Sport Development Planning: The Key to Success

Success in international sport is a by-product of a strong sports culture or system. In other words, success at major games such as the Olympic and Commonwealth Games is the proverbial “cherry on the cake”.
As 2013 grinds into gear, there is no doubt that the euphoria or in some cases disappointment, of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has died down. Sports administrators and coaches have gone back to the proverbial “drawing board”.
But what does this “going back to the drawing board” mean for elite sport and the average lay person in Southern Africa.  Does it have any tangible benefits for the sports in general? Indeed going back to the drawing board is good for sport in Southern Africa and sport development planning is the key to future success.
For Southern Africa, this entails planning for adequate administration and technical capacity to manage and run activities, promoting sports cultures that will attract and retain quality volunteers and staff. It is premised on strategic planning underpinned by a national or regional sports model, for example, the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) framework, to guide plans and programmes as well as funding of sport by various governments and corporate sponsors.
Well-capacitated regional sports confederations, national sports associations and clubs can facilitate successful sport development planning and programme implementation.
In order to facilitate the identification and development of talent in any sporting system, there is need for an efficient and strong club system.
Sport development and delivery in any sports system is premised on strong and vibrant national sports associations and clubs managed by volunteers. Although in-depth research has not been undertaken to come up with reliable statistics, the value of voluntary work in the sports sector in Southern Africa can be rightly estimated to run into billions of dollars.
However, the worrying factor is that many national sports associations in Southern Africa, perhaps with the exception of football, have very few clubs affiliated to them. These clubs are mostly found in the main urban areas and villages of various countries. There are very few organised sports clubs in most peripheral villages and settlements. Compounding the situation is the fact that there is no deliberate effort or system at regional and national levels to encourage the emergence of clubs in these areas as well as training programmes to assist with the formation and management of clubs.
In order to have robust national teams, there is an equal need to invest in the development of strong clubs and leagues. Guided by the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) approach, these will facilitate effective skills development as well as efficient leadership and governance structures for the various associations.
To this end, local national sports associations need to solicit for development sponsorship as opposed to just event or league sponsorships.
Regional Sports Confederations and national sports associations must heavily invest in the training of club coaches and leaders if Southern African sport is to develop to even greater heights. Governments by themselves cannot and should not be expected to shoulder the responsibility for the development of sport, especially at grass-roots level.
The resources available to the Southern African National Olympic Committees (NOCs) for elite sports development are very limited. On the other hand, the resource requirements are too colossal for various governments, taking into consideration other competing priorities on the national development agendas. That is why best practice in sport developing planning, sports marketing and the mobilisation of corporate sponsorship should be encouraged.
Southern Africa’s regional sports confederations should re-invent themselves, find innovative ways of packaging and marketing their development programmes to various business houses in certain countries and throughout the region. Sport development planning is vital to attracting goodwill, support and sponsorship especially. If sports organisations do not know where they want to go, it becomes very difficult for anyone, even for the most generous and philanthropic persons or organisations to assist them.
Sport development planning is sowing the seeds for future growth and development. Without new clubs affiliating to the various national sport associations, the latter will stagnate and die a natural death. Without strong national associations, the Southern African regional sports confederations are in turn seriously compromised.
They will not be able to compete effectively with their counterparts in other regions of Africa and the world at large. Initiatives for mobilising sports volunteers such Sports Volunteer Movements (SVMs) should be planned and implemented to bolster the emergence and development of clubs throughout the region, through training and other support services.
Even local councillors and members of parliament in various Southern African countries should make it their business to encourage formation of clubs in their constituencies as way of, among other things, combating the spread HIV/AIDS as well as reducing alcohol and drug abuse, especially among the youth.
The club is the genesis and nucleus of sports development planning. What goes on at club level largely buttresses other structures in the sports system. There is, therefore, a compelling need to “think global but act locally”.
Regional sports confederations and national sports associations can have the best plans and intentions but if these are not reduced for implementation at local district, village and club level, then they are doomed to failure.
The high quality of sport in the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden is largely attributable to a strong sports culture based on locally based clubs run by volunteers.
It is not expensive or costly to set high standards and gradually work towards achieving set targets. Wallowing in self-pity, doing business as usual in the same old style and lamenting the limited resources available is actually more costly in the long run.
 To this end, sport development planning will enable Southern Africa to increase the number of clubs promoting not just active and healthy lifestyles but also producing athletes that make their way to the medals podium at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Sport development planning is the bedrock of participation and excellence. It is the greatest investment that any sport system can make. Southern Africa is no exception. As the old adage goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.

February 2013
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