Following the arrival of the 6-12-Year Just Play Programme in October 2020, the island of ‘Eua in Tonga is ready to implement the next stage of programme thanks to the recent delivery of a two-day training course.

Fifteen volunteers attended the Sport to Life training for the 13-18-Year Just Play Programme, held at Mata’aho Community Hall and conducted by Tonga Just Play Master Instructor, Lafaele Moala.

The Sport 2 Life component focuses on coaches and guiding them to facilitate positive outcomes by helping players to develop the skills to make consistent, long-term, healthy lifestyle choices on and off the field of play.

Mosa’ati Ma’u, President of ‘Eua Football Association, praised the programme and its impact during his opening remarks.

“We are extremely grateful for the Just Play Programme and the contribution it has made towards the football player pathway. I’m sure that this is a continuation of the Just Play 6-12 programme here on the island and the volunteers will get to familiarise themselves with the sport to life skills.”

Just Play was originally introduced to ‘Eua through the Ministry of Education with the Just Play 6-12-Year Health and WASH component delivered in six Government Primary Schools in late-2020.

With support from the Tonga Just Play donors, the programme is being expanded to include the Just Play 13-18-year Sport to Life programme.

A former Tonga international who has switched into coach-mode in recent years, Moala understands the requirements needed to transition into the leadership role.

“To ensure that volunteers gain confidence, we allow them to run one of the 16 sessions with their respective skills, they are able to adapt or change the sessions according to the theme, and using football as a tool,” he said.

In order to ensure the learning journey is accessible even in Tonga’s less populated communities, Moale and the Just Play team adapt the content they deliver to the local context, including running their courses in the local language.

Feedback from one of the participants said the group identified the importance of Sport to Life for “everyone, not only for the players but for the volunteers and we can also apply the learning to our everyday norms”.

Representing the ‘Eua football community, Ma’u concluded the training with a message acknowledging the guidance the Just Play Programme and Tonga Football Association have provided in assisting volunteers to understand the importance of the social messages and skills of Sport to Life.

“We learn healthy messages in Just Play 6-12 Health and WASH, also we learn eight high-impact attributes and six Sport to Life skills in Just Play Sport to life Skills 13 – 18 programmes. I have witnessed the key factors that affect our youth today as discussed during the course such as drugs, smoking, drinking alcohol and domestic violence. Included in the six Sport to Life skills, Look and Listen is vital for the awareness of safety and safeguarding in our society,” Ma’u said.

“I wish the volunteers, when they go out to their communities, try to apply every little thing they learned from the two-day training so that their children will grow up and become good citizens.”

The Just Play Programme is implemented by the OFC Social Responsibility department alongside key partners the Australian Government, New Zealand Government, UEFA Foundation for Children, Football Australia and UNICEF.

Additional reporting: Tonga Football