Throughout these past three weeks, I have learned so much from everyone around me. My fellow participants, leaders, children, and the women in the community of Nomzamo have taught me so much. I have so many memorable experiences, but one moment that stands out to me is watching the first rugby game the kids played. In our second week of the holiday sports camp, we focused on rugby skills with the children. Being unfamiliar with the rules of rugby and unskilled with any ball sport, I was nervous about teaching a sport I knew nothing about. However, Andy, our GVI leader, quickly explained to us the basic rules of rugby. For instance, things like passing backwards, how to safely tackle (in this case, “tag” an opponent) and kicking.
I started watching the kids play and pass the rugby ball. I noticed that the children weren’t just simply throwing the rugby ball to me as I was to them. Their throw had a clean spin to it. I asked one of the kids to teach me how to throw it. He came over to me and showed where to place my hand on the ball. “Right hand underneath, to control the spin, and left hand on top, just for support.” I followed his guidance, but my throw still didn’t have that nice spiral. The child passed it back to me, “Try again, Teacher.” I tried again, and we both looked at each other smiling. “Yes, like that, Teacher!” His excitement and patience made me feel accomplished and filled me with joy. We went on passing for a while and every time I threw it, he had a look of pride and nodded his head in approval at me.
In the mornings, we would run basic rugby drills, like passing, defense, and kicking with the children. I learned a lot from these drills and could see how much the children valued these skills and lessons. If they did something wrong, they would ask to try again. If they didn’t understand something because of the language barrier, they would ask an older kid to translate for them so they could do the drill correctly. It was amazing to see the teamwork between the children, as well as with all the teachers. Many kids would help us demonstrate drills and jump in when we needed help.
“As the game went on, the children could see my confidence grow. They would come to me after a “try” (a goal in rugby), running down the field to me with their hands up in the air, giving me “high-tens” one-by-one. They made me feel like a part of their game and celebrated their victories with me as if I was on the field playing with them.”
Then, in the afternoons, we would separate the children into teams for rugby games. All of the teachers would be the referees and call out a tag, cheer for a goal, and make sure all the passes were only passed backwards. As I was watching, I was anxious to make some calls. I wasn’t too sure when a player passed backwards, or whether or not a player was tagged. To my surprise, it was the kids who were making the calls first. They started calling out forward passes and the opposing team would yell, “Our ball!” When someone got tagged, a player would yell, “Down!” and the player with the ball would stop to put the ball down and start again. They would notice the other players getting too close to the player who had the ball at the start of a new down and push them back to their line of defense. When a play was stopped, there would be a look of frustration from some of the kids, but it was quickly replaced with a look of determination. I was so impressed with the way they led their own game.
I began to pick up on the rules and started to make my own calls. I was able to see when a forward pass or a tag was made. As the game went on, the children could see my confidence grow. They would come to me after a “try” (a goal in rugby), running down the field to me with their hands up in the air, giving me “high-tens” one-by-one. They made me feel like a part of their game and celebrated their victories with me as if I was on the field playing with them. The children never failed to amaze me with their passion for sport and their eagerness to share that passion with us.
I am so grateful to have crossed paths with everyone on this trip. It has been the most rewarding and humbling experience. I know I will carry on all the lessons I’ve learned through the ACE program into the future.