Sporting Chance, as the name suggests, is a sports development agency that gives children from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to participate in sport while also receiving a physical education.
One of the organisation’s more important goals was to instil an active life pattern, said founder and managing director Brad Bing. He was speaking at a Play Your Part Rugby Activation held at Khayelitsha Rugby Stadium in Cape Town on 2 October. “What you need is to create life patterns by the age of 12. You don’t just wake up on your 14th birthday and say, ‘Tomorrow I’m going to play squash.’ Your kids are going to grow up following that and that’s the culture we need to have.”
Sporting Chance helped Play Your Part facilitate the activation in Khayelitsha, bringing along rugby coaches and experts to train the children.
With calypso cricket and street soccer programmes their mainstay, Sporting Chance is taking sport to the children. “Basically we never make plans. All we do is facilitate the opportunity and these kids have got to grab the opportunity themselves,” said Bing.
Bing himself has been active all his life. He played cricket professionally for Western Province in the late 1980s and played in England for 10 years. After he retired, he returned to South Africa with the idea of getting children outside and playing sport.
“I came back with international ideas to South Africa and if you remember correctly in the 1980s it was the height of apartheid and the height of the struggle. Not many people understood the ideas I was talking about. Out of pure frustration, in September 1990 I said: ‘That’s it, I’m going to start my own company.'”
And 25 years later, the organisation is still moving strongly. It has worked with about 170 000 children, some of whom have gone on to represent South Africa at the highest level. According to Bing, these include six members of the national men’s hockey side and cricket player Herschelle Gibbs.
However, he insists that the organisation’s job is not to produce international level talent but to get children to play sport, lead a healthy lifestyle and receive mentorship from experienced coaches.
MENTORSHIP IS CRUCIAL
Bing’s cricket career would not have bloomed had he not received mentorship from teachers, coaches, fellow players and his father. “On a Saturday morning, when my dad or my mom took me to play cricket, they sat there and watched me. And my father would say to me: ‘You made this mistake or that mistake.’ These kids don’t have that. In our townships, those parents only come back at night and those kids get fed and put into bed so where does the mentorship come about?”
When a budding athlete from a disadvantaged background lacked mentorship, he added, it was difficult to progress through the ranks. “That’s the obstacle we have to get around. You’ll always see our township [children] struggling and that is the bridge we have to cross in order to make sure that South Africa really becomes a powerhouse in sport.
“If I was formerly disadvantaged I would still be toyi-toying outside the Department of Sport and Recreation’s office not because I want to be a rebel but because I want more access to facilities.”
LACK OF ACCESS
Sporting Chance sees itself as a business that gives communities access to sports, coaches and facilities. “We run coaching programmes as well regardless of the type of sport it is in that community.”
At the rugby activation in Khayelitsha, Bing said that though there were facilities in the area, they were not maintained. “We have a rugby facility here but with all due respect you look at the clubhouse… You’ve got the poles here but you don’t see the field markings and if the fields are not marked are you telling me that rugby is actually played on a daily basis… most of those people are out there working, when do they have time to make the club work?” Bing asked.
“So we are talking about rugby but where are the squash courts and the tennis courts? There are cricket facilities that haven’t been maintained. How are we going to produce black cricket in communities?”
In addition, although the facility was there, residents did not have access to equipment. “We fully know that if we leave equipment here we won’t find it tomorrow so you need someone to lead that facility and make sure it’s secure.”
There is also no access to professional and structured coaching. At the rugby activation, former Springboks Sevens player Mpho Mbiyozo and Sporting Chance coaches were on hand to teach children from the township about rugby and life.
However, Bing said such events took place once; training programmes should be ongoing. “Believe me, in a population as big as Khayelitsha where you have got half-a-million people, you can have 400 to 500 kids coming here at any time.”
Mbiyozo agreed, saying: “It ends here today, and when they go home and they’re all happy. This event is a seed but we need to water it to germinate.”