How we changed an American’s life

Domineque Scott came to South Africa to work with United Through Sport in an effort to change the lives of disadvantaged children there — what she found changed her life.

In a recent visit to her old University, East Stroudsburg University, USA, Scott explained how her experiences in South Africa had influenced her new direction in life. United Through Sport was there to hear what she had to say.

Scott, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2008 and a master’s degree in 2009, both in sport management, from East Sroudsburg University, USA, had been coaching field hockey at a private college when she decided she needed to look for new horizons.“I wanted to go abroad, I wanted to make an impact and I wanted to give back to those who need it,” she said.

Scott, a four-year field hockey player at ESU, signed on to spend 12 weeks in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, starting in January 2014. “I went over for three months and I actually ended up staying for two years,” Scott said. At the end of her three-month volunteer stint, she was offered a job as mass participation program manager in South Africa. United Through Sport volunteers coach children in soccer (football), tennis, field hockey, rugby, cricket and netball. Scott coached the kids in field hockey and tennis and tutored them in English and Math.

The organization in South Africa works with thousands of children each year and it changes schools every six months in order to reach more kids. “We are coaching sports with them and also practicing life skills,” Scott said. That included lessons about HIV prevention and the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as soft skills, such as leadership, communication, teamwork and decision-making. She was moved by the gratitude of the students, as well as the kinship she found in each village and town. It was the first time Scott had been abroad and the experience was eye opening.

“Africa is a magical place,” Scott said. “They have such a sense of community over there, such love, they’re family people. Everybody knows each other”. She worked with children who came from extreme poverty who really wanted to be in school. “The kids appreciate what you’re doing so much,” she said. The schools typically don’t offer physical education so the programs provided time for the children to run around and play sports.

She recalled one student, Lindiwe, who played netball and eventually lived with United Through Sport volunteers because her home life at her sister’s place wasn’t conducive to studying. “The volunteers were helping her out with her academics in the evening,” Scott said. Lindiwe did so well she went on to a university, where she is in her second year with plans to become a lawyer. That’s especially impressive since she comes from a community where only 3 percent of the population goes to college. “It was life changing for her to be a part of the program,” Scott said.

The 29-year-old Scott came back to the U.S. a few weeks ago and is currently living in Milton, Delware and working to start an American branch of United Through Sport. She is fundraising and recruiting volunteers for coaching children abroad and hoping to organize an internship program for college students to coach in local disadvantaged communities. “I want to open United Through Sport USA to give other people opportunities to have these experiences,” she said. Volunteers in South Africa were based in Port Elizabeth, a city by the Indian Ocean, and worked with children Monday through Friday. On weekends, the volunteers could take excursions such as safaris, bungee jumping and diving in shark cages. Scott made close friends among the volunteers who came from countries that included Great Britain, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada and Germany.

Scott visited ESU with her mentor, Paula Parker, Ed.D., associate professor and chair of the ESU sport management department, with whom Scott has kept in touch and looked to for guidance on career choices. Dr. Parker says Scott has become a great ambassador for United Through Sport.

“Domineque’s engaging personality and passion for education through sport make her an ideal advocate for United Through Sport,” Parker said. “She shares her volunteer experiences in South Africa in such a way that everyone she comes into contact with will want to explore opportunities to volunteer.”

If you would like to take part in an international volunteer sports coaching placement abroad, great for internships, meaningful holidays or a gap year and career break, then check out our travel website by clicking here.

The World’s Strongest Marathon – Ross Edgley

When the clock strikes midnight on the 22nd of January I (Ross Edgley) will step foot on Silverstone race circuit ― with whey protein shake in hand ― and attempt to pull a 1,400kg MINI Countryman 26.2 miles in an event the media is calling, “The World’s Strongest Marathon”. Why? The short answer is to raise money and awareness for United Through Sport.

But the actual answer perhaps needs more elaboration on. Which is why I’ve put pen to paper to write this Blog post that begins with a brief back-story.

It was morning, Aug. 1, 2002, on the sun-bleached African plains of Namibia.

I’m 21 and have been tasked with documenting the life of the San Bushmen. A hunter-gatherer civilization who were no doubt wondering what the strange Englishmen was doing in their village. If I’m honest I don’t blame them either. I was completely out of my depth.

That’s because bright eyed and straight out of university I’d become this odd writer-athlete hybrid that had developed a reputation for accepting even the weirdest of assignments. Which is why I find myself emerging from a mud hut wearing nothing but a smile, homemade flip-flops and a traditional ‘tribal thong’ that barely covers my modesty.

Eager to earn their acceptance it worked. Never before had my bare buttocks received such rapturous applause as I was invited to sit among the men of the tribe.

However my victory was short lived. Handicapped by the language barrier it seemed once the novelty of my semi-displayed cheeks had worn off there was very little else to do. Without any means of communicating I had no way of developing rapport with my hosts.

Needless to say I wasn’t doing a great job as a writer or a San Bushmen.

What seemed like hours of silence passed until eventually I was saved by a moment of inspiration. I remembered the immortal words of Sebastian Coe ― former Olympic Gold Medallist ― that were engraved on a giant plaque in my University library.

“Sport is a universal language; building more bridges between people than anything else”

Politely excusing myself from the group I returned to the hut. Frantically searched for the semi-inflated football I’d kept in my luggage. Then returned to nervously present it to the tribe. Not a word was spoken. It didn’t need to be. We marked out some goals, picked teams and an impromptu match ensued.

Mr. Coe was right. For the rest of the week ― and for the rest of the life ― when in doubt I whipped out a ball, marked out a pitch and played sport. It’s never failed me. In the words of the Olympic Games founder Pierre Baron de Coubertin “The Olympic Spirit is neither the property of one race nor of one age.”

