By John Tuerijama
AFTER winning the Standard Bank Best Sport Development Programme at the annual Sport Awards of the Namibia Sports Commission, Kids on Bikes are more determined than ever to reclaim the award come next year. Responding to questions from Confidente, Namibia Cycling Federation (NCF)’s Kids on Bikes regional expansion and development officer Senia Shikesho said the Kids on Bikes programme has developed a total of 13 centres in nine of the country’s 14 political regions. Sport scribe John Tuerijama asked Shikesho more about the project.
JT: With 54 sport codes affiliated to the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC,) what has the Namibia Cycling Federation (NCF)’s Kids on Bikes programme done to outshine other sport codes’ development programmes?
SS: The Kids on Bikes programme has developed a total of 13 centres in nine regions over a period of three years. All centres have a dedicated coach who gives training between one to five times a week. The dedication of the coaches, children and parents has brought about the success of the project, which led to us winning the award.
JT: Can you highlight the achievement and challenges overcome by the Kids on Bikes programme that opened the way to winning the 2018 award?
SS: Having been able to open a centre in Keetmanshoop means that Kids on Bikes are now represented in the North (Oshakati, Omuthiya, Outapi, Rundu, Tsumeb), South (Keetmanshoop), East (Gobabis), West (Omaruru) and Central (PAY, KAYEC, Team Windhoek, Team Vertigo, Okahandja). We held two championships in September 2018. The northern championships were held in Tsumeb for all northern teams, the central championships were held in Windhoek for all central, southern, northern and eastern teams. Omuthiya has obtained ground from the local authority and has begun construction of a pump track. Gobabis obtained regional funding to construct a pump track. Tsumeb is improving its existing BMX track to a zone final standard, and Rundu is still negotiating with contractors for earthmoving equipment. The challenges include, a lack of trained coaches in the regions. The solution: Conversion of NAM Level 1 coaching handbook, and extension to NAM Level 2 into an e-based programme to ensure greater regional access to acquisition of coaching skills, such that NCF can confidently set its centre coaches on the UCI international coaching qualification). There is also a lack of financial management skills. The solution is to continue to move established centres towards greater administrative, financial and event-hosting self-sustainability. There is a lack of young girls participating in cycling. The solution: Added focus to be put into ensuring that the coaches motivate and encourage young girls to come to practice. Teams should also have at least 20 percent girls in order to come to the finals in Windhoek, and lastly, a lack of finances, but FNB – RMB Namibia have agreed to fund the project for one more year. JT: How many kids are enrolled in the programme and what age group is it aimed at? SS: For the 2018 year, we had 668 kids enrolled from the age of 5 to 16. JT: Do you think the Kids on Bikes programme has reached the previously marginalised communities in the regions, and if so, how have these communities responded?
SS: Definitely, 11 of our centres operate in marginalised communities. The communities have been supportive with parents volunteering in their personal capacity at local events. We have partnered with churches, schools and regional offices within the regions to assist in coaching the kids, and marketing the programme. The relationship with our partners thus far works very well.
JT: With cycling perceived as predominantly “a white sport”, do you think the Kids on Bikes programme will successfully transform the sport that will eventually see black cyclists taking up the sport and becoming professional cyclists?
SS: Yes. The main aim of the program is ensuring that cycling is practiced at grassroots level and that children in marginalized previously disadvantaged communities are given a chance to practice and master the sport with the aim of becoming professional cyclists. More than 90 per cent of the participants are young black cyclists.
JT: Do you think the program can potentially unite different race groups at an early age?
SS: Many young children do not see race in the age groups within which we teach cycling. If we teach children to cycle and compete together across all races at a young age, we could possibly create a unified sport where all children are given opportunities, regardless of race.
JT: How expensive is it to run the programme and do you receive monetary contributions from parents whose kids are part of it?
SS: The programme costs approximately N$400,000 to run annually. Parents contribute to special cycling gear for the children, if they so wish, however children are allowed to cycle free of charge.
JT: How will you describe the involvement of parents in supporting their kids emotionally and financially to take cycling as a sport?
SS: Parents have been extremely supportive in encouraging their children to attend practice and also volunteering to assist at local events and sometimes even driving the children to national competitions. With the current set-up, there is very little required from parents financially. However, where needed, they have been forthcoming. We have also seen representation from both genders of parents with slightly more mothers attending events.
JT: Tell us about the award, how much did you get for winning and how are you going to spend the prize money?
SS: We are extremely grateful for the Standard Bank award. The NCF-development board has already started to work on proposals. All the funds will be spent in the regions, probably on infrastructure support (building pump tracks) and purchasing more bikes for the regional centres.
JT: With an eye on the 2019 Kids on Bikes calendar, what the public can expect?
SS: We expect to open two more centres in 2019, and coaches will be able to attend an online course. This way we will be able to train more volunteers and improve the children’s skills. Practice will start in January, the centres are expected to host local competitions in April and August. The national championships will be held in September, whereby each of the centres selects ten of their best cyclists to attend the competition and compete against other centres. Practice ends shortly after the championships to enable the children to prepare for final exams.
JT: What will it take for the Kids on Bikes to win next year’s development programme award for the second year running?
SS: Hard work, hard work and more hard work.
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