Sport makes better people – scoring goals both on and off the field, say sporting heroes

Sport and physical education are fundamental to the early development of children and youth – and the skills learned during play, physical education and sport contribute to the holistic development of young people. Through participation in sport, young people learn about the importance of key values such as honestyteamworkfair playrespect for themselves and others, and adherence to rules,” states an article on Australia’s sportanddev.org website titled Healthy development of children and young people through sport. 

The Tsogo Sun Soccer Academy forms part of the group’s far-reaching corporate social investment programme, which is all about the holistic development of children through sport – particularly youngsters from disadvantaged areas – teaching them a range of life skills over and above the fundamentals of being a good player.

April 2014 marks five years of continued commitment to the development of children through the Tsogo Sun Soccer Academy in the Munsieville, Kagiso and Swaneville communities of the West Rand of Johannesburg. Each year, the participation of the 900 youngsters is celebrated during the annual soccer tournaments, which was officially opened from 11 to 13 April at the Lusaka Sports Complex in Swaneville, Mogale City.

The primary objective of the Tsogo Sun Soccer Academy strategy is to provide young South Africans with opportunities to become educated, capable and skilled adults through a holistic approach to education and sport that incorporates life skills development with health and wellness education in the form of workshops within their sporting programmes. At the same time sporting talent and tertiary education opportunities are being identified and developed. The Soccer Academy strategy strongly supports the government’s School Sports Framework for learners by providing extra-curricular activities at school.

The youngsters – some of whom have been a part of the programme since its inception five years ago – have worked hard, shown commitment and balanced their school and extra-curricular activities in order to remain a part of the programme. Students who have persevered in the programme and shown exceptional talent are then selected to be part of Tsogo Sun Soccer Academy talent development team that is currently participating in the Soweto Football Association league.

Various South African sporting heroes and positive role models are deeply involved in the Tsogo Sun Sports Academy and are often on hand during the tournament and league to encourage and impart knowledge on the benefits of sport at school. Among them is international footballer Morgan Gould, who currently plays for Kaizer Chiefs FC, and is delighted to be working with the programme as it gives him an opportunity to give back to the community.

“It is overwhelming to see the impact such a programme makes as an extra-curricular activity in schools, encouraging the boys to develop discipline and camaraderie. This programme teaches a range of skills I wish I understood from a younger age.” Gould says the boys do not only commit to school just to play soccer, “but more importantly they strive to excel at school in order to be part of the programme. Some of the boys may become sporting heroes and some may become lawyers, but it is the Tsogo Sun Soccer Academy that is laying the foundation of fundamental life skills through sport that will allow them to succeed and accomplish better lives.”

Gould advises that involvement in programmes of this nature fosters positive characteristics. “Being involved in a sports programme can only benefit you. You will inadvertently be opened up to learning through your passion and essentially setting yourself up to make better decisions which will ensure your success.”

Bafana Bafana player, Siphiwe Tshabalala is also involved with the Tsogo Sun Soccer Academy and echoes this sentiment, adding, “You must enjoy yourself, but work hard and be disciplined. Listen to the coach and recognise that you are very fortunate to be in such a programme so make the most of every opportunity you are given.”

Lucas Radebe is a world-renowned sporting legend who, over the years, has become an avid supporter of the programme. Radebe played for Kaiser Chiefs, Leeds United and has 70 caps with Bafana Bafana. He is well known, not just for his football career, but also for his ongoing philanthropic work. In 2000 he was the recipient of the coveted FIFA Fair Play Award, which recognises outstanding sporting behaviour or contributions to football off the field.

The story of Radebe’s career is compelling. His advice, unsurprisingly, is holistic:  Remember that skill and flair can only take you so far – it won’t take you all the way. It takes discipline, determination and hard work to become successful. Sport will give you an opportunity to learn these basic principles, which you will then be able to apply in the real world.”

Radebe explains that he had a sound upbringing, with parents who stressed the importance of honesty,hard work and education. However, without support, he would not have been able to apply these principles and develop into the man he is today. “Development programmes such as the Tsogo Sun Soccer Academy provide the framework to ensure youngsters can learn these lessons in a safe environment,” he says.

Radebe also maintains that it is essential for every youth footballer to learn sportsmanship. “Players don’t only have team mates, they have opponents who are playing to win as well. The realisation that the competition is not only against the opposition, but against yourself to be a better player and person, are lessons that are vital not only in sports, but also in life.”

Radebe adds that the lessons learnt during his playing career have stayed with him since he retired in 2004. He remains a ‘football activist’, by participating in several sports and development organisations helping to teach life-lessons, while  coaching and inspiring the youth, primarily in disadvantaged communities throughout South Africa. ”If you provide more young people with opportunities, skills and a positive winning mentality, you will inspire them to achieve,” says Radebe.

This symbiotic relationship between sport and the balanced development of youngsters is highlighted in the sportanddev.org article, which states that sport-based programmes have been shown to improve the learning performance of children and young people, encouraging school attendance and a desire to succeed academically. “For example, a study on sports involvement among children and young people in Namibia has shown that those who participated in sport and physical activity were more likely to pass the Grade 10 examinations,” says Vusi Dlamini, Group HR Director for Tsogo Sun.

“The aim of the Tsogo Sun Sports Programme is not necessarily to create the next big sporting legend. If it does we would be thrilled, but our main objective is to help youth in South Africa by equipping them with the life skills and tools necessary to navigate life and master their future as a responsible, contributing member of society; then Tsogo Sun has achieved its goal,” concludes Dlamini.

For more information on SunCares, visit www.tsogosun.com, you can also join Tsogo Sun on Facebook at TsogoSun or follow @TsogoSun on Twitter.

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