But it was experiences like this that taught me everyone loved sport. Everyone loved playing it. Everyone loved watching it. Everyone understood the value of it. Sport is an unwritten language understood by all.

Which is why I truly believe the work of United Through Sport is of profound importance! Which (coming back to the initial reason for this article) is why I decided to:

  1. Create a Virgin Money Fundraising Page
  2. Plan an insane stunt to capture people’s attention
  3. Use my small presence in the media to promote it

If at the end of the above ‘to do list’ myself and THE PROTEIN WORKS™ raise enough money and awareness for charity I will consider every blister, rope burn and painful step taken not in vain.

The sheer scale of the World’s Strongest Marathon has been captured in the below infographic by Watches of Wales Head Graphic Designer Shaun Preece:

World's Strongest Marathon - Infographic

Ashley Williams, Welsh International, Gives Support

Swansea City and Wales Captain Ashley Williams gives his support to United Through Sport.

We are excited to announce that Premier League Footballer Ashley Williams has given his backing to United Through Sport. The Wales and Swansea City FC Captain said of the charity “United Through Sport are doing some amazing things in parts of the world that need it the most”- “The work that United Through Sport does is vitally important and I’m proud to support it.”

The Centre-back recently celebrated his 50th International Cap and will be looking to lead Swansea City to a top 8 finish in the Premier League this year. We would like to congratulate Ashley on another great season of football and thank him for his support.

“United Through Sport are doing some amazing things in parts of the world that need it the most. Sport has the power to change people’s lives and teach them about so much more than the game they are playing. It’s hard to think that there are so many children out there who don’t have the opportunity to participate in organised sport. The work that United Through Sport does is vitally important and I’m proud to support it.”

Nick Abendanon becomes Ambassador

Nick Abendanon, England and Bath Rugby player joins our ever growing list of sports Ambassadors.

“United Through Sport are doing incredible things that are changing lives around the world. Through their work they have enabled tens of thousands of kids to have a better education and greater access to sport. I am a particular advocate of their work because of my close links to South Africa, where United Through Sport have been working for more than 10 years. I wish them continued success as they progress into other areas and I will support them 100% of the way”.

Nick Abendanon: English Rugby Union Player

Our Football Boys Receive Motivational Talk from Ghanaian Pro

Tuesday’s training session featured a very special visitor. Good friend of United Through Sport Ghana and Swedish Premier League star, Thomas Boakye, came down to Presby Park to speak and offer inspiration to our boys. Thomas’ team, Östersunds FK gained promotion to the Swedish Premier League (known as the ‘Allsvenskan’) as Champions this season thanks to a dramatic winner from the 19 year old Ghanaian wing back.

Kumasi born Boakye is back in Ghana due to the the Swedish end of season hiatus. With temperatures in the north of Sweden around 45°C colder than the December weather in Ghana, Boakye admits he is happy to be back after a very successful first season as a professional:

“It’s great to be back, but I am not going to pretend I don’t miss playing already!”

The message Boakye conveyed to our teams centred on the importance of hard work, both at training and in school. Thomas left his family in the Ashanti region aged just 10 to move to the prestigious Right To Dream football academy based in Akosombo, at the bottom of Lake Volta in the East of Ghana. Boakye’s dedication on the training field and in the classroom earned him a scholarship at the prestigious Hartbury Sports College in Gloucester, Western England.

During his time in England, Boakye represented England at Under 18 and 19 levels whilst playing for Non-League Forest Green Rovers and attaining a first class education that would prepare him for success in case his career in football did not materialise.

The importance of education and attitude was something Boakye was keen to emphasise to our boys. The Ghana Under 20 star urged our teams to capitalise on the extra lessons offered by United Through Sport volunteers at the School of Excellence every day before giving their all at their evening training sessions to improve their skills and fitness.

Boakye answered questions from our players on subjects ranging from his football heroes, life as a professional footballer and his remaining career aspirations.

Whilst the 2013 African Cup of Nations due to be held in South Africa next month may have come a little too soon for a senior call up to the full Ghana squad, Boakye has set his sights on impressing in his second International Under 20 tournament when Algeria hosts the African U20 Championship in March.

Thomas and other young Ghanaian footballers only have to look at the example set by fellow Right To Dream graduate, Abdul Waris. The young striker top scored in the Swedish Premier League last season and earned himself a lucrative move to Spartak Moscow. Spartak featured in this years’ UEFA Champions League playing against 3 past winners of the tournament in Celtic, Barcelona and Benfica. Domestically, Waris has not escaped attention as he looks set to be named in the Black Stars AFCON squad after starting the most recent friendly win over the Cape Verde Islands.

Here at United Through Sport Ghana we would like to thank Thomas Boakye for taking the time to offer our players advice and inspiration. He insisted the players should always show maximum respect for the coaches who spend vast periods of their free time to train our teams without asking for anything in return. We hope that both Boakye and United Through Sport can build on successful first seasons.

DJs to Travel 23,000 Miles to 92 Football Grounds

Local radio presenters Lee Partridge and Richard Williams have set themselves an incredible challenge in aid of United Through Sport – travel to all 92 English Football League and Premier League grounds in just one season!

The gargantuan trip will cover 23,000 miles, equivalent to once around the world, taking in six full days of football as they watch a match at each location. Watching 92 matches will be like two seasons in one!

Armed with a video camera and micropohone, Lee and Rich are targeting home fans outside grounds in order to record their unique view of their own clubs. Their interviews will then be broadcast on the Sports Bar show on TalkSport Radio with Andy Goldstein and Jason Cundy.