National Sporting Associations have been advised to modify their training programs in response to the prolonged suspension of school sports, to maintain talent development.
In an interview with this publication, Professor Tshephang Tshube, a Sports Science Lecturer at the University of Botswana, underscored the need for strategic adjustments within the school sporting community.
“We would be using a club system for talent development, not a school sports system; Europe uses a club system, and they give priority to club sports even though they have school sports.”
Expressing concerns about the readiness of some sporting codes to embrace this shift, Tshube emphasized the pivotal role of development programs. He commented, “I do not think some sporting codes are well equipped and resourced for that,” suggesting a reorientation towards a club-centric approach, where junior and youth teams become focal points for talent cultivation.
Addressing the absence of school sports, Tshube urged clubs to step up and take on an elevated role in talent development. He proposed that clubs should provide opportunities for some community teams.
Additionally, Tshube advised district councils to organise regional youth competitions, providing an avenue for young athletes to showcase their skills in the absence of traditional school sports.
Considering the potential long-term effects on young athletes’ physical and mental well-being, Tshube stressed the irreplaceable value of physical activity and sports. He remarked, “You cannot substitute physical activity, sports, and recreation for anything really. We need sports in school back,” highlighting the integral role of school sports in fostering holistic development, including essential life skills.
Regarding innovative approaches or technologies for remote coaching and skill development during the hiatus, Tshube acknowledged the limitations but suggested leveraging video recording or Zoom engagements to support coaches. Despite technological options, he affirmed, “The best way coaching happens is in person.”
Meanwhile, the government’s decision to suspend school sports programs in March 2020 raises concerns about the potential impact on Botswana’s sporting legacy. At the time government said the suspicion was temporary and occasioned by budgetary constraints.
The nation, acclaimed for producing world-class athletes such as Nigel Amos, Letsile Tebogo, and Rajab Mohamed Otukile, is at risk of a decline in sporting prowess if school sports remain indefinitely suspended. The uncertainty surrounding the resumption of school sports presents a challenging scenario for Botswana’s distinguished sporting heritage, necessitating a reassessment of strategies to ensure ongoing talent development in the ever-evolving landscape.