Efforts to unearth talent at grassroots level by Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) might be thwarted following hiccups at Centres of Sports Excellence (CSEs) which are under their watch.
Centres of Sports Excellence were introduced in 2001 by the government through the BNSC with the aim of identifying athletes to develop them in various sports disciplines at a young age.
However difficulties in dealing and managing the centres have emerged; something which has left various sports associations frustrated since the centres no longer serve their intended purpose due to lack of resources.
Good Hope Senior Secondary School which is an athletics centre is currently operating without a training coach though it is mandatory for the centre to have a full time coach.
Athletes now have to either train alone or with teachers who are not knowledgeable in technical aspects of athletics. The school prides itself with unearthing star athletes like Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda who have since conquered the world in the 400m races at international level. Therefore, the prospect of producing more future talent has suffered a blow.
“The coach, who was in charge of the school, was transferred to a different school last year and was never replaced. The athletes have been left in the lurch. Even the system used to run the centre is not good enough. Our athlete eat the same typical meals of samp and beans like any other students in school, but you know athletes have to observe a certain diet,” said a source close to Botswana Athletics Association (BAA).
Another centre that is not utilised is Mogoditshane Senior Secondary School which was to focus on boxing. According to information gathered by this publication, the centre does not have boxing equipment such as a ring, punching bag, a training place and a coach.
BNSC Sport Development Manager, Mission Mereyotlhe, has confirmed that the two centres are currently without coaches.
“Yes it is true that the two centres don’t have full time coaches but it does not mean there has been not any coaching going on at the schools. We have teacher-coaches who continue to assist athletes in their coaching needs. We are indeed satisfied with what teachers are doing in terms of coaching. All national sport associations have submitted their requests for specialised coaches and we continue to engage the Ministry of Basic Education through our parent ministry. It is our hope that all coaches will be transferred to the identified schools but this is a process,” said Mereyotlhe.
Commenting on improper meals served to athletes, Mereyotlhe said, “Athletes continue to be provided with meals as per government regulations and our athletes do not starve at schools. Centres of Sports Excellence were intended to group athletes in one common school but not necessarily deviating from the school programmes and activities.CSE students are normal students and attend normal school classes and extra-curricular activities so there is no special dispensation to provide separate special meals for athletes earmarked for sports,” he said.
BNSC currently has 12 CSEs which are aimed at training super achievers in sports. Though national sports associations are responsible for the selection, monitoring and training of athletes, the BNSC is responsible for ensuring that the policy is adhered to and selected athletes are placed in schools in consultation with Ministries of Basic Education and Youth, Sport and Culture Development.