Athletics has given the country its highest sports honours. There is an Olympic medal. World Championship medal and an array from the Commonwealth Games medals, all thanks to this great code. And now there are Youth Olympic medals from the same code.
I couldn’t help but rejoice with full pride as I watched the country’s supreme athlete Nijel Amos once again racing himself into the history books by winning the 800m IAAF Diamond League title on Thursday night. Another upcoming force Isaac Makwala finished third in the 400m dash. This pair is fresh from winning gold medals at the Africa Championships in their events and as part of the 4 by 400m relay team.
Add Amantle Montsho to this and the long retired Glody Dube and clear picture emerges that we have a special relationship with the 400m and 800m events. We need to fully embrace this relationship and fully entrench our dominance, by deliberately pulling together resources that will see us just like Kenyans fully branding ourself with our talent and skill. In short, in future we should make it a point that at every international event we field athletes for these two events and much more than that – win medals. A deliberate coaching regime and formula must be adopted to develop and entrenched to provide sustained medal haul in Botswana’s best track events.
I wish Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) can take this opportunity. They need to go beyond this, by going all out to create a long-term vision of how to take advantage of all areas that are promising while tapping also into areas never tried before. On the basis of its success, selling athletics programmes should be easier than selling football. And so what Moses Bantsi and his executive need to do is to develop a strategic plan that underpins youth development and senior athlete coaching and management. This once developed could be sold out to potential sponsors who are more likely to take the opportunity of investing on youngsters whose success they will acclaim. Quite often sponsors come too late in the life of athletes when they start winning big. But that is only because no one ever approached them earlier to invest where they will also harvest.
At the heart of a turnaround at BAA it is the formation of robust administration structures. BAA should no longer look down upon its stature and value. I therefore agree with those that say the association must appoint a Chief Executive Officer. This should then be followed by decentralization that places talent developers in every district of the country. We have potential Olympic medalists in every corner of this country. What we lack is a means of identifying and thereafter developing this talent. BAA should also aggressively pursue diversification of its offerings. Field events remain an untapped territory. There is also hurdles and steeple chase on the track.
For all these things to come about, affiliates of BAA should get more vigilant in electing their leaders and in providing accountability systems. They have to look out for progressive individuals who will take the association into a new level, running it more on business grounds than it has been the case. This is even more imperative because the association has to oversee performance of highly paid professional athletes. The association has to create an environment where younger athletes mature into the professional ranks. The leadership should enforce anti-doping programmes without fail and talk loud and hard against any such tendencies. It has to create a culture of no tolerance to drugs by pursuing a deliberate athlete anti-doping education programme. In overall there is much more that we are grateful for BAA to have achieved. This country’s international branding has gone well on the back of BAA’s products. However, much more work remains – BAA should professionalise its operations and be more aggressive in going forward. The country will gain much more from that.