SCORE was founded in the sprawling township of Khayelitsha, near Cape Town, by visionary US Olympic rower Juliet Thompson, in 1991. Led by Juliet, a team of five American volunteers worked in five schools in Khayelitsha, coaching and teaching sport for several months at the beginning of that year. At the time, the project was ground breaking, a unique effort to give impoverished township children a chance to play against the backdrop of apartheid South Africa and use sport as the basis of cultural exchange.
The success of this 4 month pilot project led to its adoption by the US-based WorldTeach organisation and in September of that year, Stefan Howells, future leader of SCORE was appointed to be the first field coordinator and set up an ongoing structured program. Juliet moved on from WorldTeach and in 1993 WorldTeach withdrew their support for the SCORE program. Political violence threatened the activities, but Stefan and South African soccer star David Notoane persisted and continued the work under difficult circumstances, looking for new support.
In 1994, democracy dawned in South Africa along with new opportunities. Howells officially re-registered SCORE as a South African NGO, and with the support of the Netherlands Olympic Committee and Dutch sports volunteers, programs began again and soon expanded beyond Khayelitsha. The office moved from a bedroom in a volunteer house to the new Sports Science Institute of South Africa. Interest in SCORE grew both within the country and abroad.
The late 1990’s were a period of expansion for the organisation, as SCORE expanded to other provinces in South Africa whilst working closely with the National Sports Council and provincial government sports departments. New partnerships developed with the Norwegian Olympic Committee and the Finnish Sports Confederation, and SCORE became the first sports organisation to receive development assistance funding from the Dutch government. In 1997, a sports program for children with disabilities was added.
In 1999, SCORE was awarded a grant for a multi-year project from the European Union; it was the first sports project to receive EU Development Directorate (DGVIII) funding and was a game changer for the organisation – the legacy of which is still found in the communities involved today. During this period, SCORE expanded its volunteer teams significantly, with 60+ volunteers drawn from across Europe and Southern Africa working in communities across the country each 6 months. The staff grew too – and so did the impact in the community.
SCORE built 36 outdoor multipurpose community sports facilities, trained 31.477 people in various skills building workshops and 196.909 people were involved in activities that spanned 50 communities across 4 provinces.
One of SCORE's strongest legacies was the establishment of community sports councils and organised sport in the target communities, as well as the increased involvement of girls and women.
By 2005, with support from the South African National Department of Sport and Recreation, SCORE was working in all 9 provinces of the country. In 2005, to celebrate the Norwegian Centennial SCORE also organised an international Kicking AIDS Out football festival with teams from South Africa, Namibia and Zambia participating. The experience gained from this sport and life skills competition led to the development of the Cup of Heroes concept, and the first Cup of Heroes was organised in 2007.
In 2008, Executive Director Stefan Howells was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth for “services to sport and social development in Southern Africa”
In the lead up to the FIFA World Cup, SCORE was part of the national “Unite Mzansi (South Africa) Unite!” campaign with adidas and through a partnership with UNICEF was able to give some of the young people involved in our programming the chance to be out on the field as flag bearers and in the stands watching games – a once in a lifetime experience.
In the communities we initiated a holiday program implemented by community sports leaders that included football coaching, life skills learning and a football tournament. Each team of children represented one of the countries playing in the World Cup and the competition followed the same game schedule as the official tournament.
Another highlight was collaboration with a Dutch television station 1V. They followed and filmed a football team SCORE put together of youth from very different social and economic corners of Cape Town society as they got to know each other, practiced and played together through SCORE facilitation and under guest coach Foppe De Haan. It was a microcosm of South African society, reaching out and finding one another through football.
One of the other major events of 2010 was the launch and opening of the Mbekweni Community Sport Centre. Our partnership with Hope Through Action resulted in SCORE managing this centre and gaining new opportunities to apply our experience and to continue learning by working in the different environment of a physical indoor community sport centre. Since January 2015, SCORE began managing and operating the Franschhoek Valley Community Sport Centre.
SCORE’s community involvement around South Africa has continued since 2010, and the Cup of Heroes has become a driving force in bringing together all the training and mentoring we do. During the last few years, SCORE has also focused on developing its training and facilitation expertise.
In 2015, SCORE was finally recognised as an accredited training service provider in South Africa, opening up new opportunities once again, but also giving the people we train a recognized certificate when they complete our training.
Though SCORE has worked primarily in South Africa, the organisation already began its international work in 1995 when Stefan Howells was consulted on the development of a new sport and development project in Suriname. A few years later, SCORE supported the Zimbabwean Sports and Recreation Commission to set up a sports volunteer program. Then during the period of 2000 – 2010, SCORE became much more active in the Southern African region. At the core of this was SCORE’s involvement in sports volunteer programming; from 2002-2011 SCORE facilitated a regional south-south sports volunteer exchange program which included South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and later Lesotho.
SCORE’s work in the region began in 2000, when SCORE expanded its programs to Namibia, at the invitation of the then Namibian Ministry of Youth and Sport, and began the first exchange program of sports volunteers between Namibia and South Africa. Work in Namibia focused on school sport and developing a youth sports volunteer corps. In 2006, SCORE Namibia was responsible for the recruiting, training and management of volunteers at the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa, Zone VI Youth Games hosted by Namibia in Windhoek. In 2007, SCORE Namibia was involved with the Next Step sport and development conference hosted in Windhoek and responsible for organising a Youth Forum that took place alongside the conference. During the same year, SCORE Namibia’s programs were included in the Republic of Namibia’s National Development Plan III.
In 2002, SCORE had expanded to Zambia, working with the National Sports Council of Zambia and with support from Norwegian donors. Around the same time, SCORE formalised its presence in the Netherlands, which had served as a recruiting base for volunteers from across Europe, and established Stichting SCORE (SCORE Netherlands).
As SCORE’s experience and expertise was recognised, so opportunities to share that expertise internationally also increased. As a result, SCORE facilitators and program experts worked on projects in the Caribbean, Canada, various countries in Africa and even in Vietnam, as well as working with other NGOs and some government departments in South Africa, for whom we offered training that used sport as a development instrument.
SCORE also joined networks and was a founding member of the international Kicking AIDS Out Network, established in 2001. Several years later one of SCORE’s trainers facilitated sport and HIV/AIDS Awareness activities at the World AIDS Conference in Toronto.