SA U20 rugby player Nomzamo Ngcamu follows her trainees' progress with pride, as former SA U20 player Zinhle Ndawonde gives instruction in the background. The Ikhulubone Trust Creche’s Sports Festival was organised by Alebag Sports and Skills Development, coaching more than 80 teachers in core sports skills, and giving more than 900 Grade R children in the Ilembe community in KwaZulu-Natal the chance to discover their passion out on the sports fields. All photos courtesy Alebag Sports

Change is never easy, but progress was the name of the game as more than 900 Grade R children gathered for the Ikhulubone Trust Creche’s Sports Festival, organised by 2009 gsport Volunteer of the Year Award recipient, Lunga Ntuli, and Alebag* Sports and Skills Development.

KwaZulu-Natal Grade R educators get first-hand experience at running a practice session.With learning opportunities at each of the four sports stations, including cricket, soccer, rugby and athletics activities, kids around the community of Ilembe within the four local municipalities, KwaDukuza, Mandeni, Maphumulo and Ndwedwe, got a lifetime opportunity to discover their love of sport, and an understanding the hard work that supports it.

“This is one of the programs that will ensure that an African child becomes very competent when it comes to different sports,” said Ntuli. “I am fully aware that at times when you speak about activities for grade children you speak about recreation, but it is time that we teach kids from the rural areas the basics of rugby and cricket.”

Recognising that sustainability of the project will depend primarily on the teachers, Ntuli and his team ran Coach the Coaches workshops for the Grade R educators ahead of the event.

KZN Women's Cricketer Lungi Khwela introduces her young learners to the finer aspects of hand-eye coordination.In all, over 80 female educators were schooled in the basics principles of the sports offered by Alebag Sports. “If we really want to change and have great impact in South African sport, than we should start at training the coaches first,” said Ntuli.

“It was going to be no use into having a sports festival for one day and giving children all the information, yet their teachers don’t have a clue about these sports.”

Director Petros Myeza at the Ikhulubone Trust, an organization that provides learning materials to early childhood development centres, said this project will go a long way for the kids and teachers as well.

“We are so much privileged to being amongst the first group that is involved in this. This will now help our educators to provide correct skills to the children during their play time,” said Dr Myeza.

Alebag Sports founder Lunga Ntuli. A promising athlete who went the media and community service route instead of pursuing a professional sports career, Ntuli recently received his Sport Psychology tertiary qualification from UNISA.Alebag Sports ambassador Zinhle Ndawonde, who is also a former SA under-20 women’s rugby player, said she was very inspired by these kids. “At times we don’t really realise that to produce a great athlete, you need to start working with them from a tender age.

“I am so much grateful for the opportunity to be part of this project, “said Zinhle.

This project is expected to run through the entire province of KwaZulu-Natal and even the whole country. Ntuli said this could only be possible if more sponsors can come on board.

“You will be amazed what R1 can do to a life of a child. I must say that I highly appreciate the support that I received from Aquelle, KZN Sport and Recreation Ilembe, T-Spoon Production, Designa Tents and of course Alebag Sports for coming up with the concept and making it possible by getting all the stake holders involved,” said Ntuli.

“This project did not only change lives of the children that participated, but included more 50 sports management students from various institutions who got an opportunity to volunteer and gain experience.”

Students and their educators mark their attendance at the Ikhulubone Trust Creche’s Sports Festival. Ntuli's goal is to take the Alebag Sports and Skills Development model around the country, bringing the love of sports to many more young South African learners.

* Alebag Sports and Skills Development was founded by Lunga Ntuli, and the Alebag acronym stands for Adapting Loyalty Enthusiasm and Basic Adoration of Greatness. A promising athlete who went the media and community service route instead of pursuing a professional sports career, Ntuli recently received his Sport Psychology tertiary qualification from UNISA.