‘Sport Elizabeth’ an apt host for Rugby in Africa 2017’s grand finale
Johanna Waide, Port Elizabeth
Since the charity was founded, Bhubesi Pride Foundation has worked with schools in the townships of Port Elizabeth for the final leg of its annual Rugby in Africa expeditions – informal settlements on the city’s fringe where the houses are made mostly from corrugated iron and wooden pallets.
2017 was no exception and, to become acquainted with these areas and learn about Xhosa culture before coaching week began, Pride members went on a township tour with a local expert.
The township guide explained Port Elizabeth is affectionately known by five nicknames – ‘the windy city’, ‘the friendly city’, ‘the ten minute city’ (the time it takes to drive anywhere within metro boundary), ‘the Detroit of South Africa’ (after its booming automotive industry) and, finally ‘Sport Elizabeth’ – because of the city’s love for cricket and rugby.
This prevailing passion for rugby set high expectations for some outstanding coaching sessions and a memorable tournament day with 360 children from four primary schools – Emzomncane, Emsengeni, Isaac Booi and Astra.
For Pride members Iain, Lewis and Floyd, who worked together at Emsengeni Primary, expectations were exceeded when they were welcomed to the school by six students who wanted to volunteer as buddy coaches, as well as take part in coaching sessions. Lewis shared:
“The students were a mix from grades 5, 6 and 7 and had all played in a Bhubesi Pride Foundation tournament before, so were familiar with how the program works. By the end of coaching week, all the student buddy coaches were refereeing games, with Pride members supporting them from the sidelines.
Iain, Floyd and I also led a ‘coach the coaches’ session for them – we set up a classroom to talk through key coaching principles, and did a quiz at the end. Afterwards, all of the students came and shook our hands and thanked us for taking the time to teach them new coaching skills – a great legacy to leave behind.”
G4S South Africa (Port Elizabeth office) employees also performed as buddy coaches during the week, in addition to leading life skills sessions at each school. Pride member Olie, who coached at Astra Primary, was impressed with the way the G4S teams embraced the opportunity to learn as much as possible from the BPF program:
“One of the staff members from G4S, Cameron, had never played rugby before, but by the end of coaching week, she had learnt to do perfect spin passes. Cameron also got involved in drills, and played in practice games of touch to help prepare the children for tournament day.”
Port Elizabeth coaching week in numbers
- Number of participating schools/communities: 3 (Astra, Emsengeni, Emzomncane, Isaac Booi primary schools)
- Number of children coached: 360
- Boys / girls: 69 / 31
- Percentage of children participating in 3 or more sessions: 85%
- Number of participating local coaches: 13
- Number of participating local coaches awarded a BPF buddy coach certificate: 13
On Wednesday, Sebastian completed his final ‘Community Leadership and Values Building Workshop’ for G4S employees. Sebastian said the participants from the Port Elizabeth team were energetic and enthusiastic, which ensured the series of workshops he facilitated over the past five months ended on a high. Sebastian shared:
“Since joining the Pride in February, I’ve had the chance to lead workshops with G4S employees from all across Africa. During this time, I adapted and developed the sessions based on experience, as well as group sizes and the time and facilities available.
So, as well as teaching others new skills, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I feel my presentation skills have improved, and that I’ve really pushed myself to refine the workshops as much as possible. I wanted to ensure G4S employees enjoyed the experience, and that I left the Pride with tools I can use for future roles.”
On tournament day G4S employee, Mario, teamed up with Pride member Alexa to referee a number of games.
Tournament Directors Max and Sebastian ensured the Pride maximised the impressive facilities at Pearson High School, and coordinated two competitions (under 12s and under 16s) for 40 teams, across a mammoth eight pitches.
The Pride’s accommodation was at the lodging for local NGO United Through Sport (UTS) – a long-term BPF partner – which meant a chance for volunteers to spend time with other sports coaches from around the world. Pride members spent afternoons exploring the local area, including a walk along the picturesque Port Elizabeth coastline to see the sunset (where they even saw whales breaching).
The end of Rugby in Africa 2017 meant the Pride said goodbye to seven volunteers – Sofia, Lewis, Sebastian, Iain, Olie, Jo and Alexa. Each departing Pride member shared a few words with the group about their experience – for Alexa, the uniqueness of the expedition is what will stay with her most:
“We can all tell stories and show photos to friends and family back home, but it’s impossible to truly explain what it’s like to be here in Africa, working together to bring rugby to local communities.
We’re volunteers from all different parts of the world who not so long ago had never met – but now we share a unique bond; and that’s really special.”
Pride member Josh, who is carrying on until the end of the Southern Africa Rugby Explorer (SARE) – which officially launches this week in Botswana – said a special thanks to the RiA volunteers for welcoming him and the other new coaches when they arrived in Namibia last month. Josh aims to continue building the positive group culture for the next two months.
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