Sadly, we often think of sport and learning in opposition to one another and that if you are good at the one you don’t need the other. An ideology that is reinforced through ugly stereotypes such as jocks and nerds in popular culture and the seemingly insatiable demand for new talent across sporting industries promising young sportsmen and -women lavish lifestyles and salaries without educational prerequisites.
The truth is that education and sport are mutually beneficial and schools that can help learners leverage both tend to have happier, healthier, and better-rounded students. Sports provide learners a platform not only to develop physically through training, but also practice life lessons and interpersonal skills. All which contribute to a more holistic education that will benefit learners in the long run. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on this relationship as playing (both in the classroom and during break periods) and sports activities (team sports in particular) were put on hold or severely limited. This was extremely frustrating for children of this young age group who rely on play and sports to build social interaction skills and alleviate stress, frustration, and pent-up energy – all of which contributed to poor learning as children were more distracted (the pandemic posed a whole new world of uncertainties) and less engaged with their lessons. That is why sports and other extracurricular activities are so important at The Love Trust’s Nokuphila School. The Love Trust focus on holistic learning at a young age as well as their nurturing and support of their young athletes has contributed to several success stories among their alumni. We spoke to two siblings who are making names for themselves in their respective sports as to how playing sports has changed their lives and what role The Love Trust had in affecting that change.
Tshwarelo Chiloane is currently a grade 10 learner at Eqinisweni Secondary School in Ivory Park and will soon be taking part in the regional netball trials. She plays guard attack although feels confident in playing any position on the field. She has received trophies and awards at nearly every level of the sport that she’s competed in so far, which has hugely boosted her confidence both on and off the sports field and made her more assertive of her ambitions and goals in life. “I have gained leadership skills,” she says, “I’ve learnt determination and I’ve made good friends.” She believes that playing sport has given her a platform to shine and showcase her talents, besides making her a more fit and healthy student.
Lesego Chiloane is in grade 9 and attending Tsosoloso ya Africa Secondary School in Ebony Park and has been selected to train with the under 17 Mamelodi Sundowns soccer team as centre back. Similar to his sister, his sport has provided him with access to new places, environments, and people. All of which contribute to broader viewpoints and experiences outside of his community and school. “I have gained leadership skills and found new and fantastic friends,” he says. Lesego also believes that soccer has also provided him with the opportunity to push himself and test his limits; to help him discover the type of person he is. He also has numerous awards, medals and trophies that speak to his success as a soccer player. He’ll soon be testing his mettle against other aspiring soccer players, many of whom are older than him, for a spot in the under 19 Mamelodi Sundowns team.
All despite the lack of support, encouragement, access to equipment or even sports grounds at their current schools. By contrast, Tshwarelo and Lesego thank Nokuphila, their former primary school, for grooming them into the certified athletes they are and for the love and support they gave them during their tuition there, such as donating sporting kit and other equipment. “Thank you Nokuphila for sharing faith and offering hope.”
Yet, the biggest thank you should be to their biggest fan and greatest supporter – their mother, Thelma Chiloane. She has made sure that their sporting aspirations continued beyond Nokuphila and is involved and takes a keen interest in their school careers as well. Having the unwavering support and love of a parent, is priceless for any learner and a key factor in the healthy growth and development of a child both on and off the sport field.
In closing Tshwarelo has pearls of wisdom which can resonate with any successful sportsperson who was given the opportunity to discover their passions early on: “Playing sport at a young age is good and fun because you start something as a girl and boy and then realise when you’re in high school that it’s important for your future.”