ONLY one out of 10 schools in South Africa offers sport as an extra-mural activity.What began four years ago as a dream to improve the lives of underprivileged children through sport has since developed into an incredibly uplifting programme. The African Bank programme, Let’s Play Netball, is now in its fourth year and the results are really starting to show. Coach Linda Odolo of Port Elizabeth has taken her teams from knowing nothing about netball to dominating the scene in the Eastern Cape. Odolo trains primary and high school girls in the townships of Uitenhage, where extra-mural sports and activities are almost non-existent. This year her players have remained unbeaten, winning matches in all age groups against private schools, Malherbe and Pearson, as well as netball clubs such as Phoenix. On Youth Day this year African Bank’s players took the trophy home at a tournament at Zwide Stadium. “It’s really satisfying and exhilarating to see young girls, who have very little in life, come out and show their strength on the court,” said Odolo. “I am so proud of their hard work and bravery. They inspire me every day.”Odolo’s project is supported by the African Bank staff in Port Elizabeth and championed by Uitenhage branch manager Clifton Geswint. “Cliff is at all our matches. He is our biggest supporter and also an advisor and friend to me when times get tough.”Odolo explained how things are not always easy working with children in underprivileged communities. “Just last year one of the young netball players was tragically murdered near her house in the Ibhayi Township. The sad reality is that many other young girls face challenges arising from poverty, failing schools and no access to good nutrition.“These girls are formidable. They keep playing their game and find a lot of hope and confidence on the court,” she said.Kennedy Dembetembe, CSI manager for African Bank, said African Bank runs a number of different sports programmes across South Africa as sport has the unique ability to bring people together and inspire children to dream and to find focus. “Through team sports in particular kids learn to communicate with each other. “This instils discipline and teaches them fair play. Introducing after-school sports programmes into disadvantaged communities offers more than just sports skills; it also assists in furthering a variety of valuable life skills like self-esteem, teamwork, social integration, healthy living, safe environments and creating new bonds and friendships,” he said.