By Ikeddy Isiguzo
We overstep these problems in our search for world class athletes. The task would be less daunting when children grow up healthy. A school meal programme could help in improving the health of the young ones and I bet enrolment would leap to new records.
It is a bit difficult to get those who are totally out of the school system to be great sports people.
The other challenge is the mushrooming of sports development programmes under various guises. Today, there are some sports schools (mostly football academies) sprouting all over the country. There is no control over their operations and it is uncertain exactly what they do and how these contribute to sports development. A proper sports development programme, while not stifling other programmes, would encompass provisions for the improvement of these academies, so that they would maintain fairly acceptable standard of operations.
I raise these issues because they point to poor leadership in the sports sector. Besides, there is a huge knowledge and skills gap that have been ignored over the years. The results are showing in the quality of our sports leadership and a growing number of people who are around sports for only the opportunities they think they create for a better living.
We must provide leadership, knowledgeable leadership, if we are to witness improvements in our sports.
In case you are wondering what the media would do, I deliberately made it the last bit. There is a lot that the media can do, but I believe that the role of the media is often overstated. The media is not a good substitute for an articulated programme, just as a good programme would do with a good dose of publicity.
My experience is that people around sports tend to swing to both extremes. Various abuses are taking place. Today, events are planned and staged on television, radio and on the pages of newspapers. Many of them lack depth and ultimately make no contributions toÂ sports development.
Our people crave for publicity in a manner that is often out of tune with events they are organising.Â Poorly conceived and executed sports events have had an unfair share of this national crave for publicity. Anyone who can buy a few balls wants to be presented in the media as a supporter of sports development.
These programmes bear no fruits, or at least not the ones one anticipates from sports development. Radio and television stations are fairly spread throughout the country and if well used can assist in sports development.
Another extreme is where media token involvement is included in sports programme maybe because of lean resources or sponsors’ poor appreciation of the importance of the media.
My suggestion is that a consultant (they are not all expensive) well grounded in these matters with a passion for sports development will find the right mix of media use, at affordable costs for a programme. The major challenge, however, is in the conception of a programme that would draw the media to itself because of vibrancy and sustainable contribution to sports development – which truly is the only form of sports development.
We can learn a lot from the International Olympic Committee about the use of the media, including the fact that the IOC has built itself painstakingly into a brand that it needs to nourish and protect.
Unknown to many of us, this leadership course by the IOC represents one of those efforts to raise sports leaders who can be relevant and contribute to the sustenance of the sports brand, especially through Olympism.
The IOC and the media work in tandem, promoting sports, developing sports and making Olympism an institution that everyone involved in it wants to protect. These result from the exceptional leadership thatÂ leaders of the Olympic Movement, particularly Juan Antonio Samaranch, the Spaniard diplomat, thinker and sports leader, who passed on yesterday,Â provided in his 21 years at the helm.
In those years, he brought innovations to the ways of the IOC, including the invention of bodies like IOC Solidarity, through which resources generated at the Olympic Games are re-distributed to improve sports development in all member countries of the IOC.
His foresight and thoughtful leadership provided the funding that made it possible for us to gather here today. I think that the challenge is for us to seek profound and lasting strategies that can improve our leadership and impact forcefully on sports development.
The same challenge goes to the media which must step deeper into the arena of sports administration to share the depth of knowledge acquired over the decades from active participating in sports development. Such involvement would make the media more responsible in its relations with sports.
When we realise that we have failed to develop sport along the format of the pyramid (from the base to the peak), we coin concepts like grassroots sports, as if we could have developed sports from anywhere other than the base.Â I do not believe there is anything called grassroots sports, you either develop sports or you don’t, that is my point.
Unfortunately, the media shares in distributing the ignorance we sometimes parade as sports administration, fanning the embers of the disagreements that tear our sports to shreds and ultimately, diminishing the sports brand, which our sports leaders have failed to realise cannot grow in these acrimonious settings.
Yet, the future is so bright that the only thing that can dim it is any hint of unwillingness to act quickly and decisively. I am fully convinced that the future will not judge any of us fairly, who with opportunities to work for the common good staring him in the face, turns the other way, no matter the reason. The opportunities are encapsulated in these ideas and some that can be found outside this room. We can take them or leave themÂ that decision too would be a leadership call.
Presented at the IOC Solidarity Leadership Course on 21 April 2010 @ the NOC Conference Room, Lagos
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