TEAM Zambia posted some encouraging results at the Africa Union Sports Council (AUSC) Maseru 2020 Region Five Youth Games to give hope for the future.
However, the key is how well these athletes will be taken care of at this age especially that many are Under-20 as per the regulations of the regional tournament.
This is a delicate age where care should be of paramount if Zambia is to reap more glory and medals from this group in future at competitions such as the African Games, Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
It is common knowledge that sports development and achieving greatness at the big stage like the Olympics and Commonwealth Games is not an easy undertaking and there are no shortcuts but hard work.
It is like magic where you just say abracadabra and success happens no. Countries that dominate these events starting at Region Five, African Games, Commonwealth and Olympic Games spent years preparing and investing heavily into the athletes and infrastructure.
And this is why as a country, there is need to take sports development very seriously starting with the Region Five Games which acted as a smaller version of the Olympics which encompasses most of the sports disciplines and this is where the country needs to build from.
The onus would be on the various sports associations working closely with the Sports Council of Zambia and National Olympic Committee to provide the needed opportunities for these youngsters to improve on their skills for them to even perform better at continental and world stage.
These athletes would need opportunities to compete in competitions to get the needed exposure as they prepare for the major events. Many athletes showed potential and with some help they could do even better.
The issue of unpaid allowances which arose when the athletes returned was unfortunate and should not be allowed to happen as that tends to discourage athletes.
These are young and when told they will be paid something for their camping and participation at the tournament-then let such promises be honoured even earlier to motivate them.
It paints a bad picture for athletes to be treated as the case was on Monday. I had the chance to pass through the OYDC Lodge where the first batch of the athletes and officials were camped.
The frustration on the athletes was visible and their lamentations were there for all to hear and I was left to wonder as to why the situation was allowed to reach that far?
Communication is always key to avoid some of the miscommunication and interpretations that arose at the lodge.
I felt sorry for the athletes that gave their all to compete for mother Zambia to finish overall fifth with 29 medals- 14 gold, 11 silver and four bronze and this was amid difficult conditions of having no ngwee and with COVID -19 fears at the highest which forced South Africa to exit the competition.
It would be important for the terms and conditions to be spelt out early enough so athletes know what they are going in for aside from putting on the national colours because this might help these unnecessary confrontations over transports refunds and allowances as the case what.
That aside, vital lessons should be learnt going forward especially as the country prepares for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games followed by the Ghana 2023 African Games and the ultimate Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Associations should ensure they prepare well, God willing there would be no cancellations to the above events owing to the COVID-19 fourth wave.
Wishing you a wonderful sporting weekend and lets interact via email on firstname.lastname@example.org