Pride eyes: Port Elizabeth
- Words: Kyle Dunlop
- Images: Matea Ilieva
- Edited by: Michael Hendricks
Our drive from Bloemfontein to Port Elizabeth, our final stop of Rugby in Africa 2018, saw the group make a 2-night stop at Blancos in Tarkastad, a remote getaway full of activities to try. Matea, Will and Michael went horse riding, while others relaxed with some golf and tennis. Later, everyone got together for a well attended football game against the staff. We played admirably, but came up just short in a sport that thankfully isn’t our area of expertise.
Continuing our way to Port Elizabeth, we arrived at lunch time on Sunday. This week’s accommodation would see us team up with a group of like-minded volunteers at United Through Sport. They welcomed us into their home, fully catered all our meals, and made us feel at ease from day one. It was great spending time with another team much like our own, people doing good in the world through sport.
Monday morning came, and that meant an early start for us to go and visit the four township schools that we would be working with: Emsengeni, Emzomncane, Isaac Booi and Astra Primary. Each of the schools were so enthusiastic about getting started, and the kids, around 120 from each school, were very keen to get playing.
I was based this week at Emsengeni Primary with Olivia and ‘Cheese’ (Will Cheesewright). During orientation, we learned that the current Springboks captain – and recently selected first ever black captain – Siya Kolisi, attended the school as a child. It was amazing to see how that inspired the children; they clearly looked up to him as a sporting idol, and were heavily motivated to play rugby. The rest of the schools had similar experiences, noticing a higher level of rugby know-how than we’ve been used to in months past, setting us up for what would be the perfect way to end Rugby in Africa 2018.
“Playing rugby has really changed my life – from the friends I have to the way I treat everybody, a lot came from rugby.”
Sephisile, student, Emzomncane primary
On Monday afternoon, we had our first opportunity to coach in Port Elizabeth, running a coach education workshop for the teachers at all of our respective schools. The attendance was very encouraging, with the teachers keen not only to coach, but pick up a ball and try to play, all for the very first time. It was a positive experience for everyone involved, as we witnessed a few of the teachers coming out of their shell and fully embracing the workshop, and in so doing, enjoying the game of rugby.
The next day, we began coaching at our schools, where full rosters of eager children lay in wait. Between 9am and 2pm, we were out on the field working with children – 120 in total, from grade 4, 5 and 6. The days were long but extremely rewarding and with the added incentive of finishing strong in our last coaching week, we were determined to go out with a bang! With that in mind, the enthusiasm remained high throughout the week at each school; amazing, considering the tough, busy days for both the children and the coaches.
At the end of the week, tournament day arrived, bringing a slight hint of sadness in the air as a lot of us knew it was our last tournament. Despite that, the excitement to deliver the tournament was set incredibly high from the beginning, meaning whoever had to ‘run the show’ would have to be able to handle the pressure. Step forward tournament directors, Michael and Cheese.
One of the most amazing feelings on this trip has been seeing the way a child’s face lights up with a rugby ball in hand. After all, we know that children we work with experience challenging lives. The time they spend with Bhubesi Pride Foundation gives them a chance to be who they want to be and teaches them about the opportunities within reach when they develop their belief in themselves.
Just as encouraging was the incredible G4S South Africa trainees who provided invaluable assistance to us throughout the week. The trainees by our side at Emsengeni had never played rugby before. By the last day, they were confidently coaching the children themselves and even went out whistle in hand to referee some games at the tournament.
“I wish for the children to blossom and become who they are supposed to be. Whatever their dreams, I would like them to go for it – and become great future leaders through sport!”
Keenan Erasmus, G4S trainee
PE COACHING PROGRAM IN NUMBERS
- Number of participating schools/communities: 4 (Isaac Booi, Emsengeni, Emzomncane, Astra primary schools)
- Number of children coached: 417
- Boys / girl ratio: 54 / 46
- Percentage of children participating in 3 or more sessions: 96%
- Number of participating local coaches: 8
- Number of participating local coaches awarded a BPF coach certificate: 8
It’s mentioned quite a few times in the previous blogs, but the proudest moments for us coaches is seeing the Pride values on display. It’s an overwhelming experience seeing the children truly understand the values and the reason that we heavily encourage them throughout the week.
By the end of the tournament, the children received their medals and goodie bags, listened to some short speeches, and said their goodbyes. Michael and Cheese did the whole team proud with a meticulously planned tournament which ran smoothly, despite eight pitches running consecutively. It was a busy day for all our coaches, each of whom had their own pitch to keep running, but to see it flowing so seamlessly was the ultimate testament to what we’re capable of when we’re firing on all cylinders. The standard has been set high for years to come and, as a group, we’re very proud of what we’ve all been able to accomplish in our time together.
“Every parent as myself would love a child to have fun and to respect one another, but firstly I would teach them that respect starts with yourself. You cannot respect another person if you don’t respect yourself.”
G4S Trainee Manager, Eastern Cape
A final team dinner out was in order on Friday night. Talking about our highlights of the trip seemed to be the theme of the night, as we began to unspool a lifetime of memories from our months on the road, sharing some unbelievable experiences.
To further our reflection, a drive along the Eastern Cape to Jeffrey’s Bay seemed to be a perfect ending. We spent our time relaxing in the sun, watching Finlay, Michael, Mac and Cheese get battered by the waves trying to surf the world-class location. Others settled into comfortable beanbag chairs at a local coffee shop, and once again laughed and shared memories together. Slowly, the realisation of going home started to sink in.
Our final stop took us on a short drive to Storms River. A day trip on the Otter Trail brought one last spectacular sight to see, with huge waves crashing on the rocky shores alongside our path. As the end of our journey together drew nearer, we prepared to deliver our own leaving speeches. Each of us shared heartfelt – and well-improvised – sentiments with our fellow Pride members, providing a fitting end to our experiences as a team.
If there is anything that this journey has taught us, it’s to really grab the opportunities when they present themselves. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Nothing will ever come close to the memories, the friends and the children that I have come across during my time with the Pride, and as I look back on what we’ve done, I’m reminded of the wise words that fellow Scottish coach Finlay Wilson once gave during an inspirational thought for the day: “It’s not the places you go, but the people you’re with.”