A number of years ago, I was in Capetown, South Africa on business when I was introduced to a young lad named Seth. He was a volunteer coach in the South African Elite Junior baseball programme and knew about my coaching background – especially my commitment to running and training barefoot (see photo below). Seth asked if I would be a guest coach at one of the weekly training sessions for the ages 12 to 17 year old boys’ and girls’ teams.
I readily agree to attend the practice and take the kids through drills specific to baseball. Seth arranged with the Head Coach – Mark Moore – to set aside time for me to work with the kids during one of their weekly sessions. As soon as I met Mark, it was like I was meeting a kindred spirit. He is a free thinker who takes risks, marches to his own drummer, sees things outside of the proverbial ‘box’, gives freely of his time and skills for the betterment of South Africa as a whole and cares not what others think about him and his methods. For those of you who follow my blog and know me personally, this sounds like a description of ME.
Mark gave me 45 minutes with the kids during which time I immediately got them barefoot doing drills on the field specific to the demands of baseball. Some of the kids were wearing some form of ankle ‘support’ to protect then from re-injuring a sprain. After explaining that all these do is make the ankle and feet weaker, I took them through a series of barefoot exercises to activate the whole body from the feet up (theynever put the braces on again). The overall results from doing my drills were impressive. Mark commented afterwards that he’d never seen his team run that light, compact and quiet on the bases and in the field. He asked if I would return to work with the kids again during my next visit. 18 months later, I did just that. The kids actually kept doing the drills I showed them during my 1st visit and had been much stronger with fewer avoidable injuries in the interim. Mark did comment, however, that “the running barefoot is a tad beyond us, Jeff…sorry to say. We just have trouble getting away from the ‘coffins’ (shoes). I gather you have as much resistance to your ideas in Canada as I do in South Africa”. Touche`, Mark!
A few weeks ago, Mark sent me a video clip (click on the link below) featuring a new
project he was launching in the ghettos of Capetown. Being a visionary, Mark wanted to bring organized physical activity to kids who have limited or no access to organized sports. Mark put a programme in place (using his youth baseball team members as instructors) to get kids living in tough circumstances physically active in positive pursuits. You can see by the shear joy expressed by the kids in the video clip that Mark, his youth team members and the programme is working. In spite of the odds and the naysayers, the tide has been turned. South Africa, indeed, will be better for it.
If more of us took the initiative shown by Mark Moore, our world would be such a better place. Congratulations, my friend, and here’s to continuing success. If you are not making a difference in your community but have been wanting to do so, maybe now is the time to start!!!