What is Sports Connect all about?
We are an organisation that uses sports for social good. We started five years ago and over time we have seen growth in our community. Our flagship product is basketball, but as a consultancy we do a wide variety of sports-related activities. Sports is a multi-million-dollar industry and what our business is trying to do is empower our children to look at it as an opportunity. We want to create confidence and build skills, which are essential components in finding opportunities in the field.
Who is Cynthia and why did you choose sports as a tool for change?
I am a mother of a nine-year-old boy and a first born child in a family of four children. Being the only girl gave me a challenge to leave a mark and set a good example for my siblings. I have17 years experience as a player, manager and trainer in basketball. I have played for five teams in the Kenya Basketball Federation and also managed the national women’s team in the 2010 Maputo All African Games.
I am a sportsperson and I understand issues affecting Kenyan sports. I am currently pursuing my master’s in Sports Management at the Johan Cryuff Institute, though I have put it on hold. I hold a Diploma from Wits University in Sports Management. I have a certificate in marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I am a Launch and Grow Fellow, class of 2017. This is an entrepreneurship accelerator programme supported by the Women of Africa Foundation that seeks to empower women entrepreneurs in Africa. The programme runs at Babson College in Boston Massachusetts. I serve on the Advisory Board for the Hype Foundation, the fastest growing global eco system for sports.
What impact has your programme had?
As an organisation, we have touched many lives. Directly we have impacted 450 children’s lives through our Junior NBA programme. We have also empowered the local basketball fraternity through training of coaches and referees with the best techniques and technology in existence for the past four months. We are keen to modernise and professionalise the sport in Kenya after years of decline and ineptitude.
Our initial pilot targeted collaboration with schools and it was framed around the concept of East and West divisions. The response from the children has been amazing, especially during holidays. I can estimate that we have reached 2,000 young people. To us providing the platform for exposure and offering life skills plus mentorship is important.
How has your project impacted the local basketball fratenity?
The National Basketball Association in the USA supported eight young players to the South Africa Festival. The players had a role in the 12 teams and importantly learnt the values of teamwork, commitment, sacrifice and passion for the sport. Seeing as the sport is growing in the estates, we try and co-ordinate some of these events. The Vikapu Elite Basketball is a significant project we are keen to grow as a brand and we want to make it run every other holiday. Such programmes will not only help the game grow, but keep the children preoccupied during their free times.
What are the long-term plans for Sports Connect Africa?
Our next stop is definitely Nakuru and Eldoret given the interest and availability of infrastructure. We plan to put up 1,000 courts across the country in open spaces. Additionally, we are keen to partner with the community to popularise the game further. Basketball is about having fun and we want to push that agenda to the youth.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Our biggest problem is funding. The reason basketball is not established in Kenya is because there are few professional players. Many just play the game for fun because it has few sponsors. However, there is a lot of talent, but the management structures are wanting. Many people do not see the value proposition thus, the game will probably continue to stagnate. As a business, we have run into such headwinds and are looking at modalities of changing the mindset.