Young soccer players benefited from the success
of the GAMes pilot project while sports sciences
students gained hands-on experience.
UKZN’s Sport Science discipline has changed the lives of many young boys from local communities in Durban who play in the youth divisions the premier league soccer team, Golden Arrows Football Club.
A successful pilot programme called Golden Arrows Meals (GAMes) was recently initiated by the discipline’s Dr Andrew McKune, advanced trainer for the organisation Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ®) International, and Mike Kemp, an honours graduate of exercise science who is now the strength and conditioning coach for the Golden Arrows youth teams: u15, u17 and u19.
McKune conceptualised GAMes after Kemp approached him saying most of the players who come from local townships attend training without having had a meal. ‘They tire easily and cramp during practice and games,’ said Kemp, ‘and often coaches mistake this for lack of fitness in the players’. McKune then developed a community service project that would be mutually beneficial for the players and sport sciences students at UKZN.
McKune said: ‘The programme involves students forming groups with a team name, captain and vice-caption, who would then be responsible for providing a nutritious pre-match meal for one of the three Golden Arrows Youth teams playing each week.’
A pilot project was held where the second-year class provided a meal for the u17 Golden Arrows team that participated in the ENGEN Knockout Tournament.
‘On Friday afternoon, dressed in their Sport Science kit they travelled with Mike to the tournament. To put the cherry on the cake, the team won the tournament! The whole experience was fantastic for them,’ said McKune.
McKune explained that the project was not for marks and yet the players would be provided with a healthy, nutritious meal 3-4 hours before their match.
‘The students would learn how to work as a team of Sport Scientists, see how Sport Science is applied through interacting with Mike in a real world setting, and provide an opportunity to interact with and possibly become mentors to young, disadvantaged football players.
Professor Sabiha Essack, Dean and Head of the School of Health Sciences, coined the project as “an exceptional initiative”, while Professor Johan van Heerden, School Academic Leader for Research, said it was an excellent outreach and youth education initiative which provided also students with real-world experiential exposure.
McKune said the students also approached him with an idea about forming a UKZN Sport Science Student Community Service Committee.
‘The aim of this committee would be to develop and coordinate community service projects, over-seen by staff. There are many other ideas that have also been discussed and I really feel that this programme has a lot of potential to develop further, possibly including more teams, clubs, child and parent health, exercise, nutrition education and so on.’
Kemp lauded the project and said it was a great way of getting hands-on experience. ‘When you are working in a sporting environment you are always on your feet. You can’t always refer to the book.’