The rain failed to dampen spirits of over 40 children who gathered to learn the sports of Touch Rugby and Gymnastics last Saturday.
The new initiative is a joint effort between the Samoa Institute of Sport and the Marist Sports Club to develop grassroots sports aimed at children 12 and under, and create momentum towards more organised sports on Saturday for young people.
The Touch Rugby programme is led by Alex Mikaele, the Vice-President of the Samoa Touch Association and player-coach for the Marist Family Touch team.
Alex has represented Samoa in the sport, and hopes the programme will attract and engage more young people.
“The aim of our programme is for kids to have an appreciation for the sport and secondly, to promote and develop interest at the grassroots level,” he said.
If last Saturday’s display of natural talent is anything to go by, its safe to say that demand for the sport is sure to rise.
“The natural talent displayed by the kids at such a young age was overwhelming. Equally, their enthusiam and genuine desire to grasp knowledge and learn about the game of touch was really impressive.”
Despite being a relatively new sport in Samoa, enrolments for gymnastics have been booming. Ruta Schwalger who leads the programme, believes it is a positive sign and credits the week-long program run by Oceania Gymnastics in September for sparking interest.
“It’s exciting to see the talent of the 5-7 year olds enrolled in the programme. We can certainly see some performing cartwheels or handstands in the coming weeks.”
Ruta shares that the biggest challenge of introducing a new sport in Samoa is filling the knowledge and experience gaps of coaches who want to support development.
“Thankfully for us as coaches, we have the support of Oceania Gymnastics Development Manager Brooke Kneebush, whose guidance has been instrumental in helping us develop the 4-week program we’re rolling out”.
Both programmes end on Saturday 16 December and round off a successful year for the Samoa Institute of Sport. In 2018, the Institute plans to extend programmes for both sports for ages 5-12 year olds, as well as netball, basketball and athletics.