Sports at Sarnelli House

Like kids everywhere, the children here at Sarnelli House love to run around and play sport. The boys love their soccer, but are competitive on the badminton court too while the girls love badminton and playing in the pool. The grade school and junior high school boys at Sarnelli House live adjacent to a football field and as soon as the school bus has pulled in, the boys change out of their uniforms and make their way onto the field. In his time here, Fr. Ole spent a lot of time with these boys, arranging games, coaching and teaching them how to play sportingly. Even though Fr. Ole has been transferred to Bangkok, the boys continue to play, with house mothers and volunteers overseeing their matches. The boys have improved a great deal over the last few years and have learned how to play well as a team and also how to win and lose as a group. There is no finger pointing and complaining and they rally each other admirably. Fr. Ole used to arrange games against other villages or parishes and the boys lost way more than they won. But in the last 12 months, that has been turned around and the boys win most of their games, coming back with trophies and full of stories about their endeavours. Some of the players are really good, showing bravery, strength and no little skill. They are fast and energetic and have learned never to give up. Sport is a great way for these boys to share disappointments and savour success and also a useful means to expend some of that pent up adolescent energy! It has also been interesting to notice improvements in the overall behaviour of some of the boys since the football become more organised.

Badminton is a very popular sport here in Thailand. A Thai player is a former world champion and it is played in most schools and colleges. Our children love to play with each other and against the volunteers. The staff lined a badminton court in the hall and there is a net next to the football field as well. Since last year, we have held a badminton tournament during each of the school holidays. The kids play against their housemates so each house has its own champion, or two if there is a wide age range in a particular house. The standard has improved each tournament and there is a lot of excitement as the holidays approach. Everyone is keen to find out who they have been drawn against and the news is greeted with a moan or a confident nod. Two girls have won their house competition three times now and remain unbeaten over 12 months. Two of the older girls have played three successive finals, and the rivalry has become very real. And one of our young teenage boys has developed into a real star, beating two of the winners of the other houses  in a friendly play off as well as winning his own tournament. Watching the badminton being played, it is impressive to observe the perseverance of some of the teenagers in particular. Even though they might be facing stronger opponents, they never give up, playing hard to the very last point and, in most cases, accepting defeat with good grace. The games are becoming tighter too with one house extremely competitive. 

Sarnelli House was very fortunate that an American donor willed a swimming pool to the children. During the holidays, going to the swimming pool is the  singularly most anticipated event. The children know the swimming schedule better than their times tables at this point and play all sorts of complex games once in the pool. The boys bring a ball or something to dive after and the girls play with the swimming rings. Our brave volunteers shoulder most of the responsibility as they have to supervise the swimming. Male volunteers swim with the boys and girls with the girls. They are usually the target for dunking and the littler ones clamber on to the backs of the adults. We recently had a swimming teacher from Chiang Mai who gave lessons to some of the smaller kids and they are all desperate to practise. They have no fear and adore their time in the water.

Some of our children are very talented at sports and have been chosen for school teams in basketball, football, badminton and athletics. We are very proud of them and try to attend games and get proper sports gear and equipment for them. Sport represents many things for many people. Our children stay physically fit and gain strength and also learn about playing with others and winning and losing as a team. They are better for their involvement in sport and we are very grateful to donors, sponsors, volunteers and the staff for their contributions to the children’s sporting lives.

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