- 3 commissioners suspended for improper dressing in Ebonyi
- CBN issues two new merchant bank licences
- Ekiti PDP accuses ACN of attacking members
- Daniel eulogises HID Awolowo at 97
- Jonathan hails Koroma's re-election
- Collapsed man: Edo dep gov threatens Airhiavbere
- Communal clash: Police arrest gang leader, 12 others in Nasarawa
- Corruption: There ‘ll be no sacred cow - Jonathan
- Amosun’s wife tasks students on reading culture
- Flooding: Dangote committee sets N50bn target
- Adamawa LG election conducted peacefully
- 1999 Constitution: Women group calls for amendment to gender-biased provisions
Presidential sports retreat (2)
On this page last week, we featured a paper presented by DR KEN ANUGWEJE of the University of Port Harcourt at the recent Presidential Retreat on Sports organised by the National Sports Commission (NSC). Today, we bring you the concluding part.
One factor that is common to all great sporting nations is their capacity to manufacture sports equipment within their countries. This does not only conserve foreign exchange that would have been spent on the importation of goods, it also reduces their financial requirements and makes sports equipment accessible and affordable to every child.
Government should discuss with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria on the exigency for the local manufacturing of sports goods.
The private sector should still be cultivated with improved tax incentives.
School Sports and Sports Schools
Sports in primary and secondary schools form the base of the hypothetical sports pyramid. For now, our school sports is moribund. There is no school sports programme in our primary and secondary schools. National School Sports Festivals are held annually without substantial accomplishment. It is really difficult to predict where our next stars will come from.
The Chinese equivalent of Nigeria’s National Sports Commission is the National Sports Congress with the mandate to supervise mass participation in sports (with the Health Ministry and Education Ministry); the sports industry (with the manufacturing sector), and elite sports. The supervision of elite sports includes the development and maintenance of national facilities, coaching and training (sports science, sports medicine and sports administration).
This mandate is not dissimilar to ours and those of most other countries. However, our Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health have played zero roles in the early development of the athlete. Without the Ministry of Education, it will be very difficult to produce athletes at trainable ages. This is the basis of the Fiafia Sports instituted by South Africa’s Ministry of Education for children aged 6 – 12 years, as part of their Millennium Development Goals (MDG). To complement the Fiafia sports scheme, the South Africa Ministry of Education also launched a school Development Programme on Sports in 2007 to cover over 2000 schools and without age restriction.
The goal of school sports should be the identification of children with significant sporting abilities. Identified athletes would be sent to designated sports schools where they can be further developed. The children would go to these sports schools in the evenings after attending regular school, and at weekends and during school holidays. Successful countries run such sports schools or academies. The zonal offices of the National Sports Commission would supervise the programme which can take off immediately in the zonal mini sports centres. A youth training programme must be developed by the National Sports Commission. The IAAF has already given a guideline with the Kids Athletics programme.
Sports is all about the structure (anatomy), function (physiology), and performance (biochemistry) of the human body. Every movement, every activity is a sum total of these basic medical sciences.
Advances in sports science have contributed in no small measure, to the dominance in sports by the technologically advanced countries. Sports science ensures optimal training and performance way beyond the limits talent and natural endowment alone can take an athlete.
The National Sports Commission already has an efficiently-run Sports Medicine Department. They should be further encouraged to broaden their activities into sports science in collaboration with the National Institute for Sports and relevant universities.
Science-based high performance centres are indispensable. They should be located in universities which possess the capacity to run such centres.
Sports coaching in Nigeria has never been so despairing. The number of qualified coaches in every sport in Nigeria is grossly inadequate. Of these, most are poorly trained and have not availed themselves of the knowledge of new methods, are unwilling to accept and accommodate new concepts, especially in sports science and are very incapable of leading a sports revolution in this country.
Brilliant university graduates in physical education who have taken coaching as careers have been frustrated because the primal qualification to coach here is having been a national level athlete, even when they do not possess the cognate theoretical knowledge for that sport.
Strict performance standards should be set for coaches. If our coaches do not meet these standards, coaches should be recruited from outside the country; while we train, and retrain our compatriots who are trainable.
Elite Athlete Development
There are several definitions of an elite athlete. However, one position of agreement is that an elite athlete is “an athlete with potential for competing in the Olympics or as a professional athlete”.
Age-grade competitions in various sports were introduced for purposes of athlete-development, based on the age and sports maturity level of the athlete.
