How netball is creating belonging

Sports are a big deal in South Africa. Between soccer, rugby, netball, cricket, and a few others, most of the children in our programs at Clau Clau and Embonisweni love sports– following the season on TV, watching local community teams, and learning technique from a young age. The sport culture in South Africa is taken seriously from the time a child can walk and talk.

Sports have always been incorporated into our programs. We’ve done soccer camps, workouts at tea times, weekly clubs, and more. It’s a tool that helps people engage, get the blood flowing, is a great way to teach/learn some important life-skills, and more.

But sometimes you just need to have fun.

Earlier this year we had a group of teenagers at the Clau Clau program who were struggling to engage. School was serious and stressful, and it’s very understandable that by the time they reached the center, they didn’t want to help or participate at all. No matter how much we tried to talk with them and ask them questions, we were met with indifference.

One day we finally decided to stop talking. I picked up one of our old, deflated soccer balls and started a game of netball. What started as a group of kids dragging their feet and having obviously annoyed attitudes, ended with a ridiculous amount of laughing and healthy competition.

Nearly every program since then, the game has continued. No matter the weather– rain, sweltering heat, aching cold, there’s always a group that wants to play. There aren’t many rules to our version of the game– we don’t keep track of points, there’s no nets to score in, the court covers the entire property, teams vary in size, and anyone is welcome. The only thing we don’t tolerate is fouling.

Playing this ragtag netball may seem like it’s not very important. But for a lot of these kids, having moments to be carefree are few and far between. If we can help them to have a few times a week where they can simply focus on being kids instead of worrying about something at home or at school, we have moved mountains.

At all of our After School Programs, we want every person who walks onto the property to be a part of a safe, fun, exciting, and creative environment where everyone is learning, growing, and dreaming together. It’s a big calling, but we have seen how belonging to something this great has altered the destiny of some of these children.

– Phoebe Giffey-Brohaugh, TTH Staff