Engaged Learning

South Africa Trip Hits Home Importance of Sports

by Melissa Brooks, College of Arts and Sciences

Sport Management student Bobby Thompson MA '17 and alum Quintin Glover '16 strategizing with Dreamfields Soccer Project learners in Soweto, South Africa.
Sport Management student Bobby Thompson MA '17 and alum Quintin Glover '16 strategizing with Dreamfields Soccer Project learners in Soweto, South Africa.

Students in the Master’s in Sport Management program got to immerse themselves in the world of sports on a recent trip to South Africa. For many, the annual trip really hit home the important role sport plays in culture — especially its power to empower young boys and girls and advance social development.

Bringing together their passion for sport and the University’s social justice mission, the students held fundraisers to benefit underprivileged kids living in poor, rural townships. As in years past, they worked with community development organizations Alexandra Baseball and the Dreamfields Soccer Project, both of which aim to improve children’s quality of life and school experience through sports.

“For many of these at-risk youth facing dire economic situations, who often have their only meal of the day at the school, organized community sport provides a healthy avenue to develop self-esteem, responsibility, confidence, and ambition,” Professor Michael Goldman, who leads the annual trip, said.

With the help of Alexandra Baseball and the Dreamfields Soccer Project, the Sport Management students raised a total of $3,000. This money went toward soccer balls, cones, goals, training vests, and athletic clothes for an elementary school in a poorer part of Soweto, Johannesburg. The fundraiser culminated in a festival at the school, where the kids were eager to play soccer and try out the new gear.

By funding travel costs, the money also ensured kids on the Alexandra Baseball team got to play in South Africa’s league games — a dream come true for many. Before the young athletes left for their trip, they met the Sport Management students and had a blast playing a baseball game together.

Sport Management student Morgan Edwards MA ’17 said the opportunity to meet and support these kids was an eye-opening experience.

“The kids were so amazing and had such high spirits. They don’t have all of the materials or coaching that we might have grown up with, yet they are still so passionate and so appreciative of the little they do have. I was truly amazed to see how thankful these kids were that we spent an afternoon with them.”

A Trip Rich with Opportunity

The South Africa trip is nothing if not rich with opportunity. On top of their grassroots work in youth sport development, the students also got to tour agencies, stadiums, arenas, and other sporting facilities; meet and network with teams, broadcasters, and sponsors; and learn about the ins and outs of the sport business from industry leaders.

Sport Management student Derrick Sanchez MA ’17 said the trip shaped the way he thinks about the sports landscape of South Africa.

“This was a phenomenal trip that enhanced our perspective beyond the scope of the classroom,” he said. “It allowed us to immerse ourselves in areas of professional football, rugby, and cricket and ask industry professionals real, thought-provoking questions.”

Prof. Goldman said South Africa, as the epicenter of Africa’s sport business, is a prime location for students to gain hands-on experience in sport management. It’s the only country on the continent that’s hosted the FIFA World Cup and is the primary site for international sport business and sponsorship. And, as a country undergoing social change that’s closely tied to sport consumption, it gives students the chance to witness firsthand how the very thing they’re most passionate about — sports — can impact a nation’s political, cultural, and commercial landscape for the better.

Sport Management students from both the San Francisco and Orange County campuses participated in this trip.