“Real transformation in South African sport will never take place whilst the three fundamental pillars to succeed are missing. Firstly there is a lack of adequate sporting facilities; secondly there is a lack of access to quality sporting equipment and finally there are not enough good and committed coaches.” So says Brad Bing of Sporting Chance, the youth sports development agency that co-ordinates the annual Kellogg’s® Health of the Nation 50-Hour Sports Challenge.
More than 3000 children from disadvantaged communities throughout Gauteng took part in the Challenge held at the Southern Suburbs Recreation Centre in Rosettenville from Friday 15 until Sunday 17 October. Participants ranging from 9 to 13 years of age, kept a ball in motion for an uninterrupted 50 hours to highlight the importance of physical activity in children’s lives.
The Kellogg’s® Health of the Nation 50-Hour Sports Challenge, in association with Sporting Chance, Virgin Active and Kia Charity and Care plus media partners SAfm and Let’s Play, is the largest sporting event of its kind in the country. Children partake in 15 different indoor and outdoor sporting disciplines over the course of the three days.
Bing, who is an avid campaigner for the return of organised physical activity to school curricula, says that the children are exposed to a wide variety of sports during the Challenge including cricket, tennis, hockey (indoor and outdoor), rounders, table tennis, badminton, netball, basketball, soccer (indoor and outdoor), squash and touch rugby.
“For most of the participants it’s a first time experience, many have never seen or held a badminton or squash racquet before,” says Bing. “You’ve got to introduce as many kids as possible to as many different sporting codes as you can. The idea that kids play one sport limits opportunities for children who might not be good at football or cricket, but have talent to play tennis or badminton. The WP Badminton Association for instance, is in partnership with Sporting Chance and if they see a talented youngster they’ll help him or her to have more access to the sport down the line.”
According to Bing the Challenge was originally born as a direct response to the results of the Health of the Nation research findings1, which were released in 2008. The study to investigate the physical fitness levels and lifestyles of South African children revealed that schoolchildren, from all backgrounds across the country showed a tendency towards the onset of obesity, similar to that seen in developed countries more than a decade ago. “It was obvious that South Africa faced a serious task in getting the nation to keep active and participate in physical activity to create a healthy lifestyle,” says Bing.
Two years later, increasing levels of child obesity and physical inactivity as a result of modern lifestyles are high on the global education agenda. Closer to home a study by the University of the Western Cape’s School of Public Health published in the media2 has revealed that of two schools monitored, almost a quarter of the pupils were either overweight or obese. “What’s also worrying,” says Bing, “Is that the study also stated that at least 80% of the learners did not participate in any sport.”
“Up to a certain age, all boys and girls should ideally be exposed to sport. Research has shown you develop your habits by the age of 12. If you’re not playing sport or leading an active and healthy lifestyle by then, the chances are that sport and being physically active will not feature in your adult lifestyle. The Health of the Nation research that we pioneered with Tim Noakes proved that.”
Bing says that over the past four years the Challenge has grown exponentially and is now a two-fold event. “In addition to teaching and showing learners how to be physically active on the field it’s also important to empower South African children to make healthy lifestyle choices off the field. In this light, in the two weeks leading up to the Challenge, Sporting Chance hosts pre-Challenge road shows in selected communities, The sessions address specific social concerns within communities including how to lead an active life; prevent obesity; principles of personal hygiene and nutritional guidance facilitated by Kellogg’s dietitians.”
Many accomplished sportsmen have benefited from the Sporting Chance coaching programmes and events. These include current England international cricketer, Craig Kieswetter, Lions captain, Thami Tsolekile, former rugby Springbok, Neil de Kock; as well as Beijing Olympians, Andrew Cronje and South African hockey captain, Austin Smith and Lloyd Norris Jones. However, creating international sporting stars is not Sporting Chance’s primary aim and all its projects include a life-skills education component, focusing on nutrition, personal goal setting and the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, delivered to the learners in a fun and easy-to-understand manner.
“The prime objective of Sporting Chance is to make sport available to as many children as possible irrespective of race, gender or social class,” says Bing. “Team sports are a great way of teaching children essential skills that can be applied throughout their lives. Sport shows us the beauty of friendship, camaraderie and team spirit and it helps us to deal with the hardships of failure, frustration and disappointment.”
“Health of the Nation is a groundbreaking project that focuses on the importance of physical activity and the positive role it plays in a child’s life,” says Sarah Mansfield, corporate spokesperson for the Kellogg Company of South Africa. Whether at a social or competitive level, it is fundamental in the development of their personality, co-ordination and social development. As a brand, Kellogg understands the importance of creating awareness and supports the work being done by Sporting Chance in encouraging self improvement.”
Kim Webster, CSR Manager for co-sponsor Virgin Active adds, “Virgin Active believes that life’s more fun when you move. And with partnerships like this one with Sporting Chance and our Club V product we can introduce children to movement at a young age and encourage them towards adopting active and healthy lifestyles when they grow older.”
The Kellogg’s® Health of the Nation 50-Hour Sports Challenge is supported by the national Department of Health, the Department of Sport and Recreation, Education and Social Development and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa.
For more information on the Kellogg’s® Health of the Nation 50-hour Sports Challenge, contact Natalie at Sporting Chance on 021 683 7299 or log onto www.sportingchance.co.za