UKZN’s Sport Science Discipline has changed the lives of many young boys from local communities in Durban who play in youth divisions of the premier league soccer team, Golden Arrows Football Club.

A successful pilot programme called Golden Arrows Meals (GAMes) was recently initiated by the discipline’s Dr Andrew McKune, an advanced trainer for Speed, Agility and Quickness (SAQ®) International, and Mr Mike Kemp, an honours graduate of exercise science who is now the strength and conditioning coach for the club’s U15, U17 and U19 teams.

McKune conceptualised GAMes after Kemp approached him saying many of the players who are from local townships attend training without having had a meal. ‘They tire easily and cramp during practice and games,’ said Kemp, ‘and often coaches mistake this for lack of fitness in the players.’

McKune then developed a community service project mutually beneficial for both the players and sport sciences students at UKZN.

‘The programme involves students forming groups with a team name, captain and vice-caption, who are then responsible for providing a nutritious pre-match meal for one of the three Golden Arrows Youth teams playing each week,’ said McKune.

A pilot project was held where the second-year class provided a meal for the U17 Golden Arrows team which participated in the ENGEN Knockout Tournament.

The group of students raised funds to make packages of chicken sandwiches with salad and two boiled eggs. ‘On Friday afternoon, dressed in their Sport Science kit, they travelled with Mike Kemp to the tournament,’ said McKune.

‘The cherry on top was that the team won the tournament! The whole experience was fantastic for them.’

McKune said the success of the pilot programme had generated a lot of excitement for 10 student groups who will work on a roster for the remainder of the year to raise funds, make food and hand it over to the players on match days.

‘Students will learn how to work as a team of sport scientists, see how sport science is applied through interacting with Mike in a real world setting, and provide an opportunity to interact with and possibly become mentors to young, disadvantaged football players.’

Professor Sabiha Essack, Dean and Head of the School of Health Sciences, described the project as “an exceptional initiative”, while Professor Johan van Heerden, School Academic Leader for Research, said it was an excellent outreach and youth education initiative which also provided students with real-world experiential exposure.

McKune said the students also approached him with an idea about forming a UKZN Sport Science Student Community Service Committee.

‘The aim of this committee would be to develop and co-ordinate community service projects, managed by staff. Many other ideas have been discussed and I really feel this programme has a lot of potential to develop further.

‘I am excited about the enthusiasm of the students. They are so keen to be involved and to work with the community.’

Kemp lauded the project saying it was a great way to get hands-on experience. ‘When working in a sporting environment you often have to think on your feet - you can’t always refer to the book.’

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