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Sports Development: Scoring Big


Sports development among rural communities is set to soar, thanks to innovative projects and government funding, reports Gershwin Wanneburg.
Image: Rural Sport Development Programme Image: Rural Sport Development Programme

Michael Modisane sounds as though he’s never been happier. The reason for that is quite simple: water. For several years, Modisane’s community in Rustenburg didn’t have clean drinking water, and the community has been plagued by constant diarrhoea and struck down by high occurrences of colds and flu. But now that’s a thing of the past.

The best part of the new water-filtration system? It comes with a soccer pitch, which has helped keep the learners fit and has boosted their academic performance.

Modisane tells the story of a learner who failed maths last year, but whose grades have now climbed well beyond 40%. “When I asked him what’s changed, he replied: ‘I’ve got clean water and I’m exercising’,” Modisane recounts.

The sports facility and the water came courtesy of a group of Dutch engineers who visited the country during the 2010 Soccer World Cup and were moved by South Africa’s passion for sport and the plight of those who do not have access to clean water.

The result was the GreenSource Sports for Water system, which combines an artificial soccer pitch, known as an astroturf, with water filtration. Moedwil Secondary is now the proud owner of the first ever GreenSource pitch in Africa. Rainwater is stored in crates beneath the pitch, which is then filtered and distributed throughout the school. Trucks deliver the water to the community and the school has several boreholes. This ground-breaking system stores water in crates under the pitch, then filters it and provides about 17 million litres of clean drinking water annually.

“The idea for the project was conceived by the visiting Dutch engineers,” says Corne Theunissen, director of GreenSource. “They also became aware of the growing water problem in the country and engineered an integrated system, which could combine the need for both clean drinking water and sports facilities.”

According to Theunissen, Moedwil Secondary was a natural choice for GreenSource’s pilot project. “Moedwil Secondary was selected for the pilot project based on various factors, including their need for clean drinking water, as there is no running water in the community, as well as sports facilities.”

Government funding drives transformation in sport 

Such projects illustrate why the Department of Sport and Recreation pours hundreds of millions into programmes that focus on sports and community development.

Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula says this kind of development is a key driver of transformation in sport. In May this year, he launched a vital part of that drive when he opened the Rural Sport Development Programme, which forms part of the department’s National Sport and Recreation Plan. The aim of the programme is to develop previously disadvantaged communities. The programme has been funded by a R300-million grant allocation from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and the money is earmarked for building sport and recreation facilities.

Mbalula’s ministry has also been a key supporter of the Sports Trust, a nonprofit organisation that helps various partners, including government and donors, with everything from distributing sporting kits to building facilities.

In 2014/15, the Sports Trust spent R10-million on multipurpose courts intended to expand access to sports. Each multipurpose facility has a 20-year life span, is low maintenance and eco-friendly, says Carol Crawford, marketing and communications manager of the Sports Trust. It also provides lateral forgiveness on players’ joints and has minimal impact. One court can host five sporting codes: five-a-side soccer; netball; basketball; volleyball; and tennis.

“The biggest funders have been Sport and Recreation South Africa, together with our other trustees,” Crawford says. To date, the Sports Trust has installed more than 54 sports courts, at a cost of R1.3-million each, but it requires more funding to reach its target of 226 by 2017. “The multipurpose facilities are placed in disadvantaged schools and communities to create a sporting hub, and to ensure that all South Africans have an opportunity to play sport,” Crawford says.

In 2014/15 the Sports Trust was also involved in projects across a range of sporting codes, including cycling, running, soccer, swimming, rugby, cricket and golf.

Golf development has been one of the greatest success stories of the trust. Since 1999, it has raised more than R22-million through the Sports Trust Golf Challenge. These funds are channelled towards golf development via the SA Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and the South African Disabled Golf Association. In 2014/15, SAGDB received donations totalling R700 000, which was used to buy equipment and kits to help rising star golfers. A few development golfers have already made their presence felt.

SAGDB development golfer Tristan Gallant won the 2015 Nomads South African U-13 Championship at the Fish River Sun Country Club, while two Soweto golfers, Sipho Bujela and Musiwalo Nethunzwe, who progressed through the SAGDB ranks, are currently both professionals playing on the Sunshine Tour.

Running also received a boost in 2014/15, with donations of nearly R300 000 from funds raised during the Comrades Marathon, and a team of four athletes who took on the Unogwaja Challenge biathlon and passed on the proceeds to the Sports Trust. This money will be used to develop runners in KwaZulu-Natal.

Minister Mbalula believes that planting these seeds, particularly in rural areas, will yield the sports stars of tomorrow. “We are increasing the tempo of this buzz word – development – by giving it meaning in rural communities,” he said earlier this year in an interview with radio station Cape Talk.

He later told the SABC that development was essential for transformation in sport. “We are going ahead and are sure that South Africa will see the rewards within the next twenty years.”

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