Running, cycling and triathlon all fall under the umbrella of what is termed endurance sport. If you look at the sports offered at most public schools in the country, these endurance codes are largely absent, except for running which has the least barriers to entry. Yet cycling and triathlon are known to be sources of physical and mental health too. Overall wellbeing is necessary for the academic success and healthy development of learners at South African schools, thus it must be argued that endurance sport is currently a missing link in the South African education strategy. In short, public schools need to start investing in developing the next Ashleigh Pasio and Nic Dlamini so that they can experience Tour de France greatness, while the overall wellbeing of learners in the education system is boosted.
Firstly, camaraderie and social bonds form when people work as a sporting team. Running clubs and crews pervade the country because of this effect and thankfully learners who do not have superior sporting facilities can be included when it comes to sprint and cross country. Everyone in a cycling club also knows how important teamwork is in cycling if you want to avoid being slowed down by the wind and thus conserving energy for victory. It is thus obvious that social skills and overall emotional intelligence are developed in the endurance sports mentioned. Unfortunately, most public schools fail to sign up their learners to bodies like Schools Cycling South Africa (SCSA). They do not even pay much attention to cases like the Soweto Cycling Foundation and other excellent examples of community-based sports organisations that could support learners.
Secondly, sport is not just about winning, but also assists learners to become healthy and even fight their mental health struggles by reducing stress. It is also not just about
learners; in order for a school to perform optimally, teachers who are gifted at sport should be allowed and encouraged to co-ordinate teacher-athlete sport participation as a form of employee wellness.
Education strategy would absolutely improve by giving more attention to both the physical wellness of teachers and learners as a whole, not to mention how the Back-A-Buddy system can assist to help anyone raise funds for the schooling community by running, cycling or doing a triathlon.
Cycling and triathlon are expensive sports, which is why the tournaments are dominated almost exclusively by private schools. Government and private businesses need to divert more funding into the public school sport and physical education space, because it is to their benefit to have a holistically-developed, healthy and highly productive workforce.
Finally, the country’s Olympic performance at endurance sport will be bolstered if
interventions are started at the school level and not left to the university level – as is the case in most public schools. Exceptionally talented athletic learners can also benefit if there are more cases of teachers and principals pro-actively seeking out sports
bursaries for their learners as they prepare to leave for tertiary education, and not just focusing on academic bursaries.
Education strategy without physical activity and the joy of sport being factored in, will continue to result in learners at public schools not reaching their full potential, and that can only be an example of injustice. We as a nation also fail ourselves dismally by not normalising the participation of teachers in sport or allowing/ supporting staff to fundraise for their schools by running, cycling or participating in triathlons. The promotion and mainstreaming of endurance sport in South African basic education is thus not a luxury, but a necessity that requires more action and attention.