Reflections from Africa: A Journey of Connection, Growth, and the Universal Language of Sport

December 14, 2023
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As we wrap up our incredible journey across Africa, a continent of vibrant cultures and diverse landscapes, it’s hard to fully express the profound impact this trip has had on us. Venturing into Tanzania, and the Republic of the Congo, but doing direct training and programming in Zambia and Kenya, we’ve encountered experiences that have reshaped our understanding of the world and the work we do.

From the onset, this expedition was a leap into the unknown, despite our preliminary online interactions with the local communities we planned to engage with. What we found was an overwhelming sense of connection, a testament to the idea that human relationships transcend geographical and cultural barriers.

Our time here, marked by witnessing and participating in local life, has solidified a belief I’ve often shared: children are universally similar, their spirits undimmed by their surroundings. This realization hits home particularly on this 14th morning in Africa, as we reflect on the bonds we’ve forged and the lessons we’ve learned.

A poignant part of our experience has been living as a minority, an invaluable and humbling perspective that everyone should have the chance to understand. It’s in these moments of contrast and adaptation that we learn the most about ourselves and others.

Perhaps the most striking takeaway from this journey aligns with Nelson Mandela’s wise words: “Sport has the power to change the world!” Indeed, sports is a language understood by all, transcending societal and cultural divides. Our mission, to encourage sport sampling and embrace the philosophy that “Life’s 2 Short 4 Just 1 Sport,” has found new resonance here.

Our work’s essence – using sports as a vehicle for teaching social-emotional learning and fostering leadership – has been vividly demonstrated in our recent training ofover 35 educators, soon-to-be physical education teachers from Kenyatta University and coaches from Nairobi’s MYSA Center.   It was the brilliant planning of our Kenyan partner, Wellness for Greatness Kenya (WFGK) that made this a possibility.  They secured the venue, recruited the educators and yesterday had nearly 150 children arrive at the center to allow us to put the training into immediate practice.  It was one of the greatest days in 2-4-1 history!  With tremendous thanks to the WFGK leadership of Moses Olichiri Amonje and Stephen Tanui, we were able to declare those 35 educators as 2-4-1 TOP Self International Ambassadors having been trained for 2 days in our methodology.  

With Wellness for Greatness Executives Stephen Tanui and Moses Moses Olichiri Amonje

We also owe a great debt of gratitude to our training partners at The Center for Healing and Justice through Sport (CHJS).  Here in Africa was the first time we integrated the CHJS training materials with 2-4-1 TOP Self and Physical Literacy Development training. The way our materials have seamlessly integrated with local educational methods is a testament to the universality of our combined approach. This collaboration has been both inspiring and affirming, highlighting the adaptability and relevance of our programs across different cultural contexts.  We are so humbled and appreciative to CHJS and we can now confidently say that there are 70 newly trained coaches in Africa that understand brain development as it relates to coaching, are trauma-informed, and can use that knowledge to keep sports fun, safe and developmentally appropriate, while teaching the skills of SEL!

The children here in Nairobi and in Kitwe, Zambia were extremely receptive to learning strategies on how to manage their emotions.

As we prepare to leave, feelings of nostalgia and a sense of belonging weigh heavy on us. Yet, we are also filled with gratitude for the experiences shared and the insights gained. This journey may be ending, but the stories, the connections, and the lessons will continue to influence us and our work.

We return home with a renewed commitment to using sports as a means to educate, empower, and unite. Africa, with its warmth, resilience, and spirit, has shown us that our mission knows no bounds, and the impact of sports in changing lives and worlds is indeed limitless.

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About Steve Boyle

Steve Boyle is a visionary leader and advocate for youth sports and physical literacy. As the Executive Director of 2-4-1 CARE, Inc. and Co-Founder/Director of 2-4-1 Sports, Steve stands at the forefront of the movement to transform the youth sports paradigm. His forward-thinking anti-specialization approach has garnered acclaim from esteemed institutions like the Aspen Institute. At the helm of 2-4-1, Steve has skillfully guided its expansion from its flagship location in West Hartford, Connecticut, to a range of locations across the U.S., Canada, and Africa. His leadership has not only scaled the program but also redefined the standards of youth sports Beyond the scope of 2-4-1 Sports, Steve’s influence extended to developing the National Association of Physical Literacy, where his insights as Advisory Board Chair were pivotal. His tenure as Global Lead on Physical Literacy and Athletics for Whittle School & Studios marked a significant contribution to the global community, shaping the athletic and physical education frameworks across campuses in Shenzhen and Washington, D.C. Steve is equally known for merging his expertise in counseling with his coaching acumen to create the TOP Self social-emotional learning platform. This innovative endeavor leverages sports to impart essential social-emotional learning skills, cementing Steve’s status as a national authority in physical literacy development.

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