By Andrew Bonani Kamanga
Success in international sport is a by-product of a strong sports culture or system. In other words, success at major games such as the Olympic and Commonwealth Games is the proverbial “cherry on the cake”.
The serious countdown to Tokyo 2020 has officially started! .As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games inch closer, there will be the usual accompanying euphoria and crisis of expectations about the performance of Southern African teams.
However, there continues to be a great disparity between the “great expectations” and investments in sport development.
For those that did not invest eight to ten years ago, it is now too late already to reap anything from Tokyo 2020. Any investment in sport needs to be premised on a sound development and strategic plan. Sports administrators and coaches need to go back to the “drawing board”.
But what does this “going back to the drawing board” mean for elite sport and the average lay person in Southern Africa? Does it have any tangible benefits for sport in general? Indeed, going back to the drawing board is good for sport in Southern Africa and sport development planning is the key to future success.
In order to have robust national teams, there is a dire need to invest in the development of strong clubs and leagues.
Guided by the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) approach, these will facilitate effective skills development as well as efficient leadership and governance structures for the various associations.
To this end, local national sports associations need to solicit for development sponsorship as opposed to just event or league sponsorships.
Regional Sports Confederations and national sports associations must heavily invest in the training of club coaches and leaders if Southern African sport is to develop to even greater heights.
Governments by themselves cannot and should not be expected shoulder the responsibility for the development of sport, especially at grassroots level.
The resources available to the Southern African National Olympic Committees (NOCs) for elite sports development are very limited.
On the other hand, the resource requirements are too colossal for various governments, taking into consideration other competing priorities on the national development agendas.
That is why best practice in sport developing planning, sports marketing and the mobilisation of corporate sponsorship should be encouraged.
Southern Africa’s regional sports confederations should re-invent themselves, find innovative ways of packaging and marketing their development programmes to various business houses in certain countries and throughout the region.
Sport development planning is vital to attracting goodwill, support and sponsorship especially.
If sports organisations do not know where they want go, it becomes very difficult for anyone, even for the most generous and philanthropic persons or organisations to assist them.
Sport development planning is sowing the seeds for future growth and development. Without new clubs affiliating to the various national sport associations, the latter will stagnate and die a natural death.
Without strong national associations, the Southern African regional sports confederations are in turn seriously compromised. They will not be able to compete effectively with their counterparts in other regions of Africa and the world at large.
The club is the genesis and nucleus of sports development planning. Other structures in the sports system are buttressed to a large extent by what goes on at club level.
There is therefore a compelling need to “think global but act locally”. Regional sports confederations and national sports associations can have the best plans and intentions but if these are not reduced for implementation at local district, village and club level, then they are doomed to failure.
The high quality of sport in the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden is largely attributable to a strong sports culture based on locally based clubs run by volunteers.
In this connection, there is need to train and retain high calibre volunteers in Southern African sport. Without these volunteers, individual countries will continue to struggle to professionalise sport.
It is not expensive or costly to set high standards and gradually work towards achieving set targets.
Wallowing in self-pity, doing business as usual in the same old style and lamenting the limited resources available is actually more costly in the long run.
To this end, sport development planning will enable Southern Africa to increase the number of clubs promoting not just active and healthy lifestyles but also producing athletes that make their way to the medals podium at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
The 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games as well as the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games are realistic targets for quantitative and qualitative improvements in elite sports performance.
Sport development planning is the bedrock of participation and excellence. It is the greatest investment that any sport system can make. Southern Africa is no exception.
As Albert Einstein correctly put it, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”.