Every single day that we drove up to the school in the township of Nomzamo to run our sports camp, it was another adventure. Lots of late night planning and preparation went into each day’s activities, but each of the days we spent there never seemed to go quite how we expected.
During the first week, we had access to a small classroom and a larger hall inside ACJ Primary School. Behind the school, there was also a sports court we initially used for our netball lessons. However, after the first week, we would show up at the school and the gate would be locked. Each following day we were told the school would be open, and with optimism and excitement, we would arrive only to have those very same emotions crushed. The lesson plans we were creating all hinged on the ability to use the resources in the school so for a week we would create a plan, then realize the school was closed, and only be able to run the camp on the community soccer field filled with other people from Nomzamo.
“But what we didn’t understand at the beginning was that the kids weren’t coming to the camp to perfect their skills in each sport; they were coming because they enjoyed just being outside playing with their friends and with us. They didn’t need to have a perfectly-run smooth sports camp because they were going to be happy no matter how much we thought our plan was a disaster.”
Each time we saw the gate locked, we were disappointed, not because we spent time planning lessons that no longer applied, but because we felt we weren’t going to be able to give the kids the fun, informative, and helpful sports camp they deserved. But what we didn’t understand at the beginning was that the kids weren’t coming to the camp to perfect their skills in each sport; they were coming because they enjoyed just being outside playing with their friends and with us. They didn’t need to have a perfectly-run smooth sports camp because they were going to be happy no matter how much we thought our plan was a disaster.
One of my favorite lessons that shows how the kids were excited for what we created spur-of-the-moment was during our health lesson when we taught them about the food pyramid. After we had gone over the food pyramid on the board and explained to them the categories and what types of food to eat more of, we set them off to draw their own pyramid. With the expectation that the kids would just draw an empty pyramid and then we would help them fill it in with specific foods, we stepped back and waited until they all needed help. But very quickly, that assumption was proven wrong when the kids started excitedly running up to us with fully filled out food pyramids. Not only did we not think the kids would remember the whole food pyramid just after the first time we taught them, but we also underestimated how enthusiastic the kids would be at this seemingly mundane task. The children frantically ran up to me to show me their finished charts, with the biggest smiles of accomplishment across their faces. They were proud of the work they had done. They couldn’t wait for the next suggestion, addition, or assignment.
Though learning about the food pyramid isn’t the most glorious lesson, the children of Nomzamo took the chance to learn something new and ran with it. Through this experience, I learned to embrace every moment and never take any opportunity to learn for granted. Our group of student-athletes could have taken the locked school as a constant set back offering no opportunity for resilience. But instead, like the children and their food pyramids, we took the opportunity to learn and adapted to the ever-changing situation with vigor and excitement.