Rio 2016 came to a close yesterday. And as the world re-live the glorious moments, others will count their cost.
I read a piece that asks if we aren’t ashamed of Nigeria’s performance at the Olympics. The piece touches on the perennial problems that bedevils the nation’s sporting teams. But following our poor preparation before the events, did we really expect our athletes to lay golden medals?
But we still hoped. So I understand the frustration.
When I was much younger, my mom had her way of moving me to action- comparing me with my friends. All that was a needed was someone my age doing some house chore (he/she was probably forced to do) and she’ll point to said fellow and ask if I could see what my mate was doing.
Nigeria held on to a bronze medal from the third place match between the Nigerian under 23 squad and Honduras. Need I remind you that the game was edgy?
This lone medal brings Nigeria’s medal collection to 24 after participating in 16 Olympic Games since 1952. Hurray.
On the other side of the spectrum is Jamaica (our mate) coasting to 11 medals- in athletics. A total of 74 medals all time inclusive of 22 gold medals (you see ya life?).
And if Nigeria had a mother like mine. I can imagine that she’ll wait till we get home and talk about how this hard working fellow raked in the 11 medals at the end of the year party. Erm, I mean Olympics. She’ll ask “look at your mate, does he have two heads?”
So in a way I’ll ask what’s Jamaica doing right or does Jamaica have two…? Forgedaboutit.
Three words. Youth athletic programs.
Without having to do a quick search on Google, we all know that a good sporting nation like the United States (topped the medals table at the Rio 2016 Olympics with 121 medals) has sporting programs embedded in its education system.They have a structure for young competitors.
But back to our mate, Jamaica.
They also have a similar structure on ground. “Most Jamaican schools have an athletics program in their curriculum, so Jamaican children are into athletics at a young age.” Wiki reads. And an event that brings this students together is the VMBS Boys and Girls Athletics Championships. The competition is open to students under 19.
The event is considered as the proving ground for many successful Jamaican athletes. Some of the Jamaican athletes that have gone on to win the Olympics participated in the competition at some point. Take for instance, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser, Asafa Powell and triple Olympic/World gold medalist and world record holder, Usian Bolt. Yes Bolt went through the system.
So you’ll expect that such proven efforts will be replicated in our system – that sporting events get incorporated into our primary and secondary school curriculum. And should be capped off with a national finals.
Although this is a long term investment, there is no way around it.
Three to four more Olympic games from now we’ll hold our heads high against other competitors.
You’ll also expect that grassroots sporting activities would take precedence. But you know how effective the minster for Youths and Sports’ verbal directive to sport directors on grassroots sports development will be right? Just words- without the necessary fund. Then, whenever a local sporting organization comes visiting- he restates his commitment to grassroots sports development.
“Our focus would be the Super Eagles. They are the leading brand of Nigerian football and if they get it right, it will have a roll-on effect on other teams. Eagles are the head of the pyramid and their success will impact on the success or otherwise of the national teams.”
You mean the success of the Super Eagles will rub off on the age-grade teams? How will that happen?
Don’t we build structures from the ground up? How come the NFF president expects that it will work the other way round?
Until we take things serious and build from the ground up, we are bound to get excited whenever any of our athletes touches the helm of a Jamaican athletes robe.
But did he?