Heideveld teachers push to revive school sport

From left are Heideveld Primary School’s cricket coach Reyhaad Abrahams, kickboxing coach Erin October, principal Rushdi Desai, athletics coach Geraldine King, and sports coordinator Imraan Hendricks.

School sport has taken a beating from the pandemic, but some teachers at a Heideveld school are determined to revive it.

Heideveld Primary School’s cricket coach Reyhaad Abrahams, kickboxing coach Erin October, athletics and netball coach Geraldine King and sports coordinator Imraan Hendricks are trying to get pupils back into sport now that Covid restrictions – which included a ban on school sports – have been eased.

Mr Abrahams, who also coaches at the Hanover Park Cricket Club, says sport is vital for children’s development and it improves their behaviour both in and outside the classroom.

When pupils returned to school full-time a few months ago, they lost focus and fought a lot as they were not used to a full class anymore, he says. He believes sport can help them connect with each other again.

“Sport really helps develop pupils, and we are hoping to get more pupils involved with the next season.”

Ms October, a South African kickboxing championship silver medallist, says the sport teaches respect, discipline and listening skills, which are all important in a classroom setting.

“You can see how children’s attention and focus change as they are in the class,” she says. “They can follow instructions better as time goes on and focus better. It is a way for them to get out their frustration, especially with pupils being back full time: they feel that their space has been invaded. Any type of sport helps children. Some of them are so wild in class, but when they are on the field, they listen, and, as time goes on, it filters back into the classroom.”

Ms King says that being from the area she knows the challenges that come with joining a sports team. Many pupils don’t have transport home after training or a match, and there are few resources for them to develop their talent.

As an SA high jump and hurdles champ and a provincial champ for heptathlon, she wants to show children from the area that they can succeed in whatever they want to do and that sport can take them places and add structure to their lives.

“When I went to high school, I had to choose between netball and athletics, and I chose athletics, and I had to work hard and have discipline,” she says. “Sport in the community can be improved on a lot. I advise parents to allow their children to be involved in sport in and outside of school, which will keep them out of trouble.”

Mr Hendricks wants to establish a sports hub in Heideveld that all schools can join to create a talented team of players. Many pupils, he says, are overlooked by coaches because they are in their last year of primary school, but that’s also the time that they happen to show interest or talent in a sport.

Pupils who have been held back a year can also become despondent if they can’t play as over-13s can’t be entered into a team, he says.

There are also schools that do not have enough sports equipment to meet the demand from pupils wanting to take part.

And then there are still concerns about Covid, he says. “Some parents are still scared to send their children to sport post-Covid-19, and many don’t have transport home. We can’t cut into school time either so that they can get home on time with their transport.”

Mr Hendricks says playing sport comes with responsibilities that, in turn, teach pupils to be responsible.