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SA mantra: Serving sports at school level

Step into a school in South Africa and you will figure out why it’s such a passionate sporting nation. The first thing that sweeps you off your feet is the sports infrastructure, and secondly, the sight of the schoolchildren making use of it, reports Subhash Rajta.
By Subhash Rajta | Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
UPDATED ON SEP 21, 2010 11:28 PM IST

Step into a school in South Africa and you will figure out why it’s such a passionate sporting nation. The first thing that sweeps you off your feet is the sports infrastructure, and secondly, the sight of the schoolchildren making use of it.

“Participation in sports is a must here. Not even a single kid is allowed to miss it . “And participation doesn’t mean just attending the mandatory sports classes, all of them have to participate in competitions,” said Amarinder Bhinder, a head cricket coach at St David’s school in Johannesburg.

Bhinder is a First Class cricketer from Punjab who came here six years back.

But how does every kid find a place in the team? “Every class is divided into number of teams so that every kid is accommodated. “And each class has teams for almost every sport,” he said while taking this correspondent around three lush green cricket fields, which are alternatively used for rugby and soccer, a massive Astroturf field, where women national hockey team practices, a swimming pool and at least 15 tennis courts.

Explaining the system further, the coach said “The coaches overseeing kids identify which game they are more interested in, and then they receive more specific training in that particular sport.”

Apart from this, the schools lay a lot of stress on exposing these budding sportspersons to the established sports stars. One of the major events that get the aspiring young cricketers rub shoulders with the top cricket stars is the annual match between u-17 Combined School Team, which comprises players form top 14 schools across the country, and Sahara team which has top international stars in it.

“It’s a great concept as it not only helps the young cricketer interact with their role modes, but also gives them an idea how they measure up against their role models,” said Bhinder.

The kids are only too happy to get a chance to play with their idols.

“I had always wanted to be a part of the combined school. It’s just wonderful to face someone like Charl Langeveldt and Makhya Ntini while you are still doing you school,” said Berry, the captain of this year’s combined school.

No wonder, South Africa is what it’s in sports.

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