- “Schools have facilities and trained experts on site.”
- “Clubs provide technical expertise that is not available in schools.”
- Calls on BAA to ensure every club has a junior division
Botswana’s dismal showing so far at this year’s international competitions can be attributed to several factors, chief amongst them the absence of school sports, Lecturer in the Sports and Science Department of the University of Botswana, Dr Tshephang Tshube, has said.
Many had expected athletics to deliver great results during this year’s international meets as it did in previous years, but that was not to be. The code won only one medal at Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022 compared to five in 2018, and two medal at Cali 2022 compared to four at the previous edition of the World Junior Championships.
“Botswana’s performance, particularly in athletics (400m), has dropped,” Dr Tshube said in an interview. “This decline in performance can be attributed to several factors. Among others is the suspension of school sports; it is the primary reason for Botswana’s (poor) performance at World Junior Championships. The lack of school sports has halted training and selection of junior athletes for national teams.”
School sports was halted in 2020 owing to budgetary constraints. Enumerating other factor in Botswana’s poor showing, Dr Tshube noted: “Botswana lost two top athletes in Karabo Sibanda and Baboloki Thebe,” he said. “These athletes were instrumental at the last Commonwealth and Olympic Games and would have helped the country perform better, considering their talent and experience. “Yet again, there were a lot of media reports in the build-up and during games about coaches and some athletes not travelling with the team. These reports are a clear psychological distraction for athletes.” He underlined the exigency for school sports to provide the most conducive environment for development athletes upon its return. “Schools have facilities and trained experts on site,” he said.
“We therefore need to have a holistic programme in schools to develop athletes. We need to provide science-based athletic training, sports psychology support, nutrition, and life skills training to athletes.” The academic sportsman emphasised the importance of a smooth transition for athletes from junior to senior levels as a factor that Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) should look into. “Junior to senior transition is a major component of athlete development,” he said. “Most successful transition environments are tied to a school and athletes’ career support programmes.
“We should therefore ensure that our athletes go through a flexible academic programme. This programme accords them an opportunity to balance school and sports. We also need programmes that provide counselling, life skills training, career guidance, and general support services.” He took the opportunity of the interview to appeal to BAA to strengthen clubs and ensure that they all have junior teams. “For example, Lefika Athletics Club has managed to consistently work with schools to recruit junior athletes,” said Dr Tshube. “This model needs to be rolled out to other clubs to support school sports. Clubs provide technical expertise that is not available in schools.”