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Is grassroots development taken seriously in Botswana?

Is grassroots development taken seriously in Botswana?
February 05
08:55 2018

Botswana is has of recent times been posting splendid performances in the world sports with athletes like Nigel Amos (athletics), Mpho Kgaswane (football), Kagiso Mogale (softball) and Mpho Bakwadi (karate) making sure that they make a mark but now the question remains; are there proper development structures that can produce raw talent to replace them in the near future? What can be done to improve local sports grassroots development?

Global Sport reporter Tlotlo Kebinakgabo engages with the sports commission which is responsible for grassroots development and experts in the field to look more into the matter…

According to the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) board member, Gift Nkwe, the Commission takes development serious and has been doing so in the previous years, “but you can never be satisfied.” He said there have programmes in place which aids to address grassroots development. “The likes of your Re ba Bona Ha where we identify raw talent at a tender age. We also at the same time encourage each and every sporting code to have their own development programmes to help address the matter in hand further.”

He noted that one thing that impresses them at commission is that almost all the sporting codes have youth competitions, “but one ought to put in mind that it’s not only about development of raw talent but also about the development of the coaches, infrastructure and everything that is essential to assist athletes excel.”

Nkwe pointed out that they are aware of talks that some of the current sports stars are there by accident. “Those wildcards who haven’t gone through those structures and are identified later in their careers have structures like the Zebra Fund and Elite Scholarships which help to nurture their talent further. Such structures help them meet with individuals that can be able to fine tune them. It is advisable for people to understand that it’s not about when you identify talent or there is raw talent that is not well developed. Hell No! Where there is talent we step in, fine tune it and make sure that it becomes what we want it to be,” he said.

Sports expert and r in the department of physical education at University of Botswana Dr Tshephang Tshube is also of the view that grassroots development is well considered locally.

“Talent development is taken very serious and the responsible institutions play a pivotal role to ensure that talented athletes go through the most conducive environment for talent development, “he said.

“Consistent with international trends, schools play a fundamental role in providing athletes with the opportune environment for talent development; Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) and Botswana Primary Schools Association (BOPSA) are the core of talent development in Botswana.”

He said the Botswana Football Association (BFA) youth leagues combined with BISA and BOPSA leagues make football one of the codes with deliberate talent development programmes. “Chess and karate have also done an excellent job to ensure that the youth are exposed to their respective sports at a tender age. Even though Botswana Athletics Association is doing well, it’s hard to see deliberate efforts and I’m of the view that they heavily rely on BISA for talent development,” he said. “They need to explore their potential and opportunities as they have great talent.”

Moreover Tshube noted that it is factually wrong to suggest that athletes are identified and developed with no plan. “BISA and BOPSA play a fundamental role in developing our athletes,” he said.

He nevertheless advised the sport commission and sporting codes to use a pyramid model in talent development. “By making sure that there is a wide participation of all kids from the age of six. It is also important for the Commission to further support BISA and BOPSA through training of coaches and sport facilities to accelerate grassroots development,“ he opined.

“In addition to supporting BISA, there is need for out of school talent development programs.”

However former BFA technical director and BDF XI coach Sikalame ‘Six’ Keatlholetswe pointed out that Botswana does not take  grassroots development seriously. “That is why you compare us with other countries; our sports leadership knows nothing about it. Those who know about grassroots development will tell you that it is like a child going to school. There are certain steps which have to be considered as you have to introduce children to sport at a very young age. Here in Botswana is just done by mouth.

“You will hear one saying he or she is developing kids while they are at Junior or Senior School (centre of excellences). How can you develop a 16-year-old? In other countries one starts his or her professional career at the same age,” he argued.

“It’s a pity when we come to development sports because local sports are led by inconsiderate individuals.”

Katlholetswe further said there is a need for proper talent identification measures to be put in place. “Why can’t we just establish a sports centre for children excelling in sports? Such a centre would be for sports children only and they will have to be mentored by people who have been properly taught sports,” he said.

“Nowadays when you talk of development you are not talking of technical training only but you are rather taking of the physiological upbringing of these young kids; there have to be scientific tests conducted on them be able to tell you what kind of athlete you have; is he or she a sprinter or long distance runner? Is he or she a striker or defender?”

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