Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
NEWLY established Physical Education and Sports Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe are set to hit the ground running today when they converge at Boulton just outside Harare for their inaugural strategic planning indaba that should shape the direction the organisation will take. In a two-day workshop which is being coordinated by the Sports Leaders Institute of Zimbabwe, the lecturers, who recently chose their executive committee will need to set the tone for their unique, but important organisation.
SLIZ have in their short history evolved into a key organisation that provides the platform for various sports administrators from across the country and the continent to network, brainstorm and also learn various aspects linked to their duties. Now SLIZ are playing an important role in helping PESLAZ to set up their structures.
Although a host of the PESLAZ members have previously had the opportunity to attend the SLIZ summer and winter camps in their individual capacities, this time they will be tackling hurdles as a group.
For the next two days, the lecturers who have a duty to implement Government policy on physical education at their institutions will come up with a strategic plan that will also ensure they produce better athletes for the country. And SLIZ director Russell Mhiribidi and his team will be on hand to provide all the necessary support that PESLAZ require as they bring together their different experiences under the umbrella of a union.
Mhiribidi said the value that lecturers bring to the development of the country through the various sporting disciplines “cannot be overstated”. “The physical education and sport lecturers decided to come together instead of waiting to meet only when their various tertiary institutions are competing and they chose an executive which will now meet and give themselves operational positions.
“Sport lecturers have a lot of untapped knowledge that can be used for national sport development in the country. “As I said it (PESLAZ) has lecturers from colleges in the country who were only meeting during competition time. But now they will be able to chart the way forward and unlock the value of sport in the tertiary institutions,” Mhiribidi said.
Mhiribidi is also concerned with the high turnover of athletes from Zimbabwe, the majority of whom ended up taking citizenship in other countries, only to come back and haunt Zimbabwe when competing against their nation of birth.
The SLIZ director, who has interacted with various administrators and sports experts across Africa, Europe and the United States, attributed that huge loss of talent to the failure by universities and colleges to create the right platforms from which athletes could launch their professional careers.
“We lose so many athletes to neighbouring countries particularly South Africa because most of our universities do not take sport seriously yet we expect such universities to also compete well on the international stage. As SLIZ we are coming in as consultants and helping them in the coordination in an arrangement that is similar to the Build, Operate, Transfer thrust because we feel that they are already knowledgeable. But they have to treat sport like business and see how they can link up with the region and the international world, how they attend regional and international symposiums and share ideas and experiences,” Mhiribidi said.
Mhiribidi is also optimistic that once settled PESLAZ will also be a body that will help drive staff development among the sport lecturers. The PESLAZ strategic planning workshop also marks the first of what promises to be a busy schedule for SLIZ who have lined up a number of events including in Botswana, Zambia and also sending a group of administrators for a training programme at the West Virginia University in the United States in September.
SLIZ last year hosted West Virginia sports management guru professor Floyd Jones who conducted a Level Course in international sports management. Jones left the country a highly impressed man after observing that “Zimbabwe is endowed with rich sporting brains which could help put the country on the world map if they strike the right chord”.
That high level course in Harare also attracted different sports leaders including the top management from Premiership Clubs, FC Platinum, CAPs United and Ngezi Platinum. But after noting the challenges that some associations and institutions have been facing with governance issues, SLIZ have this year also lined up workshops for sports finance managers.
In what promises to be an interesting and yet rare forum, SLIZ are also arranging a national associations’ presidents/chairmen’s retreat in October. That retreat could see the likes of ZIFA’s Philip Chiyangwa, Aaron Jani of Zimbabwe Rugby Union, Zimbabwe Cricket boss Tavengwa Mukhuhlane, Tendai Tagara from the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe and Leticia Chipandu of the Netball Association, coming under one roof to discuss major issues afflicting sport in the country.
Although they might preside over different disciplines, the national sport associations often come across similar challenges such as the high cost of importing equipment into Zimbabwe, dealing with foreign-based athletes and the delicate travel arrangements to competitions across Africa.