The newly elected President of Botswana Softball Association (BSA), Thabo Thamane fields questions from PATRIOT SPORT about how he intends to turn things around at the highly loved sport code.
What motivated your interest to lead softball at this point?
THAMANE: I have been a softball player before at St Joseph’s College and during my Tirelo Sechaba (TS) days. Therefore, I felt the patriotic and compelling obligation to transfer my corporate sector experience to the sport so that it becomes a meaningful activity for citizens, especially the youth.
As a corporate high flier some, who are surprised by your decision, see you attempting to advance other interests – i.e. preparing to go into politics – by going into softball leadership. Your comment?
THAMANE: Actually they are giving me ideas by thinking like that. The truth of the matter is that it is vital that one gives back to the nation and I encourage a lot of other captains of industry to do the same in whatever field of activity, be it sports, recreation, education, church, etc.) Therefore, I have never thought about politics as of now. In any case, even if I may decide to join politics in future, is it wrong?
What are you bringing in into the BSA leadership?
THAMANE: I am bringing strategic agility, vision and a culture of delivery to the sports.
Your key priorities for the code?
THAMANE: Financial stability, good corporate governance, fun and equality.
Softball has been surpassed by other codes in the country; what interventions are you bringing to grow the sport across the country?
THAMANE: Firstly, we have started to put in place strategic changes. We are designing a strategic plan that will drive our vision and mission. We must bring back people to the sport that left some time back. We must consult clubs as part of a broader stakeholder engagement. We must appeal to sponsors and then the result will be a consequence of a well laid out plan.
Due to limited growth, the softball league only has teams in the eastern and southern strip of the country. What are your inclusivity plans?
THAMANE: Stakeholder engagement is as a result of taking the sport to the people. It is vital that we leverage on the already existing infrastructure in schools to increase participation in softball by all regions. We are looking into taking tournaments to most regions also.
Sponsorship and professionalism in the code remain low – how do you plan to turn things around? THAMANE: We need to improve accountability as it improves the trust in sponsors and potential ones. Our governance standards must be of the highest order.
Do you support the idea of a sports lottery to help fund sports codes?
THAMANE: Yes, for as long as it is done responsibly and there are proper measures to protect citizens from abuse.
Infrastructure is another key issue for the sport – teams have no playing grounds. How do you plan to overcome this?
THAMANE: It is vital that we leverage on existing ones at schools and in mining towns. Government has built stadiums in Molepolole, Maun and Masunga. We must leverage on these to get a corner where softball will domicile its grounds. Talks will be held with Government over such matters and also with the private sector to assist with places like in Lobatse where BMC has some structures.
How do you plan to overcome the problem of lack of technical and administration personnel for the sport?
THAMANE: The plan is to complete our design of strategic plan and then have a fully functioning secretariat. We intend to tap on the administrators and players of yester years to assist.
What do you consider to be the biggest strength of the team that you have been elected with?
THAMANE: They are willing to learn and they listen and mostly they support each other.
How many times have you met so far?
THAMANE: We have met every month since we were elected into the NEC. We have agreed that this is a standard procedure and we will meet more than once a month if the need arises. However, we utilise technology to make decisions everyday as NEC. Those that are outside of Gaborone dial in so that we cut costs while achieving intended objectives.
What major events have you planned this year?
THAMANE: We intend to hold the usual tournaments that have been taking place and the next one is Phikwe extravaganza. Moreover we are at advanced stages to organise tournaments in other places where they were not traditionally held. We will announce at the right time.
What is the legacy that you intend to leave?
THAMANE: I want to leave a well-functioning softball code that appeals to young people as a career rather than a part time activity.
As a former player of the sport, what new playing tactics and systems has the sport adopted?
THAMANE: Well, the sport has advanced now and affiliation to world bodies signifies compliance and progress on tactics that are acceptable by such world bodies. Our men’s team is the best in Africa and we intend to harness superior tactics and technical assistance, especially from the Japanese to advance the sport.
There has been a concern that codes tend to prioritise taking teams to international competitions without having done enough to groom talent to be good enough to win at such level. Will you freeze involvement in continental and world games to ensure players are well prepared to withstand the best in the world?
THAMANE: We will have a balance between development structures and attendance to such. Remember that attendance and success at tournaments is a function of sound development structures so it needs delicate balance.
Don’t you think the fact that softball is only played by a few countries in Africa has affected the country’s attempts to grow?
THAMANE: No, not at all. We must not domesticate softball only to Africa. Botswana can compete better worldwide.
How long is your term and will you serve the whole of it?
THAMANE: Its three years. Yes, I will serve it all as I never quit what I start for a good purpose.
Are we not about to see donning your playing gear again to excite youngsters that need inspiration to play and be committed?
THAMANE: Yes, I will play occasionally in the master league.
Any other comment?
THAMANE: We need the support of players of back in the days and the administrators. We want them to come back to the sport so we can have fun again. We need support from Government to realise our dreams. The private sector must invest CSR projects in the sport and they will not regret it.