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Above: some of the Springboks’ children shared the stage with them during the victory parades held at the start of November. It’s very likely they’ll take part in school sport and you never know … maybe they’ll be among our future sport heroes. Photo: Carin Hardisty.

Q4 2019

School sport can improve learners’ futures

No matter the sport status of the school, they offer their learners the opportunity to play sport and to get coached from a young age, gaining life skills. Thus, schools offering sport provide more than exercise to their learners: they offer a way to improve their future, reports CARIN HARDISTY

Among our Springbok World Cup-winning heroes are examples of the way sport can make a huge impact on the player’s life.

Siya Kolisi, for example, comes from a very poor background and only received the proper nutrition required to grow strong because he’d earned a rugby bursary and he was able to eat properly at the school.

Similarly, life changed for Warrick Gelant, who comes from the poor Hornlee community in Knysna, when he got a bursary to attend Outeniqua High in George.

Historically, the vast majority of all Springbok players have come from only 23 schools, with Grey College and Paul Roos Gymnasium alone contributing almost 10% of the 915 Springbok players to date. But the 2019 World Cup winning Springbok squad shows that the school does not always make the ‘Bok. Only eight of them attended schools that currently fall within the Top 10 schools ranked by their overall rugby teams’ performances for the past season, and several attended schools that aren’t even on the Top 100 list published by the SA Schools Sports magazine.

Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am, for example, come from schools that are not seen as rugby threats to competing schools. They didn’t even get the opportunity to be noticed by talent scouts during Craven Week as their schools don’t feature much — instead, they worked their way up through the Currie Cup first division and by playing for the Southern Kings.

Similarly, Pieter-Steph du Toit, the IRB World Player of the Year, attended rural Swartland High school — hardly the first place recruiters might turn to to find new talent.

Sports Trader contacted schools about what team sports they offer their learners, if this selection has changed over time and, if it did, what contributed towards the changes.

Tradition dominates boys’ sports

Rugby is currently the boys’ sport offered by the majority of our respondents (71%): 77% of all responding high schools indicated that they offer rugby, as do just under two thirds (63%) of all primary schools. A third of the schools that offer the sport are high schools.

Close to a quarter of the high schools that offer the sport indicated increased rugby participation over the past five years, as did 38% of primary schools.

Interestingly, there are also some schools that offer rugby for girls: 13% of all responding primary schools and 8% of all the high schools offer girls the opportunity to play the sport.

Soccer is the boys’ sport that is offered by the second highest percentage (62%) of all respondents, with half of all primary school and 69% of all high school respondents indicating that they offer soccer.

Additionally, 15% of the high schools that now offer soccer didn’t do so a few years ago.

Netball offered by most schools

Not only is netball the girls’ team sport that’s offered by the most by our respondents (81%), it’s also the sport that’s offered the most among all the team sports we asked about.

All of the primary schools that responded offer netball, while 69% of the high schools offer the sport. Of the respondents that currently offer netball, 47% indicated that there has been an increase in interest over the past five years.

More hockey offered to girls

Among all of our respondents, more offer hockey for girls (62%) than they do for boys (52%).

Hockey is the sport offered by the second most respondents as a sport for girls. As comparison: the same percentage of respondents offer girls’ hockey as a sport as those who have boys’ soccer teams.

Just under two thirds of all high school respondents offer hockey for both genders, but at primary school level girls’ hockey is offered by 63% of respondents vs the 38% that have boys’ teams.

Of the respondents that offer hockey, 76% have girls’ teams and 65% have teams for boys. Additionally, among these respondents, 47% report that there has been a growth in interest among girls wanting to play the sport while 29% indicated an increased interest among boys.

The interest in hockey increased “dramatically with the massive development of astroturfs for boys hockey,” an anonymous responder indicated. “On astro the sport offers everything boys like: speed, challenging high skill sets, adrenaline and immediate satisfaction of good execution. Hockey on grass was very boring for boys.”

Girls’ soccer on the up

Overall, soccer is the second highest boys’ sport offered by respondents (62%), but more than half of the responding schools have teams for girls.

In fact, at primary school level, girls’ soccer is the sport offered by the second highest percentage of respondents, and only half of primary school respondents have boy soccer teams.

A quarter of the respondents indicated that there has been increased interest from both genders to play the sport over the past couple of years, and 13% indicated that they now offer soccer for girls, but didn’t five years ago.

When considering only primary school respondents that offer soccer, all of them indicated that they have girls teams and 80% teams for boys.

Overall, high school responses tell a completely different story: only 54% have teams for girls and instead a higher percentage (69%) has boys’ teams, which is also the sport that is offered by the second highest percentage of high school respondents.

Respondents indicated that there is a growing interest from both genders in playing soccer — 15% added that they now offer soccer for boys, but didn’t five years ago.

When only the high schools that offer soccer are taken into account, 70% of the teams are girls’ teams and 90% teams for boys. There has been a slight decrease in interest among girls, indicate 10% of these respondents, but 30% also say girls have shown increased interest.

