Michelle Whitehead founder and CEO of the Growing Sports Foundation

Michelle Whitehead founder and CEO of the Growing Sports Foundation

In July 2008, Michelle Whitehead, created a challenge for herself. She wanted a CSI programme for her business in Cape Town City, Mountain Manor Guest House/Self Catering and Back Packers, and she wanted to show that “”Development”” wasn´t that difficult. She registered an NGO trust called the GROWING SPORTS FOUNDTION TRUST.

Michelle did an internet research survey and found that in the Cape Town City Bowl, there were 24 Schools. 24!!! of only 4 of these schools were privilged schools and the other 20 schools catered for township children who are bussed into the city every day – almost 9000 children!!!
This was the place to start.

She sent a fax to each of these schools – offering them the GROWING TENNIS programme. 7 schools responded and this is where they started.

Michelle and one coach started working in these schools. They went in and FREE of charge – offered to do a Tennis Programme. Unfortunately they found that these children were not able to participate due to real-life problems.
Fetched from their homes at 5.30am in the morning, spending up to 2 hours in a taxi – arriving at school tired and hungry, didnt allow the children to be in a good educational environment for learning.
There was no sport or PT in the school curriculums and no facilities to play/ work on.

The tennis was slotted into the school timetables and very soon every class came out for a tennis lesson – but the programme had to be re-adapted to encompass the basics – running, skipping, breathing – basic co-ordination skills has to be taught first – then basic balls skills of catching and throwing – and then only could racquet and ball skills be taught.

The other extreme problem was the size of the classes – 38 – 48 children in a class!!! and they had never played with a ball before AND a racquet – can you imagine the choas.??!  The screaming and shouting of excitment and the uncontrol of non discipline was enough to make anyone run away.

Eventually the children settled into a learning environment and discipline and control was established and learning could take place.

The aim of the programme is also to facilitate educating BLACK coaches.  This is very difficult as tennis is not traditionally a BLACK cultural sport, and most people without jobs just want a salary without having to work for it. A whole new apprentice programme has been developed to try to instil good disciplines and principles of life and work.  This is working, but drugs, alcohol and general township lifestyle makes this a very challenging part of the programme.



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