The use of older athletes in these competitions is unproductive and self-defeating. After excelling in these competitions, transition to the elite level is always difficult.
The World University Games, as a multi-event competition, is next to the Olympic Games in scope, only limited by an upper age limit of 28 years for participants.
A study of Olympic Games results will show that apart from football and boxing, most Olympic medallists had also won medals in preceding World University Games. Most of our great athletes of the past such as Chidi Imoh, Clement Chukwu, Davidson and Osmond Ezinwa, Falilat Ogunkoya, Yussuf Ali, Henry Amike, Mary Onyali, Innocent Egbunike, Gabriel Okon, Sunday Uti and many others represented Nigeria (under the auspices of NUGA), at various World University Games, as part of their sports development.
Since the supervision of the Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA) was transferred from the Sports Ministry to the Ministry of Education, NUGA has not received any support in the organisation of domestic championships and participation in international competitions. This has left our athletes in universities all over the world deprived of this important level of elite athlete development.
It took the magnanimity of the Director General of the National Sports Commission, Dr Patrick Ekeji and the President of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria, Chief Solomon Ogba for a small contingent of NUGA athletes to participate at the World University Games in Shenzen, China in 2011.
Funding for tertiary institution sports should be improved upon. If it is possible, a National Tertiary Institution Sports Fund should be instituted by government.
Role of State Sports Councils
The quality of athletes representing the various states at recent National Sports Festivals has been very poor. This is a manifestation that hardly any activity is taken place in the states.
Every Nigerian resides in a local government area/state. It is therefore, only reasonable to suggest that the early identification and development of any athlete must be done at this level.
In the Australian example, 50% of the annual government spending on sports is by the local governments, 35% by the state governments, and 15% by the national government.
Can we imagine a local government budget for sports in Nigeria surpass that of the nation? Can members of our National Assembly not use their constituency funds to provide sports facilities?
Without appropriate facilities at our local government levels, it would be difficult to develop athletes. In South Africa, a government policy states that “no child has to walk more than five kilometres to access an activity hub anywhere in the country.”
The National Sports Commission has developed mini-stadia at the zonal level but ultimately the responsibility to provide facilities at the grassroots lies with the local governments and states.
Role of the Sports Federations
National Sports Festivals and National Championships should provide substantial openings for the federations to identify and develop potential elite athletes at ages when they are still trainable.
Our current experience is that new athletes coming through from the states to the federations are of poor quality. The federations should assist their corresponding associations in the states to improve the quality of coaching at the state level.
The role of the media in sports development in Nigeria is commendable. However, recently, many sports journalists have abandoned their age-long responsibility of information, education and entertainment for inequitable, inelegant and conniving journalism. There are always calls for “sack them”, “dismiss them”, “retire them”, and “replace them”, and then giving undue prominence to those who they believe will extend some favours to them. The result is the creation of an endless cycle of hiring-and-firing of sports administrators and coaches.
Furthermore, the need for continuity in our sports administration cannot be overstated.
We have had enough goings and comings of sports ministers and other top officials. China’s former Sports Minister Wu Shaozu who died last month was appointed Sports Minister in 1988 and stepped down after the Athens Olympics (2004), after conducting one of the greatest reforms in sports history. China won 15 gold medals (32 total) at the Los Angeles Olympics (1984) and in 2008 won 51 gold medals (100 total) in Beijing. In Nigeria, between 1999 and 2012, we have had 14 Sports Ministers. With such scenario, no matter how hard working and ingenious the professional staff may be, outcome of efforts can never produce optimal results on the field. This is simply because each Hon. Minister comes with his own mindset and retinue of advisers who more often than not are combatant to the professional staff! The NSC is the clearing house and should be seen as such. Its successful performance depends on the effectiveness and synergy with all other factors. It is, therefore, imperative to give legal backing to the proposed reforms in sports, there should be an enabling legislation establishing the National Sports Commission.
It is my sincere hope that this retreat will provide a vital launching pad for new attitudes towards our sports. If all well thought-out suggestions arising from this retreat are implemented, Mr President’s charge to win five gold medals in Rio could be realised if professional administrators are encouraged, attracted and their suggestions implemented without untoward political interference. But it is a tall order, but the preparations must start now.
Again subject to above, it is realistic to look at not less than 10 years ahead for successful performance at the Olympic Games.
Page 2 of 136