There is definitely growth overall at schools that offer soccer, as 13% indicate they now offer soccer for boys and 7% for girls where they hadn’t before, which is a good sign.

In South Africa, basketball might not be seen as a traditional school team sport, but 38% of all school respondents currently offer it as a sport for boys and 19% for girls. At high school level, 54% offer the sport for boys and 23% for girls.

“As a school we are trying to cater for more sporting codes, especially in summer and thus the offering of basketball and soccer,” says an anonymous respondent whose school didn’t offer basketball five years ago, but does now, and reports increased interest in the sport.

Another anonymous respondent points out that there has been a change in demographics at the school, which has led to an increased interest in both basketball and soccer developing over the past few years.

Of the schools that offer basketball, 73% offer the sport for boys and 36% for girls. Additionally, almost all of these respondents have seen increased interest from learners who are eager to play the sport and 45% now offer basketball as a school sport where they didn’t five years ago.

One of the reasons is increased exposure to the sport, say some of the respondents. “Basketball is a more popular sport due to global interest,” explains Graeme Wepener of South African College (SACS) High School.

Water polo niche

Of all respondents, 48% offer water polo: a third have boys’ teams and 14% have girls’ teams.

The sport has also seen a 10% increase in interest from learners, especially in boys’ teams. “Water polo takes less time than cricket,” Wepener points out.

Water polo also tends to be a sport that only richer schools can offer as the pool has very specific specifications (it has to be deep enough so that players have to tread water and can’t stand in the shallow end) and the caps and swimming costumes come with a cost as they are also specialised.

Facilities and maintenance

Talking about difficult playing areas: 5% of respondents indicated that over the past five years they have had to stop offering some of their sports because they weren’t able to keep up with maintenance.

Then there’s also the problem of equipment: 10% said they weren’t able to offer the sports anymore due to a lack of equipment.

Two thirds of all responding schools, however, currently do provide sport equipment of various types for their teams. Just over 42% of respondents, for example, buy equipment for their schools’ boys’ and girls’ soccer teams. A quarter of respondents also buy equipment for their rugby teams. This is mostly balls, but other items mentioned include tackle shields and practice equipment.

When it comes to hockey, a third of respondents buy equipment for their girls’ and boys’ teams. Some also supply hockey sticks and shin pads that learners can use to practice in if they have forgotten their own, but it is expected that the learners provide their own equipment.

Only 10% of respondents don’t provide any sport equipment for their learners to use.

Influence to play sport

Indeed, 29% of respondents agree with Wepener that an increased exposure to the sport drives their learners’ interest in it.

Not only do learners get to see their national teams on television or in stadiums, if they’re lucky, but local events such as the Varsity tournaments are slowly being introduced to our television channels as well and offer exciting viewing.

Additionally, 10% of respondents indicated that the performance of our national teams also affect how interested (or not) the learners are in that specific sport.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup win is sure to leave an impact in learners’ memories.

And perhaps our netball Proteas’ performance is also impressing youngsters: at the time of going to press our national team was ranked #5 in the world (the highest ranked Africa team). Additionally, we are the 2019 Africa Netball Cup champions, achieved fourth place at this year’s Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England, and the 2023 World Cup will be played on home soil, which will have netball lovers in the country abuzz — especially in the host city of Cape Town.

Banyana Banyana, our ladies’ soccer team is also outperforming the men, ranked #55 on FIFA’s world ranking, while Bafana Bafana is ranked #72.

Coaches have impact

There are parents who like to give coaches hell next to the field during matches, but they forget that if these coaches weren’t there, their children might not have a team to play in or a sport to practice.

A third of all respondents indicated that they now have better coaches than they had before (so more interest). In fact, 48% of respondents indicated that they started offering new sports at their schools due to a new coach promoting the sport.

Other factors cited for introducing new sports are that learners and parents specifically asked for the it (14% of respondents), and 5% now offer new sports thanks to sponsorship from companies.

None indicated that extra funding from the government had led to them introducing a new sport at their schools.

Some schools (14%), however, now have fewer coaches, which is hindering participation in certain sports at their schools. A quarter of respondents even had to stop offering some sports due to a lack of available coaches.

Demands on learners

Almost two thirds (62%) of respondents said the increased demands on learners’ time plays a role in the amount of interest in sport. It’s especially at high school level that this is a problem — 69% of respondents that indicated that learners have a tough time coping are from high schools.

A lack of interest from learners in certain sports is one reason that 14% of all respondents indicated why they no longer offer the sporting code.

Additionally, “there seems to be a move towards individual sport choices like ballet, gymnastics and synchronized swimming rather than team sport,” adds an anonymous respondent.

“Reasons can be the climate change (drastic changes in temperature), parents do not want to be involved at school activities over weekends and the influence of quotas in team selection at provincial and national level.”

In addition to the normal academic pressure, 29% of respondents also indicated that the parents at their schools often can’t afford the required clothing, footwear and/or equipment that the learners need to participate.

Perhaps, as the new generations of learners pass through the school system, learning their skills and making the best of offered opportunities, some of these worries will be eased for future families.

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