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21 December 2015

Sporting Marvels: the heroic mission of engaging with children through sport

Sporting Marvels: the heroic mission of engaging with children through sport

Sporting Marvels is a pioneering children and youth ministry based in Wales' Rhondda Valleys. It was founded by Phil Davies after his pastor asked him an unusual question in 2002: "What would you try for God if you knew you couldn't fail?" After only a few days of creative thought and prayer, Phil, then one of the UK's highest paid commercial Rugby men at Newport RFC, voiced a vision for his home area: to put a positive Christian role model in front of every school pupil in Rhondda in the age range 10-18, every day, forever, until Jesus returns.

Since 2003, Sporting Marvels has been working in the valleys' primary and secondary schools, demonstrating good character and teaching values that will stay with the children for the rest of their lives. The first 'Marvel' was a South African, Christiaan Welman, who was based in the Tonypandy Community College. Today, Sporting Marvels works in 17 primary schools and two secondary schools through a team of nine marvels. Though the first 11 workers came from overseas, the current team members are all from the Rhondda, each one of them having grown up through the Sporting Marvels programmes from primary to secondary school and becoming Christians in the process.

Through a carefully planned training course, team members learn how to deliver lessons that conform to the National Curriculum; these include RE, PSE and of course PE. In addition to teaching time, the marvels run a range of events and after school clubs. 

Since 2010, chief executive Lawrie Davies, Phil's son, has overseen their schools operation. Lawrie reflects on the daily routines of their young team... "Monday is our team day, starting with prayer from 9 until 10am. Team members share what's been happening during the past week and then we pray into those situations. The rest of the morning is spent preparing for and planning the week ahead before our team leaders have one-to-one evaluations with each Marvel.

From Tuesday to Friday, the Marvels work across different schools in the two valleys. The primary school timetable sees each day divided into morning and afternoon and lessons last two hours each. With a morning in one school and an afternoon in another, our Mighty Marvels teach for an hour before the morning break, and follow this with an hour-long PE lesson. They follow the Mighty Marvels Programme curriculum, a 36-week course designed to teach important life principles, character values, healthy lifestyle and good citizenship. Our programme follows the criteria set out in the Key Stage 2 curriculum, taught over the three school terms. The lessons focus on the lives of David and Jesus, and the Church in the classroom. We've also recently incorporated Old Testament heroes and New Testament heroes into our programme. The kids have responded brilliantly to the new lessons. While still meeting the educational objectives, everything is geared up towards fun and enjoyment. The Marvels really care about the children we work with and whatever happens to them in terms of faith, they know that we will still care for them and are there for them."

In secondary school, the Marvels choose 10 boys and 10 girls in year seven, mostly pupils they taught in the primary schools, and take them through the All-Star Programme for seven years. Through registration and after school clubs, the Marvels explore important social and moral issues with the pupil. The day-to-day role of the workers sees them involved in almost every PE lesson at the school, working directly with the children through the delivery of the class. 

When the All-Stars reach year 10, they graduate to the All-Star Leadership Academy, which lasts until year 13 when they leave school. The academy focuses more on helping the All-Stars become confident and competent young leaders, and provides them with lots of opportunities to gain team experience and become rolemodels for the younger All-Stars. The whole programme greatly enriches their portfolios and personal statements when applying for university and the future. For others it acts as the perfect training ground for becoming positive Christian role models and Marvels

In their free time, the Marvels are sports enthusiasts. The girls represent Sporting Marvels in the South Wales Community Netball League and some of the boys play football in the South Wales Alliance Football League Division 1 for Sporting Marvels FC. A few are studying to become personal trainers on the side of their ministry commitments."

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