At two o’clock on the afternoon of 6 February 2012, the South African training base of Team GB’s men’s hockey squad came to a standstill. Thirty Young Leaders from two International Inspiration schools in Cape Town were singing South Africa’s beautiful national anthem.
But Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika represented only the first half of the musical offering. The Young Leaders had issued a challenge to the Team GB hockey players: ‘If we sing you our anthem, will you sing yours to us?’
Explaining their lives, communities and schools
This musical challenge was the culmination of an exhibition and presentation put together by the children at a preparatory workshop, telling the squad about their lives, their communities and their schools. The Team GB Hockey players were glad of the briefing as they arrived at Kwamfundo High School, in the heart of Khayelitsha township, to work alongside their new Young Leader friends in delivering a sports festival for 100 young children from local primary schools.
Another 100 willing participants would be waiting for them at Mountview High School in Hanover Park, where a second festival took place. This time, the activities were boosted through the assistance of a group of Young Leaders visiting from Calderglen High School in Scotland, Mount View’s International Inspiration UK partner school. Further excitement was generated when Foreign Secretary William Hague dropped in to watch the activities.
Like William Hague, the Team GB hockey players were deeply impressed by the enthusiasm, commitment and skill of the children they met, not to mention the speed with which the young people picked up the fundamentals of hockey during a short, introductory session.
Learning to guide young people
In the context of the broader International Inspiration programme in South Africa and beyond, it was amazing to see how the young people – who are at the beginning of their International Inspiration journey of sports leadership training – asserted themselves. We were left in no doubt as to their contribution to the preparation and running of the sports festivals, and to an atmosphere which exemplified the Olympic Values of friendship, respect and excellence.
Teachers got involved in workshops to learn techniques that will help them to guide young people and teach them leadership skills. These skills will help young people to make healthy and positive life choices in the face of serious challenges in their communities in the future.
It is just one example of how International Inspiration is making a difference and using sport to inspire young people around the world to choose sport. I will always remember my time in South Africa, as I’m sure will The Team GB men’s hockey squad – who belted out a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen to match their challenge – the teachers, the Young Leaders and the primary school children they taught so well.