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Candid advice to new helmsmen

Candid advice to new helmsmen

By Steve Alabi
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The periodicity of elections in our great country, particularly gubernatorial elections, offers the great opportunity to direct the attention of our new leaders to the special duty they owe the polity to make sports a viable and winning industry for the country. The starting point of any advice to the new guys on the block is to assert with every force in our being that sports are as important as any other aspect of government, and must therefore not be treated with disdain or condescension. Granted that electoral success is not dependent on a well articulated manifesto, we must assist our new helmsmen to find a creative compass to negotiate sports development in their respective constituencies.

In doing this, we must resist the temptation to deify the occasional success as the authentic measurement of sports development. True success comes not from the occasional flight of superior score in a contest but from a systematic growth over a fairly long period of sweat and strain. Success in any endeavour, not least in sports, does not come by happenstance. It comes from a rigorous application of intellect and strength. As the new gubernatorial victors have themselves experienced in their election, triumph is not a sudden flight of fantasy but a product of sleepless nights, great strategies and unblinking focus.

Talent, we admit, is the first ingredient you require to cook authentic sports success. But talent is not enough. Even talent itself must be discovered. Again, this does not come by happenstance. There has to be a well organised system of talent discovery that is capable of exposing both the raw and the hidden, not just the obvious and the seen. In this wise, the discovery machinery must have the capacity to search, ensnare and expose talent from every nook and cranny of its mandate area.

There is a world of sense therefore in creating a creative talent discovery machinery. It is the base and the foundation of a result achieving sports development platform. The base is undoubtedly the school system. It is the most viable which forward looking governments should emplace and explore. But it is not the routine and the largely uncoordinated haphazard arrangement that has faked growth for us for ages. It is a deliberate emplacement and empowerment of a scientific accompaniment of the school structure.

It is not enough to entrust this important duty to games masters so designated by their mere passion for sports. Games masters of today must be specialists, or at least, specially trained teachers. The system of operating talent discovery must be structured in such a way that results can manifest beyond the periodic noise and excitement of the annual inter-house competitions. Not only must the system be planted in public schools, private schools must, by regulation, be made to make sports a compulsory part of their curricular. They must be weaned from equating loud and entertaining inter-house outings with sports. Strict regulations on sports, particularly on providing adequate space and facilities for sports, must become compulsory conditions to be fulfilled before applications for private schools are approved. Existing ones must be made to adjust their infrastructure to include minimum space and facilities for sports.

Governments themselves must lead the way in this respect. Public schools that do not possess space and facilities for sports or whose structures are dilapidated must be provided with these. Without space and facilities, sports development cannot happen. The new helmsmen must not allow themselves to be persuaded by naysayers that the economic situation is such that cannot accommodate provision of sports equipment in our public schools. If standard equipment cannot be provided, government must provide the minimum of makeshift structures.

This is where the creativity of sports professionals will come into play. As with the early days, creative substitutes can be as good and effective as the original if well innovated. But standard equipment must still be provided, at least, in central and zonal locations that can serve as competition and special development centres. In the early days, athletes discovered in the hinterland looked forward to appearing at such arenas. This served as a great boost to their success, and can still do the same even now.

The talent discovery system must also be expanded to capture the talents that are outside the school system. In this respect, the provision of neighborhood parks is an effective strategy. Such neighborhood parks should be provided with as many games options as practicable. Where these are not possible as a result of logistic limitations, the facilities in public schools must be made accessible to this group after school hours. The dragnet of sports must be such that can get a Segun Odegbami or Stephen Keshi as well as a Muda Lawal or Rashidi Yekini.

When the foundation is well laid, it becomes much easier to build. Posterity will be kinder to those who build than to those who reap. Our new helmsmen will do well not to allow themselves to be stampeded into accepting the euphoric as the authentic. Nothing kindles the fire of authentic sports development more than a well structured foundation.

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Candid advice to new helmsmen

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