Aug 8, 2012

Reaping what is sown

On Monday morning the last of Zambia’s athletes competing in the 2012 London games failed to progress to the next round of competition in his field, men’s 800m. Of the seven athletes who had the honour of representing Zambia, only one, Gerald Phiri, made it out of the preliminary rounds to the semis.

Some have bemoaned this as disappointing but I’m of a different mind. Zambia does not and has not prioritized investments in sports outside of the men’s national football team; even there we could debate the issue. We cannot expect too much from the participants since we lack facilities of international standards for training.

If you look across the landscape, at the grassroots it is primarily in private schools that students still receive lessons in varied sports like field hockey, tennis, swimming, basketball, volleyball, rounders, etc.   

With the financial pinch in government schools Physical Education (PE) is a distant memory. Outdoor activity is restricted to play only (which has its own benefits, of course) but gaining any sort of sports proficiency is seriously hampered due to the lack of instruction.

Even further many community clubs that once boasted immaculate bowling greens, tennis courts, squash courts and swimming pools have largely fallen into disrepair. Growing up I remember going to the Lusaka Club on a fairly regular basis with my family, and it’s there I fine-tuned my tennis game and my father his snooker. Granted neither of us was world class but the point is we had a place to hone our skills. The club still exists but during my last visit it was clear times were indeed tough.

Making the necessary investments in sports is not a responsibility to be borne solely by local and national government; though they have a large piece to fulfill when it comes to school curriculum and providing funds for coaches and equipment. As the larger community we can make our contributions by helping community clubs/centres become vibrant again through corporate and private sponsorship, annual dues, etc.  

These clubs once served as a pillar in our communities not just as a social gathering place but a place where young and old could get involved and stay involved in an activity, and where various sports teams practiced and hosted tournaments. In a nutshell they also served as sports development centres.    

And for those individuals with the capacity to advance in their chosen sport, coaching to international standards is key. Coaching is not restricted to technical skills only, but includes diet, mental preparation, weight lifting, etc. Quality coaches don’t just fall out of the sky. Harnessing our own local talent should be a top goal.  

Without this dedication and focus not much will change for Zambians wishing to make an impact on the international stage be it the Olympics, Commonwealth Games or Diamond League events. Of course they will be those with the hunger to succeed who will beat the odds and I salute them. 


AT least we agree on one thing.. I'll listen to you when we disagree because in that way we share ideas and learn and teach other..

Let's face it, even just getting to the Olympics is an achievement enough. This is especially true for countries that don't have enough funding to spend on proper training or even safety measures like a pool safety fence.

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