Given that Botswana government’s economic diversification strategy broadly looks at all sectors of the economy, development of sports, particularly athletic talent, can be one part of a broader platform addressing youth unemployment, sport studies experts at the University of Botswana, (UB) Dr Tshephang Tshube, Lobone Kasale and Boga Manatsha, note.
According to the three academics in their study titled Critical Overview of Sport Development in Botswana published with the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, not only can development of sports address youth unemployment but can also help mitigate health concerns and the mental and physical well-being of Batswana.
In the study, the trio decries Botswana’s lack of talent development programmes that incorporate dual career opportunities. “A serious concern for athletes worldwide is how young athletes manage following a career devoted to sports,” they state. “Many are left without education, some may be injured and physically disabled, while others may have little skills to manage the money they would have earned through sport. Notably, the Government of Botswana does not have talent development programmes that incorporate dual-career for student-athletes.”
The trio further states that it is important for the government to establish context-specific talent development programmes that provide student-athletes with basic support services, such as tutoring, flexible study programmes, or sports scholarships.
The sports experts note that despite the government’s effort to continually construct sports facilities, this has not been translated into effective talent development and athletic glory. “The government has over the years built state-of-the-art sports facilities across the country,” the say. “The UB indoor sports centre, for instance, offers top-notch facilities such as fully serviced change rooms, martial arts studios and a four-lane indoor track.
The government has also constructed centres of sports excellence in selected schools, which are equipped with the latest sports facilities such as tennis courts, synthetic tracks and basketball courts. However, they emphasise, “the same energy is not shown in talent development”.
They point to the role ambiguity between Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) and say it affects talent development activities. “Although the roles of these organisations seem clear, there has been confusion and lack of role clarity on the specific duties and functions of each of these organisations,” they argue.
“For instance, the BNSC facilitates representation of Botswana teams to the All-Africa Games, which is an elite sport activity. On the other hand, the BNOC facilitates the representation of Botswana youth teams and athletes at Olympic Youth Games, which can largely be considered as developmental activities. This role confusion has led to a power struggle and clashes between the BNSC and the BNOC over ambiguity of elite vs. developmental sport activities.”
Dr Tshube, Kasale and Manatsha note that athletes are often caught between the power struggles, becoming lost in the uncertainty. This affects the efficiency and effectiveness of implementing talent development and elite sport programmes. “For example, the BNSC was initially charged with the responsibility of preparing athletes to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but following several appeals, the BNOC was later assigned to prepare for the Games,” the sports academics point out.
“This affected the preparation for the Games and created uncertainties because neither the sport agencies, the national sport associations nor the elite athletes knew which organisation would finally be charged with the responsibility to prepare for these Games.”