Covid-19 Paralyses Schools Sport

JUNIOR sport development, particularly schools sport, continue to suffer due to the Covid-19 pandemic as schools have opened without the extra circular activities on their calendar.

This development, although it ensures school children are safe during the pandemic, will affect budding athletes who will miss the busy National Secondary School Heads (NASH) and National Association of Primary School Heads (NAPH) calendar.

When schools closed early in March, the athletics season, which was underway, was affected as the provincial and national competitions were called off.

The ball games did not take place as well including the traditional tournaments such as the Copa Cola Games.

NASH president Arthur Maphosa said it is a missed opportunity which is heartbreaking.

“Our learners have been affected big time. Ball games, which normally take centre stage in term two and three, have been shelved. Covid-19 has dealt a body blow to our athletes.

“Imagine missing the most exciting sports event in the Nash calendar such as the Under-15 Copa Coca-Cola football games.

“Athletes missed monetary prizes and missed opportunities of being selected into the football Coca-Cola dream team, which travels annually to East Africa for regional finals.

“For the first time, our boys reached the finals last year.

“We had hoped to get to the finals again in 2020 and avenge that painful defeat to Tanzania in 2019.

“It is every young player’s dream to represent his or her country and to fly in an airplane to different places.

“That the feel-good factor was thwarted by the pandemic and some learners will be above 15 in 2021.

“Never again to play in the Coca-Cola finals, it hurts,” said Maphosa.

Maphosa said the missed opportunities will have ripple effects for the athletes, some whom were supposed to get selected in national teams.

“Girls netball missed the lucrative Under- 17 Tanganda tournament which is held annually under the Stella Tea brand.

“This is another chance lost and it is at this tournament where the Confederation of School Sport Associations of Southern Africa (COSSASA) team is selected. Most of the Netball World Cup (Gems) squad which shined in Liverpool are products of this tournament,” he said. “Proton and Surrey sponsors boys Under-20 football and Premier Soccer League always converge at these tournaments to pick talent, so this is another lost opportunity for the boys team.

“Some missed a life chance to represent their country at schools level, if one is in Form 4 and Upper Six,” he said.

Maphosa said 2020 has turned to be a void year for the majority of athletes as athletics was also affected during the schools term one.

“Indeed 2020 has turned out to be a void year for the majority of our athletes.

“During term one when the shutdown began our track and field athletes missed opportunities to represent their provinces at national level which were scheduled for Peterhouse in Mashonaland East at the end of March.

“This meant throwing into disarray any chances of being selected into the Zimbabwe team for the COSSASA Games, which were scheduled for Namibia at the end of April.

“This is the stage where the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe also comes out to spot talent for African Games and regional games while some clubs boost their stables through sporting talent at this level.

“Beverly Matsiwe, currently on a lawn tennis scholarship in the United States of America, saw her star rise through our national tennis tournaments that went as far as the regional CoSSASA Games,” he said.

NAAZ president, Tendai Tagara, said they lost a generation which could not attend the World Junior Championships in Kenya.

“We have lost a generation that could not attend the World Junior Champs in Kenya due to Covid-19.Time does not wait.

“They are now over 20 years.

“Lost time is lost and cannot be regained. However, we are working to create a new team for World Juniors in Kenya.

“We want to have camped for them in December, if funds permit,” Tagara said.

“Schools sport is a key component of the development programs for athletics.

The school handles our kids’ athletics age-group 5 to 9 years, cadets 10 to 15 years, youths 16 to 18 years, and juniors 18 to 20 years.

“That’s why we have a very strong relationship between us and NAPH and NASH.

“We have made sure the heads in charge of athletics at various levels from circuits/zones, districts, provincial and national sit in our structures.

“Whoever does not recognize the role of those teachers handling athletes at the various levels is lost in terms of athletics development,” Tagara said.

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