BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry says there is an urgent need for the formulation and implementation of a new national sports strategy if the country is to realise its full potential as a sporting powerhouse.
Coventry said plans to launch the new national sport strategy were already at an advanced stage following a meeting involving her ministry, the Sports and Recreation Commission as well as the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) last Wednesday.
“I think for the first time ever ZOC, the SRC and the ministry and the Zimbabwe Paralympic Committee have all sat down together around a table and discussed issues around the structure of our sports and what we need. We have come up with an agreement that we need a national sports strategy that will lead the way,” Coventry said.
The formulation of the new national sports strategy will include recommendations from all sports stakeholders in the country including the national sports associations.
“We will be asking all of our stakeholders, meaning national sports associations, corporates, venue holders, etc to give their input,” she said.
“We need to work on being very purposeful, right now the way that we’ve been funding sport is a little bit all over the place.
“There’s no formal structure, if a national association needs funding they apply to SRC, and SRC then apply to government and what I’ve found out in the last year is that some of the requests are once-off and don’t really lead on to anything, there’s no long-term vision.”
Coventry (36) is arguably Zimbabwe’s greatest ever sporting star, with her seven swimming medals making her Africa’s most decorated Olympian.
The celebrated retired champion swimmer, who also sits on the excecutive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said the sports strategy would among other issues provide guidelines on which sporting disciplines and specific events the country needs to focus on when preparing for major sporting events such as the Olympic Games.
“We need some scientific research about physiologically, which are the sports we should be focusing on,” she said.
”We need research on the data to find out from these sports, which specific event should be supported.
“In athletics we’ve sent a marathon runner to the Olympic Games for as long as I can remember and they’ve placed within the top 15 on numerous times. “So, that should be a sport that we focus on, not necessarily athletics as a whole.”
Coventry added: “A country like Jamaica we know that they are known for athletics, but not just that, but specifically in the 100, 200 and 400 metres sprints.“
“South Africa have since 2008 been focusing on growing high jump, swimming and a few other sports.
“So, we really want to start to be a lot more proactive with the sports that we are funding, but in order to do that we need to work very closely with all national sports associations, ZOC and SRC to come up with a national sports strategy.”
Coventry revealed this during her maiden meeting with representatives from all national sporting associations in the country in Harare yesterday, where she laid out the policy direction that the sports sector would take going forward.
The meeting also allowed various sports stakeholders in the country an opportunity to dissect problems bedevilling the sporting fraternity in the country.
Zimbabwe has in the past come up with various policy documents which were never implemented. The Makhosini Hlongwane-led Sports ministry came up with the much-publicised National Sports and Recreation Policy document three years ago which was mothballed.
However, Coventry expressed confidence that the new national sports policy would set local sport on a new trajectory.