Sports mentors hoping to make an impact during pandemic with the help of Laureus
CAPE TOWN - Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Bantamweight Champion Faeez Jacobs is trying to give back to his community while being a coach for the Laureus Sport for Good Bom Combat martial arts programme in Mitchells Plain.
“As part of the Sport for Good programme, at the Mitchell’s Plain School of Skills I teach Bom Combat to a group of boys. It’s mostly wrestling techniques and a style of Olympic wrestling. I also teach Brazilian Jujutsu. It’s all defensive tactics. They could be used for self-defence, if somebody grabbed you around the head and started headlocking you. Or grabbed you from behind and tried to choke you down to the ground. That’s what I’m teaching the boys at Mitchells Plain.
You see the change in him: he walks differently, he wants to be more outspoken in what he thinks. He’s got motivation and flair, a different level of peace.“
Annelissa Mhloli is a coach for the Laureus Waves For Change non-profit organisation (under the umbrella of Laureus Sport for Good). It uses surfing as a tool to educate children and equip them with good decision-making and coping skills, and to give them a safe space and better opportunities.
“I’m 25 and I live in Khayelitsha. I was 20 when I joined Laureus Waves for Change on a trial period in late 2016, and started officially in 2017.
Was it normal to go surfing in Khayelitsha? Not at all. I’ll be honest, this was a matter of me applying because I knew I was passionate about working with children. Since matric I’d been a soccer coach for two years at the Laureus Grassroot Soccer programme, focused on HIV prevention awareness and challenging gender norms through soccer – things like girls playing sport. I heard Waves For Change was looking for coaches, so I applied, but with sceptism in my mind about the water. I didn’t know how to swim and I didn’t know anything about surfing.
In terms of swimming, I knew I could learn. But in terms of surfing, I felt like I wasn’t fitting the criteria of the image portrayed by surfing on TV in physical ability. I’m not your usual surfer type in terms of physique, but I knew that I wanted to work with children.
Surfing is not usual in black communities. I didn’t even know there was any surfing for people living in Khayelitsha. It’s becoming a hobby now because more and more people are hooked. They’re telling their friends about Waves For Change and starting to understand that it is a mental health programme where surfing is a tool.
So as a coach, I believe I’m supposed to know how to swim. But it’s something people doubt a lot and that’s mainly because of how I look.
You see, me and surfing are not the best of buddies. But me in the water, that’s different. When I get a day where I take a board down to the beach, I become tired. But when I’m out in the water, I get so excited.
The water doesn’t say you’re too heavy; the water doesn’t say you’re too black. The ocean accepts you as you are and for who you are. It’s still physically challenging for me, if I’m honest. But over the years I have improved in some areas with balancing my body. Now I actually can get up on the foam surfboard. And I’m working with children.“
Jennifer Matibi is a coach at the Laureus Sport for Good Fight With Insight programme in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. She helped introduce boxing programmes for girls in 2019, where young residents in the surrounding suburbs interact through sport.
“I got involved in boxing six years back. Fight With Insight is a boxing programme in Hillbrow, in the inner city. I felt that it was different to anything else happening. I live in Hillbrow and it’s three streets away from me.
In 2018, I got a letter to be part of the team going to Brazil with Laureus Sport for Good [Matibi was one of two Laureus female participants who went to Brazil.] I didn’t win my fight in Rio unfortunately but I went until the third round, which is when the fight is over for any amateur boxer. In the same year, I got selected as part of the team to fight for the Gauteng provincials. I won second place in the -60kg division.
In 2019, I was doing my matric. I was focused on the Fight With Insight boxing initiative I started for young women, so I couldn’t get time to compete. I decided I’d continue as a Fight With Insight coach rather. So this year I’m an amateur boxer and still thinking about whether I want to go back into boxing competitions again.
The boxing initiative I started is to get young women in the inner city more involved in the boxing world, and also giving back life skills acquired on the programme to the community. We’re trying to give motivation and a way forward to young girls growing up.“