Focusing on youth and a vibrant future 

Published: December 21st, 2019

Our young residents play an important part in the future of our town – they are tomorrow’s leaders and innovators. Patty Butterworth recently caught up with two Plett locals who are engaging youth in different ways.

In our town of Plettenberg Bay, two very different programs work to meet the needs of our young community members. The Crags Drill Squad offers a year-round, long-term programme aimed at helping empower youth between the ages of 8 and 16 years who face challenges of poverty, abuse and influences of crime.

Sticks & Balls Sports Academy, with the support of Greenwood Bay College, is a new programme focused on sport and the upliftment of youth between the ages of 5 and 18.

Sticks & Balls Sports Academy

Byron “Boaz” Shrosbree is the owner of Sticks & Balls Sports Academy. The programme was founded in 2018 and has grown from 40 children to more than 800 adults and children.

In addition to the basic ‘pay and play’ programme of sporting codes, the academy also sponsors 50 community children from disadvantaged communities. This part of the academy focuses on empowering young people to make healthy and positive lifestyle choices. The programme offers opportunity to play sport and stages events that are sport focused. The group aims to transform lives by connecting members with the experiences, resources and support they need to succeed.

Sticks & Balls Sports Academy
A hockey match held by Sticks & Balls Sports Academy at Greenwood Bay College.

Boaz grew up in Plett, attending primary and high school locally. He has coached and played top club and provincial level hockey and football (soccer) nationally and internationally. Before leaving to go overseas to further his training, he stayed in Plett while waiting for his visa. Not one to sit still, he became bored and noticed there was an opportunity to provide individual sports training and coaching for the Plett youth.

“I knew there was a need amongst all communities in Plettenberg Bay, but I never dreamed my small sports academy would grow so big so quickly,” says Boaz. It was soon evident that not only was there a need to provide sport to youth, there was also a great need to start a programme for impoverished youth that also included mentorship, education and empowerment.

“I always wanted to be a coach. Coming from Plett, I was an active provincial sportsman, but nobody was ever able to help me develop the correct technical skills to further my development. I realised this was a shortfall in the area. To be able to offer this opportunity is my gift to the community I grew up in,” says Boaz.

He then furthered his coaching career by completing various coaching qualifications, namely Scottish FA, SAFA (SA Football Association) and SAHA (SA Hockey Association), making him one of a few African candidates for the international leading program – UEFA Coaching Licenses. One obstacle he is constantly faced with is transport for the children who come from the outskirts of Plett. There is a need to include all areas of Plett in order to allow the children to have a competitive edge when it comes to playing sport against other schools and provinces.

Another issue is that of equipment. It is an ongoing challenge to find funding to purchase the correct training equipment for those children who are less privileged. Boaz recognises that the standards are miles behind the rest of the province when it comes to skills development for all sporting codes.

“You have to grind and work from the bottom to make your way up. This is how I learned and got my experience.” The academy aims to grow sponsorship from 50 to 500 children, a highly ambitious goal. This would include 400 children 5 to 13 years of age and 100 children 14 to 19 years of age. The goal is to provide lunch, after-school tutoring, strength conditioning, technical skills training five days a week and the added benefit of keeping kids healthy, focused and off the streets. The training would allow Plett schools to compete with the best players throughout the country. It will also create 40 new jobs for the Bitou area.

“We need coaches, educators and individuals to be trained as well as mentors to help our youth,” says Boaz. He has identified a great need for children in the community. There are more than 5000 children under the age of 13 in Plettenberg Bay. According to Boaz, there are virtually no employed sports coaches in the outlying schools, and there are less than seven, extremely thinly stretched volunteer teachers who are involved in coaching.

The academy has the potential to change the lives of so many children in the area. The programme is currently self-funded. To be able to continue the growth of the Academy, donations from local businesses and individuals are paramount. The ‘pay and play’ part of the programme currently funds the majority of the 50 Academy sponsored youth.

Boaz’ number is 071 252 4259 and email, so go on, be a sport and contact him if you are able to contribute to the programme in any way.

The Crags Drill Squad

Founded in 2017 by Sergeant Byron de Vos from the Plettenberg Bay SAPS, Mr Louw from the Crags Primary School and Yvette Wilschut, the Crags Drill Squad programme serves about 60 youths at a time, focusing on teamwork, the importance of education and community.

“There are very few role-models for kids to look up to, so the drill squad was initiated at the Crags Primary School to instill discipline and respect and we wanted to create a safe environment for children in the afternoons,” says Wilschut.

The Crags Drill Squad
The Crags Drill Squad in action.

This is one of the most important aspects of the programme, to prevent them from becoming influenced by crime, drugs and alcohol. “We want to give these children hope and a sense of belonging and accomplishment,” she says. It has not been easy. They were so out of their depth with their first competition and did not even finish. However, this was not a deterrent and both leaders and learners persevered.

Later that same year, they made history in Cape Town when they were awarded first place in the Exhibition category. They were the first rural team to win. Being involved with youth can be challenging, and sometimes soul-destroying. With great passion and 18 years of experience in community development, you won’t find a more dedicated programme leader than Yvette Wilschut.

“Children have been my passion for years. Our children need to be invested in urgently as they are our future! The fact is, our schools are getting out of control and children are dropping out at an alarming rate. Children need to feel like they are succeeding and achieving whilst trying to cope with the daily challenges many face. Children want to belong and have identity. For a child, being part of a team is extremely rewarding and knowing people care drives them to move forward,” she says.

It is clear, the team stick together. If a parent passes on, the entire squad will go to the funeral in uniform and pay tribute to that family member. The children draw support from one another and have become a family, and welcome new members on a regular basis. The Crags community love the project and are very supportive.

It has been rewarding for programme leaders and the community, most importantly, watching the children grow into mature, confident young adults. The programme networks with local organisations including the SAPS, the Department of Education, the Knysna Drug & Alcohol Centre, The Crags Working on Fire team and Nedbank. They focus on fitness, teamwork, learning to focus, selfesteem and life skills training.

The drill squad is a safe place to meet with peers who face similar challenges. It connects youth with community resources and offers support from staff and well-trained adults and mentors. Local businesses and individuals provide most of the squad’s funding, and more than 12 individuals volunteer to make the programme a success.

The Crags Drill Squad can be seen in action on the 16th December at the Plett Streetlights Carnival. Don’t miss their incredible display of precision and harmony, they are a treat to watch. Yvette’s number is 082 413 8077 and email, for contributions or more info.