Is Sport Education The Backbone Of Sport?

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Education by its nature is the most critical activity that an individual undertakes whether formally or informally, even when a kid is still in its mother’s womb it learns a lot and better still when it is born it will have to adapt to the new conditions of living in the world through learning how to sit, crawl and eventually walk among other things. At Government level, education is highly prioritized and this is manifested through the budgetary allocations that it receives from the fiscus. The Government of Zimbabwe since 1980 has given prominence to the education sector by giving them the highest allocation on the successive budgets ahead of all the other sectors. But why is it like this, one may ask, the obvious answer is that an enlightened society is better than an unenlightened as they will be empowered to deal with the different situations that they face on a daily basis. Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa and this was not by accident but through concerted and deliberate investment in the education sector.

Practioners in the Sport sector like any other sector also have to undergo the learning process in order to manage their affairs in a better fashion but what has this sector been doing or not doing given the mirage of challenges that are currently bedeviling sport. Some of the questions which may spring to one’s mind may include:

  • Do we have sport literate people managing sport or we have people who have an interest in sport?
  • Does the sport sector value education as a means to enhancing delivery system?

These and many other questions tend to put the sport sector on the spotlight given the usual mediocre performances that have become the norm with our National Teams and the usual boardroom squabbles that have characterized some of the  sporting disciplines. While addressing participants at a football CAF B coaching course in Harare, SRC Director General Charles Nhemachena also noted that there was need to continually develop the capacities of both the coaches and administrators if the sport was going to meaningfully contribute to the well being of the society.

ian“Gone should be the days when we used have Coaches without any form of qualification, football trends have evolved over time and we must be in sync with the changes that are taking place.

“This is only possible if we continually develop and upgrade our capacities through such training initiatives as this one”, added Nhemachena.

While it is very clear that the SRC Boss was referring to the need to pay special attention to Human Capital Development, it can also be argued that there appears to be a serious disconnection between theory and practical. The way in which activities are implemented seem to suggest that there are no sport literate people in Zimbabwe. One of the renowned Educationists in this country Professor Nziramasanga also seemed to concur with this notion when he recently addressed delegates at a sports dinner and he argued that sport needed to be professionalized if it was to contribute effectively to the success of ZimASSET.

“Sport has evolved over the years into one of the major disciplines of study and as such the approach to it has to be professional as opposed to the current scenario where almost all the 48 registered National Sport Associations operate like briefcase companies”, said Professor Nziramasanga.

Professor Nziramasanga’s observation was spot on as it pointed to the need to engender a businesslike approach in the manner in which sport organizations were being run and this is evidenced by the endless squabbles that characterize some of the sport associations or clubs. It is unfortunate that we do not seem to see the damage that this does to the young but talented athlete out there as we lose potential sponsors and partners because of the unprofessional manner in which we manage sport.

SRC’s Marketing and Business Development Director Daniel Kuwengwa while agreeing that there was a disconnect between what people learnt and how they went about  implementing  what they would have been taught, he said a lot of variables also came into play such as operating space and resources.

“There is no debate that Zimbabwean sports persons are highly educated examples of those that have made it at the highest level include Tommy Sithole formerly with the IOC, Robert Mutsauki formerly with ANOCA, Elias Musangeya now with the UK Sport but formerly with the SRC.

“What needs to be appreciated is that sport is not yet a top priority even in financial decision making at Government level, because resources for sport are made available at the last minute or a few days into some of the programmes, this makes us look disorganized in the eyes of many”, added Kuwengwa.

019The arguments advanced by Kuwengwa imply that the leaders in sport still have a lot to do to convince those who make financial decisions so that they may also appreciate that sport is as important as the tourism, health or even the education sectors. If those at Treasury view sport only as a pastime activity surely it will not be prioritized against other pressing demands like the need for clean water, medical drugs in hospitals and infrastructural development. To what extend does the Minister of Finance appreciate that sport is like any other industry and also requires incentives from the fiscus so that it can grow like the agricultural or tourism sectors? Is the Minister of Finance also aware that sport can also contribute to the Gross Domestic Product if it is well nurtured by investing resources which will be used to develop the industry? Are our Legislators who approve the budget aware that if they invest resources in sports like they did with education the country may also reap the rewards probably in a better way than it did with education since it can put the country on the world map with scintillating performances by our athletes. Do our various City Fathers whom we have entrusted with the running of our cities and municipalities aware of the role of sport in bringing about social cohesion if so why are they turning playgrounds into residential stands like they did in Chitungwiza?  All the above point to the importance of education whether formally or informally, the task at hand is to convince all the key players so that sport can play its role in our socio economic set up. One can say that sport is a sleeping giant which can turn around the misfortunes of this country if it well supported by projecting it in a positive manner. The media although it has done its best to cover sport related issues, but at times it has also negatively portrayed sport to the extent that  some people view sport as a vehicle through which disorganization and squabbles are bred. While criticism may not be disputed but times we have to weigh the impact of some of the statements as in some instances they may have the effect of permanently damaging sport especially in the eyes of potential and current sponsors.

Zimbabwe Netball Association President Mrs Leticia Chipandu also said in Zimbabwe most of the people are sport enthusiasts and those who are at time entrusted with positions of authority in sport may not be sport literate.

“I think we have more passionate people than literate people, the successes that we have in sport are due to people who put their everything into sport of their hearts that a well crafted policy and system”, said Chipandu.

In conclusion there is no doubt that there are many sport enthusiasts in Zimbabwe and this  does it make them good managers of sport business certainly not, it is on this premise that there has to be a paradigm shift. Equally the same it may be argued that many of us are crazy about the latest ICT gadgets like phones, laptops and tablets but how many of us know how to fix them when they develop problems?  Perhaps it is now time that we separate grain from chuff (sport fans from sport managers) so that our sport may prosper, failure of which we will continue to reel in perpetual problems. The destiny of sport is in our hands.

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