I remain convinced the future of Botswana sports lies 100% in substantially increasing investment in youth development initiatives. We have to and must focus our full efforts in getting youth and grassroot sport right. Any half-hearted measure will not take us anywhere. This amounts to cheating and deceiving ourselves! Why and how can we really hope to reap from where we never sow?
We will continually mourn our failures when we see other country’s development undertakings bearing fruit. There are many instructive examples to draw from. The most recent being the victory secured by Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations final. The coach ignored incessant calls to pick the experienced players against the youthful brigade. And who triumphed?
He did! Even beating the highly experienced Ivory Coast who were outright favourites to win the tournament. This now means Nigeria has a youthful crop of players on whom it will rely for many years to come. At the same time they will be expected to develop new talent from the grassroot. Botswana should take this free lesson to heart. Our sports codes should not be carried away by having to assemble senior teams to play international competitions.
If a push comes to a shove, international competitions must be suspended to ensure that we develop teams that are able to withstand the rigours of international sport. To enforce youth development, the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) should enhance affiliates support by providing more technical officers and coaches to groom talent. This is where most of our money should go – sport development. For many years now the sport development vote has not grown at the same pace as the recurrent provision.
This means we have continued to spend more on the secretariat, which is seemingly bloated. At some point there were less than five technical officers appointed to oversee development at the code level. The number is still very low compared to the youth development challenges on the ground. Of course, the country has been blessed with technical support provision from the Cuban government.
But still, we need to escalate our development initiatives at the sport codes by ensuring that the majority of them have permanent coaches to lead their development initiatives. As a result there is definitely a need for rationalisation of personnel not only at the BNSC secretariat, but also within the codes themselves.
A big wage bill that does not address current priorities of Botswana’s sport cannot be sustainable. Importantly, we should spend on the games developers – coaches and athletes themselves, including securing high performance centres where the athletes’ full potential can be developed. If for whatever reason, there is an over engagement of administrative staff at the BNSC secretariat this has to be reversed as a matter of urgency.
We need to see netball having a permanent national coach or technical director to oversee sport development, particularly at youth level.The same applies to codes like volleyball, rugby, cricket, softball and others that carry a lot of promise.
To have each manager at the BNSC secretariat with a personal assistant and secretary while codes suffer can not be right. Increasingly, what we have to see more is sport being driven in the fields of play than in offices. And hence reduce administrative staff and get more coaches!