Sports administrators concur that nothing beats school sports for grassroots development at all levels
Sports administrators across various codes share the view that lack of school sports delays progress in continuity and development of sports at the grassroots level.
This comes after team Botswana’s unconvincing performance at the recent Africa Region 5 Games in Lilongwe, Malawi compared to previous games.
Team Botswana’s below average performance saw The Stripes garner 47 medals (12 gold, 22 silver and 13 bronze) to finish fifth out of 10 countries in the region.
In the aftermath, sports administrators have labelled these results as “below average”, looking at the 64 medals that the team won to finish second in Lesotho last year.
Most of the medals came through athletics (37) while tennis, volleyball and boxing added a measly 10. Swimming, basketball, football, netball returned home empty-handed.
In interviews with Gazette Sports, sports administrators have called for a return of school sports without delay in order to speed up progress in development of sports within schools and outside schools.
“This is very straight forward: there is nothing we can achieve without schools,” said Kelebogile Maplanka of Botswana Netball Association. “And it is not only for sport because the development of the human being starts somewhere and the school is an important institution at that stage of learning different things.
“Look at all the administrators of sports right now, from the top at the ministry down to the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC), the Botswana National Olympics Committee (BNOC) and the National Sport Associations (NSA) and you find that all the people there originated from school sports.
“Athletes are discovered in schools and we are simply calling for a return of school sports because it is straightforward that sports cannot grow through community sports.”
The vice president of Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) administration, Oabona Theetso, echoed Maplanka’s words when she said the absence of school sports has hit the country hard and dented their progress, especially at the Junior World Championships.
“This issue has affected us very badly because we have seen athletes’ performance regress where it was supposed to progress,” she said. “We should not even think that we are doing anyone a favour by reinstating school sports because it is for the good of the county. We therefore need to swallow our pride and empower teachers because teachers play a very crucial role in training athletes.”
The coach of the junior national team of the Botswana Swimming Sports Association, Solomon Mpusetsang, said school sports is the first stop in grassroots development for through schools themselves and for national sport associations.
“We believe that federations can work hand in hand with schools in order to grow sports at the grassroots level,” he said.
“The government should have an input because most sports administrators, teachers and coaches are volunteers at the moment and it is difficult for them to account and take responsibility for poor performance of athletes.”
The president of Botswana Volleyball Federation, Tsoseletso Magang, added that the lack of school sports has definitely demonstrated that they are losing out on developing young athletes and that entering age group completion is going to be a struggle.
“It has shown us that the work done by teachers at schools is work that should not be taken lightly,” she said.
“Federations have invested a lot in teachers throughout the years, training them through different courses. They therefore possess skills that we cannot dispute.
“I am aware that there was a task force that was tasked to deal with this issue and they have made recommendations. We are available to support the government’s efforts to reintroduce school sports.”
The Minister of Youth, Gender, Sports and Culture, Tumiso Rakgare, recently announced that the government was working around the clock to reinstate school sports in January next year.