The Transformation Debate – Brad Bing opinion piece

Over the past weeks, since the recent decision by Sports minister Fikile Mbalula to ban sporting bodies from fielding international events until such times as transformation targets are met, there has been a deluge of differing opinions on the advisability, or not, of such a step and it is questionable as to whether a direct attack on the apex of the sporting triangle, will produce the desired result.

Government funding for sports development should be focused on ensuring this goal, starting at grass roots. The lack of multi-racial national sports teams is directly linked to a lack of youth sports development, particularly where the majority of the country’s children do not have access to quality facilities or structured coaching programmes .

Over the past 25 years I have been involved in sports development through the Sporting Chance Development Foundation programmes and I believe that government financial investment needs to focus on long-term planning, something not currently being done.

When South Africa was welcomed back into the international sporting arena in 1992, after being isolated since 1964, the strategy was to take sport to the masses and encourage as many children as possible to participate. Facilities were built throughout South Africa within our communities in order to accommodate the anticipated growth in playing numbers.

Mass participation coaching clinics were run to encourage interest in coaching. Anyone who was interested in becoming a coach had an opportunity to coach children in their area. Unfortunately this failed…

The clinics generated much interest, however, there was usually a once-off coaching session that served nothing more than a public relations exercise. A more focused approach would have lead to sporting success.

Interest from mass participation clinics did not translate into more children participating, as follow-up professional training was not implemented. As a result interest in these clinics decreased.

Facilities that needed to be looked after in order for sport to become more sustainable within the community, were left for each community to maintain, with little or no working budget.

Physical education as a stand alone subject at schools, where children could learn to love an active lifestyle, was replaced with life orientation. This had a massive impact in reducing the number of people who actually play sport or even engage in any form of physical activity. Norms for physical education and lifestyle patterns are established early in life. Therefore a culture of physical activity must be cultivated early.

In light of the current picture in South Africa, transformation has not happened. Where it has, it has not been on the scale we would have hoped for, given a 25 year time frame.

Sporting Chance has, over the years, worked with over 160,000 children and taking talented players to a national level should be a priority. An effective strategy needs to be implemented.

Children need access to adequate facilities, quality equipment and professional coaching structures in order to succeed at the highest level. Thereafter, in order to reach further sporting heights, one needs guidance and mentorship. Access to this process within the Township environment is lacking.

The South African government needs to invest in structures and coaches and then assign them to various community clubs. We need to nurture sporting prowess in schools in communities that actually play sport and have the necessary infrastructure to make this work.

We need to look at sports clubs that are proactive in identifying and able to produce and retain players. This does not mean that we neglect those schools and clubs that are not currently up to standard. They should be encouraged with incentives to become part of the process.

Government investment together with corporate South Africa’s support is vital to the success of real transformation in sport – starting from the ground up.

Due to today’s economic climate, Corporate Social Investment is now decreasing, with no relief in sight and this unfortunately has direct implications for sports development. Some Brands are not seeing the bigger picture, choosing only to back those already at the top, in order to benefit from the exposure that comes with this. However, this is at the expense of creating a winning nation, as they are forgetting about the importance of early development where the foundation for winners is laid. Investing in grassroots is investing in their future markets.

An alliance between Government, big business and communities to ensure sports facilities, structures and coaching is available to all youth could go a long way to addressing this problem.

Brad Bing, managing director of non-profit Sporting Chance Development Foundation

About Sporting Chance

Sporting Chance was started with the prime objective to provide equal opportunities for sporting achievement for as many children as possible, irrespective of race, gender or social class by offering professional coaching.

Over 160,000 children across South Africa are, and have been, involved in its coaching programmes, either through holiday coaching clinics, specialized sport and education projects or through supported schools and sports clubs.

An additional 24,000 children are currently involved in coaching programmes each year and Sporting Chance employs approximately 1,000 part-time coaches.

Its programmes have been extremely successful in identifying and grading potentially talented children without neglecting the concept of ‘offering to a wide cross-section of South Africa’s youth, the opportunity to set and achieve sporting goals’.

4 comments on “The Transformation Debate – Brad Bing opinion piece


    I have had the privilege of my son being involved with Sporting Chance since the early days when my son, after finishing school, also coached the juniors at cricket. More recently a few of my grandsons have been involved with the cricket and hockey coaching from about 5 years of age, one of whom is playing senior cricket while he and another are both playing senior hockey. I fully support the excellent work that Brad and his team have done all this time in so many fields. It would be a good example for others to follow. The parents also need to be supportive as sporting equipment is very costly and should attend their children’s matches, no matter what level they are playing at. Obviously this is not always possible in outlying areas where the conditions are not the best and require more interested coaches, referees, etc,as well as equipment. In years gone by the schools would provide kits for the teams, containing all the necessary requirements, but this no longer happens. Best wishes to all aspiring players!

  • Ken Loots says:

    ‘government financial investment needs to focus on long-term planning,’? Come on Brad, that’s the whole point. They (the government) expect the Whiteys to cough up for sport development while they sit back and critcsise. If Mbalula was really serious about transformation he would do something really positive instead of sitting on his butt waiting for others to do it. I once met a (government) guy at Pollsmoor’s golf driving range and we started chatting. When he told me which department I was involved in I asked him why SA had not yet produced a Black golfer who could hold his own on the world stage. He said it was something that had bothered him for some time and related that at his insistence, his department had invested several thousand rands in purchasing golf clubs, bags, shoes etc which they donated to a Black school in Cape Town in the hope that (maybe) a young Black star would emerge. When they went back to the school a few months later, they found that the kids had never seen the equipment that had been provided. It appeared as if the schools staff had claimed it for themselves. I seriously doubt that Mbalula (or any other government minister) would have probed that incident had they been aware of it (I certainly never saw anything in the news), but it does demonstrate exactly how serious they (the government) are about actually doing something to promote transformation.

  • Mark Wiley says:

    Brad covers the topic well and over the years Sporting Chance have put their money where their mouth is.( Please note Min Mbalula). Many thousands of children have benefitted. The fact of the matter is that transformation is a political directive and money from governement has to follow their policy. As a former sports administrator of some 25 years who has sheparded development athletes to Olympic Games and world championship levels I can assure you that most codes and federations simply do not have the financial, logistic nor coaching capacity to even start development programs – let alone sustain them. Over and above this most federations are solely run by volunteers – former participants, parents etc. Now they are confronted – threatened even, that they have to use both their time and money to embark on exhaustive programs which have to have social welfare and other components of support which one would normally take for granted. Then there is the enormous dropout rate of development athletes. This could be because of living conditions, lack of parental/community support and simply because many of the individuals were ‘dragooned’ into being part of adevelopment program to make up numbers. These all have an effect and certainly a cost.
    I would suggest government rather use more carrot and less stick, celebrate and support success – irrespective ( not with extravagant parties or ceremonies) and incentivise business to invest in the smaller codes by way of tax breaks. The talent is there – the structure is not.

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