Get me to the Olympics, irrespective of my sporting code: A plea to sport managers and leaders

Annette Willemse -- Thu, 04/07/2016 - 08:32

Get me to the Olympics, irrespective of my sporting code: A plea to sport managers and leaders

When you think about sport in South Africa, which sporting codes come to mind? If you answered soccer, rugby, golf or cricket you would be spot-on. If then asked which sporting codes you perceive to be the most financially profitable in South Africa, your answer will - in all likelihood, be exactly the same.

Dr Chrisna Botha-Ravyse, from the School of Economic Sciences on the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal), is a researcher on a mission and is taking these two simple questions a step further by stating that sport managers and leaders in South Africa should “step up” and reconsider how national sportsmen and –women are managed and equipped for the international sporting arena.  The following opinion piece forms part of the build-up to the inaugural Africa Sport Leadership Programme – or ASLP as it has become known, that is set to take place in South Africa during October 2016. The ASLP represents a tailor-made, needs-based leadership growth series, focused on developing the aptitudes of individuals to lead the implementation of sport and physical activity related interventions, as partners of multi-sectoral groups and teams operating on various levels.

SA sporting bodies to ensure greater support

“When you investigate further into the most well-paid sports people in South Africa, the top four ranked athletes are golfers followed by a combination of one soccer player, two rugby players, two cricket players and a former track athlete,” says Dr Botha-Ravyse and explains that all the mentioned sports personalities boast with international careers i.e. either the English Premier Soccer League, the Indian Premier Cricket League, European Club Rugby or endorsements for participation in the able-bodied Olympics as a Paralympic runner.  Dr Botha-Ravyse makes the conclusion that all-in-all no money flowed in from the home front, supporting her earlier statement that sport managers and leaders are not doing enough to ensure that South African athletes – regardless of their sporting code, are afforded the best possible opportunities both locally and abroad.

“Currently the Olympic Games (including both the summer sports and the winter sports) encapsulate a total of 35 sporting codes, and yet the perception in South Africa seem to be that we only pay attention to a handful of sporting codes and forget about the minority sports,” says Dr Botha-Ravyse.  She adds that there are several factors contributing towards this perceived tendency, including: the duration of a sport event, the amount of people drawn to an event, the development history of a particular sporting code and to what extend media coverage is allocated to a sporting code.

Rectify misconceptions

“Now think about athletics for example, when it comes to getting paid, very few athletes get what they are worth. The reason for this remains a mystery to me, but what it does proclaim is that whenever we think of our children following a career in sport we never think of the possibilities of sporting codes such as mountain biking, triathlon, sharp shooting, rowing, badminton, table tennis, name but a few.  This skewed view of sport is sending a message to youngsters that unless you are really good in the so-called mainstream sports, you are not considered to be an athlete in the true sense of the word.” According to Dr Botha-Ravyse this misconception might also lead to parents deterring their children from participating in sport because there is no commercial gain in it.

“In my line of work I have come across many semi-professional athletes making it to the world championships, even the Olympic Games.  What was really sad for me is that these athletes often had to pay their own way.  Winning at such an event also never brought them fame and often it was only their family, training partners, coaches and professionals working with them that knew about their achievements. Instead of bringing home money, their achievements cost them money.  Our athletes rarely get sponsored in the way that overseas athletes do.  I think we seriously need to reconsider how we manage sport in South Africa.  In the world of sport management and leadership, we owe it to our athletes to uncover avenues that will allow them to continue practicing what they love most: the sporting code of their choice.  This is therefore an appeal to our national sports governing bodies to provide the means for our athletes to compete in major events without solely relying on endorsements or bank loans.”

More about the ASLP

Dr Botha-Ravyse sums up the ASLP by stating: “We aim to vest collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches, and initiatives to empower Africa’s sports scientists, sports physicians, athletes, coaches, technical persons, administrators and governing bodies with a view to produce far better results while building up a vital knowledge base.”

If, you have any queries about the ASLP you can contact Dr Botha-Ravyse on +27 169103368 or by email:

Dr Chrisna Botha-Ravyse