A word to the wise: don’t lose sight of the intrinsic value of sport

Annette Willemse -- Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:20

A word to the wise: don’t lose sight of the intrinsic value of sport

In October of 2016 the Department of Sport and Recreation on the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal) will host the inaugural African Sport Leadership Programme – or ASLP as it has come to be known. 

Heading-up this exciting venture is Dr Chrisna Botha-Ravyse and Ms Bianca Els, both from the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology. 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-sectorial groups and teams operating on various levels.  In this opinion piece, Dr Botha-Ravyse explains the importance of an active lifestyle especially in light of what she calls: “...South Africa’s looming obesity pandemic”.

With the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon still fresh in everybody’s mind, I find myself amazed at the amount of people who participated in this year’s event.  What astonishes me even more is the fact that most of the participants who completed both the half marathon and the full marathon are recreational athletes, these are athletes who participate for the fun or camaraderie of it! If you look at these recreational athletes crossing the finish line their faces speak of an immense sense of accomplishment and pride – and rightly so.

Recreational athletes are leading the charge

In light of the obesity pandemic that is still a big concern in our country, it is a great sight to see so many people participating in an event such as this one.  And I commend all those athletes that train hard and compete, knowing they will possibly never cross the finish line first. Still they are there year after year.  However, it seems that as soon as we start competing at a level where we win or get selected for a national team, we somehow lose the enjoyment of just being active and competing for completion or the thrill of achievement.  Suddenly our lives revolve around training and we plan our daily routines around our training.  This in itself may not be all bad, but it does take away the reason why we started to be more active in the first place.

Professional sport – a profitable but risky gamble

In the world of competitive and paid sport such as soccer, rugby, cricket, tennis and golf, an injury can end a professional sportsman/woman’s career.  Take for example the talented soccer player Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns) who is facing possible retirement due to an injury that is taking longer to heal than initially expected. The reality is that in the world of sport, at age 34, he is suddenly regarded as being old.  The pressures put on athletes to perform, to be the best or to always be on top of their game have over time caused many sportsmen/women to do more harm to their bodies than good – by either ignoring an injury or neglecting the rehabilitation thereof.  Then there are the numerous doping scandals that pop up from time to time, the latest involving the Russian tennis sensation Maria Sharapova.

The role of coaches, managers and sport scientists

 Are we as coaches, managers and sport scientist to blame?  Do we get too focused on winning and improving, and as a result, forget the reasons behind it all?  Suddenly the joy of playing disappears; the fun of competing has lost its allure and our athletes are put on a shelf, be it because of wrong choices they made or choices made for them by administrators, coaches and the like.

The world of sport will always be competitive and it should be.  Whether it is against yourself, a stopwatch or the top athletes in the world, competition is both the source of exhilaration and motivation to try again after a gruelling run or a game well played.  Too often though, competition lets us forget why we do it and allow haste to get back into training to become a career limiting factor.  As professionals in the field of sport and wellness we should ensure that we look after our athletes.  We should not just physically and mentally prepare them for the game which is ultimately focused on winning, but we should ensure that they remember why they initially fell in love with the sport.  

Too often I find that our stars are not playing or competing for the love of the game anymore but rather for the sake of competing, winning and worse case, money.

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, at this stage, you have any queries you can contact Dr Botha-Ravyse on +27 169103368 or by email: chrisna.botha@nwu.ac.za