By OVAYO MILISA NOVUKELA
The Eastern Cape is home to many talented young sportspeople. Still, this talent can often not be identified, nurtured, or taken further due to a lack of infrastructure and facilities.
The Young Warriors Cricket Development Programme was launched at Kingswood College on Wednesday, 16 February. It partners three local primary schools (George Dickerson, St Mary’s and Grahamstown Primary), Kingswood, the Rhodes University HKE (Human Kinetics & Ergonomics) Dept and the Rhodes Community Engagement Office (RUCE), as well as the Gary Kirsten Foundation.
The programme focuses on young children, offering them the opportunity to learn fundamental skills, get physically fit and have fun. And it may even allow them to one day join teams like The Warriors or the likes of Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Keegan Petersen and Lutho Sipamla in the Proteas squad.
Kingswood cricket coach Andrew Birch, who had been eager to find ways to give back to the community of Makhanda, said the programme would grow players and coaches through free online lessons by the Gary Kirsten Foundation. The programme is currently recruiting and training local coaches from the three schools.
In the development of players, not only will talented young individuals be identified, but as many children as possible will be encouraged to play. The Rhodes Human Kinetics and Ergonomics Department, under the knowledgeable leadership of Prof Candice Christie, will be implementing a programme of physical exercise, strengthening and conditioning with the primary school pupils as part of a service-learning programme. Students from the HKE Dept will also be involved in researching aspects of the programme.
Birch encourage funders to support the programme. “The more funders, the more children can be recruited to the programme.”
Birch added that Grahamstown Primary and George Dickerson have requested that they have a match before the end of the season, and he looks forward to welcoming them to their facilities at Kingswood.
“The main reason we are here is to bring a little spark back to the children of Makhanda,” he said.
In her overview of the project, Diana Hornby, director of Rhodes University Community Engagement, said, “We can choose to start working together to establish little pockets of excellence that will contribute to shaping a new society where all will prosper.”
“Kingswood College has for several years believed in partnering with the local community to effect change and development for everyone, including its pupils. Therefore, this latest initiative also includes a strong element of student leadership development.”
With regard to facilities and infrastructure, the aim is initially to install cricket nets and bowling equipment at one of the primary schools for all three schools to utilise on a rotational basis. This, together with cricket kit for the young players, is probably the most expensive part of the programme. Still, it is not holding back the other elements already underway.
As Gerard Jacobs, Principal of St Mary’s Primary School, said, “We will probably never be able to level the playing fields, but at least a lot more of our children can have decent facilities, good coaching and a chance to shine.”