In reaching out to over eight million students in more than 16,000 state and private schools across Brazil, the Transforma programme has given many of the country’s youngsters their first taste of a host of different sports. Through classes, coaching sessions and sports festivals, the programme, which began in 2013, has broadened the range of sports available to Brazilian children, meaning that those who craved alternatives to the country’s traditional ‘big three - football, volleyball and basketball – have been able to explore new avenues to discover their sporting potential.
The general consensus is that the positive impact that the programme has had on young lives both in sporting terms and beyond has exceeded expectations. Adopting the motto “Transforming lives by bringing education and sport together”, Transforma has forged a network comprising parents, students, sponsors, federations, teachers and Brazilian Olympic athletes. Together, they have worked to inspire and transform the lives of young people across Brazil.
One Rio school where the Transforma programme has exceeded expectations is the Rosa Da Fonseca Municipal School, where PE teacher Carla Da Silva Reis Alves has had great success in exposing her students to sports they would never have dreamed of playing before: “To begin with, they didn’t want to even try badminton and rugby, but they’re playing them on a regular basis now, as well as other different sports such as street basketball, fencing, golf, hockey and athletics.”
As she went on to explain, Transforma has also had a positive knock-on effect in terms of student behaviour: “Students are more attentive to each other and there’s a lot less bullying now. They respect people who do something different and they’re responding positively to new things. They really take part now and the relationship between students and teachers is excellent. We even let the older students decide how to organise competitions and the formats they should take.”
One of the many Brazilian youngsters to gain a fresh purpose in life thanks to Transforma is ninth-grader Wellington. “He wasn’t disciplined at all and he had to repeat a year,” said Carla. “Then he was chosen to take part in athletics training and he became a different person. His grades have really improved and though he arrives tired at school from training, his eyes shine with enthusiasm.”
Sport instils respect, equality, willpower and responsibility, all of which apply in and out of class
Jorgina Rodrigues Guimarães Rosa Municipal Principal
Another educational establishment to have embraced the programme is the Guimarães Rosa Municipal School. Situated in the Rio suburb of Magalhães Bastos, the school was the first in the city to introduce rugby through the Transforma programme, with boys and girls playing alongside each other and getting a taste of a sport that made a long-awaited return to the Olympic programme at Rio 2016.
Explaining the instant impact of the sport on her students, PE teacher Lucia Imbrosio said: “It was love at first sight. The children really identify with rugby. They really love it and there’s always a lot going on in matches. And at their age, running is what they enjoy the most.”
The school’s principal, Jorgina Rodrigues, is effusive in her praise of the programme: “Transforma has brought many benefits to the school, including more opportunities, new experiences and exposure to other sports.”
Describing the benefits it has brought in terms of values, she added: “Sport instils respect, equality, willpower and responsibility, all of which apply in and out of class. With time, students have come to understand the importance of values in everyday life and in all environments.”
The school has also begun producing track and field talent thanks to the support of its Transforma consultant and Olympic volunteer Edgar Oliveira. With the principal’s backing, he helped set up an athletics track and encouraged some of the students to take up track and field, with some having since gone on to develop their skills at elite training centres.
From the likes of Oliveira’s budding young athletes to wheelchair-bound students who have lost their fear of venturing on to a sports court thanks to Transforma, many young lives are being turned around across Brazil, proof once more of the transformative power of sport and Olympic values.