School vs Club Sport

In all my years involved in South African school sports departments there is one thing that has never ceased to amaze me, how much control club sport has on kids. In a country where our school sport is so broad, so diverse and so advanced how on earth has club sport survived. A marketing success of the highest order, I have to admit.

Think about it, parents pay fees ranging anything from R25000 to R90000 a year for school, which for the most part includes a functional sporting program with practices and matches and then we choose to play club soccer, hockey or rugby to mention a few. These come with an additional annual cost for membership, buying club uniform and the petrol schlepping all over the place for games on YOUR weekend time. How does anything I have just said remotely make any sense at all? It doesn’t and so that’s why I say the marketing model of club sport is a complete enigma for me.

Children will excuse themselves early from school sport so as to not be late for club practice, how? Why? Why should the school play second fiddle. A place where education is the main focus as opposed to a club where quite honestly you are simply a fee paying member that makes up a team and allows some over the hill citizen to work half day and earn money as club administrator…. Senseless? Yes I agree. Yet there clubs all over the place, all full! So who’s the fool?

The school should not be taking second place ever, the club without doubt must be. The school is education, offering a holistic experience contributing to very key shaping of character and growth for your child, why do you need club? Is the school sport programme that bad? Is your child that good that more soccer and coaching is needed? A school cannot be competing for the time of the player due to clubs. I hear too many horror stories of the pressure being placed on kids in a club environment to win and at all costs… that’s not education! Again I leave a certain degree of responsibility here at the feet of parents and of the sports practitioners administering school sports departments. Parents need to either support the school or not and removing your child early from a training session or match is not supportive at all. If kids see this endorsement their behaviour will follow suit. Sports practitioners must also plan a rational time table which does complete its work at a respectable hour achieving the goals of the training session in itself.

Playing club sport is an additional social platform for the parents…. Yes try and deny it, it is a social factor that must be met or face feeling left out…. Wouldn’t that be a travesty? I would very seriously re-assess involvement in activities which the school already offers, be careful and circumspect of over working your child and exposing him/her to overly competitive environments where only the toughest survive and where coaches in general make up the numbers as opposed to adding value to your child’s life.

My call, club sport has its place for sure but not at the expense of school sport where many more valuable lessons are learnt and experiences experienced.

Editor’s comment:

For many schools in South Africa and those countries in which sport is not part of the school curriculum, club and/or community sport plays a vital role in developing sporting talent. However, this should be done in an educational and developmental manner following the principles of Long Term Athlete/Participant Development to ensure that children have fun, develop the necessary skills at the appropriate time and build a base that will encourage them to be physically active for life. 


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