing of resources and support towards the development of our people.”
The conference was held in the context of challenges of sport development being hindered by the continuing exclusion of the majority of South Africans from development opportunities as a legacy of the past.
The key resolutions of the conference certainly created an inclusive platform from which we can more effectively tackle the most serious challenges facing development. The inclusion of local government is paramount as it is potentially the enabler which will create an able environment for the implementation of funding for sports programmes and equipment.
Utilising the expertise available in national federations, existing structures will be strengthened “to be functional at all levels of the sport and recreation continuum, from ward to national level”. It is vital that all sectors work together towards the collective delivery of the ideals of the White Paper on Sport and Recreation; the National Sport Recreation Plan as well as the National Development Plan.
The conference has provided the sports fraternity with a platform to share information and resources; plan together and promote the work of one another towards the upliftment of communities though sports participation.
While the platform has been created it won’t be an easy task due to sizeable challenges.
We need to get young people interested in sport as there has been a significant drop in participation. Tools such as social media can be used to effectively promote sport development and high performance programmes with a view of attracting more communities and funding. Every second child in high school has a cell phone and they have and the sports community needs to be tapping into that medium to try and get more people aware of sport and attracting new people.
Sports remains skewed in the favour of men and those who can afford to participate and have access to facilities. Development must take the lead in removing racism and any forms of discrimination against women, and the disabled in all sectors of sport and recreation. Sport must be seen to be proactive, sport for is for everyone, regardless of race or gender or disability.
The lack of teachers to implement programmes at schools is another challenge. There is a national memorandum of understanding and it is fundamental that sports and physical activity must take place at school. Physical education should be part of the curriculum. A programme should take place after school and while academics must come first, we have to find a way to make sure teachers implement physical education.
Another aspect that needs intervention is the provision of education and training programmes free of charge. Because nothing is free from petrol to get there to the equipment required, there needs to be support from the national lottery, government and the corporate sector. There is a need to up skill communities in how to administer effective and sustainable clubs, competitions, leagues and programmes.
The biggest challenge is the lack of facilities, funding and equipment, which is why local government plays such a vital part of the puzzle. The vast majority of disadvantaged communities and schools simply do not have adequate facilities to inspire sports participation or to service those who do participate. The best facilities are available in the suburbs and at private schools. Significant financial investment and political will is needed to correct the imbalance.
However, the lack of resources must not be used as an excuse for not implementing the resolutions of the conference. We might not be able to afford to build a stadium but we could level an open field. You don’t need wonderful facilities to play chess or morabaraba or tennis. If you have a rope, you can get people to play games. There are ways to get adults and children to be physically active.
The coup in getting SALGA on board cannot be underestimated. It is vital that municipalities assist in promoting sports through memoranda of agreement so that local and community structures can access funding to run programmes at even the smallest levels of political demarcation – wards and municipalities. Each ward should have schools and clubs participating in structured programmes and competitions. This way we reach the grass roots where opportunities and resources are most needed.
SPORT IN THE CONTEXT OF NATIONAL PRIORITIES
As a developing country, South Africa’s emphasis is on providing housing, roads, schools and the like. It is difficult to prioritise sports in that context. Yet the resurrection of community sport cannot be underestimated due to its potential to address the transformation agenda of our country. Sport can also achieve miracles in social change such as reducing high levels of crime and substance abuse among others.
Yes, people these days are more dispersed. Busses take children away early in the morning, and they no longer go to the local school. Suburbs are closed off because of security. That does not stop us being innovative in our planning – for example using weekends to run programmes.
Take the Egoli Squash programme – people used to say black people don’t know how to play squash. Now if you visit Gazankulu High School in Soweto or the University of Joburg you’ll find thousands of black African kids participating. At the Gauteng Sports Confederation we have achieved much in terms of promoting the access to sports in previously disadvantaged communities across the province and improving facilities.
We have seen that if you do intervene, even in a small way, you can change people’s lives. In this context, the implementation of the resolutions made at the SASCOC national conference might just prove to be the catalyst to driving sports development that benefits all South Africans. In the process we will unearth the next generation of Olympics champions and World Cup stars.