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CONNECT Sports Academy Named Best Development Programme

Khayelitsha’s CONNECT Sports Academy was named Best Development Programme at the prestigious Discovery SA Sport Industry Awards last month.

The academy beat off stiff competition from huge industry names such as the World Coaches programme, the Nashua Art of Fast Bowling, Vuka Rugby, SuperSport Let’s Play and the Sports Trust.

Four members of the academy flew to Johannesburg where they received their award from Hashim Amla and Lucas Radebe during a star-studded ceremony at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Despite not having the financial clout or extensive reach of other programmes yet, CONNECT was recognised by the judges for its absolute hands-on and holistic approach to the development of underprivileged young people and their families. The award brings a financial boost of R50 000 for the academy from award sponsors Vodacom, plus an additional contribution after host Dan Nicholl’s impassioned appeal to esteemed guests in the room.

 “We are excited to be associated with the Discovery Sport Industry Awards which recognises excellence across the entire business of sport. “Vodacom has been involved in numerous development initiatives over the years and we hope our contribution to the category would further add to the cause,” Vodacom Brand Director, Mosidi Seretlo said.

CONNECT began on a small scale in 2014 with just a handful of children playing touch rugby with assistance for boxing and chess also provided. It has blossomed into a fully-fledged contact academy offering young people from Khayelitsha (aged 7 to 18) the opportunity to play regular, competitive fixtures for clubs such as Hamilton’s, the oldest club in South Africa.

The academy ensures that all players’ needs are taken care of. It has a dedicated nutritional programme and also offers tutoring support to ensure performance in the classroom is as on point as performance on the field.  It also ensures players are transported and have the kit required to play rugby.

CONNECT is all about access to resources, especially the resources most of us take for granted. We focus on long-term sustainability and while our main goal is to create a platform that will produce professional rugby players, we also encourage our youngsters to pursue other careers in sport such as coaching and refereeing,” says Murray Ingram, director of CONNECT.

The SA Sports Industry has invited the academy back to tell their story through a video at next year’s awards and CONNECT can’t wait to show them how much can be done when a few dedicated people are willing to roll up their sleeves and work towards a better and more inclusive South Africa.

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