Monday, December 6, 2021

Is our support for athletes conditional?

Prior to the men’s 4X400m relay team winning a medal, team Botswana at the just ended Tokyo 2020 Olympics was receiving a lot of stick from a section of its local supporters.

Taking to the social media platforms, these supporters, who felt the team had failed to meet expectations, spewed some bile on athletes, at times prompting some of the athletes to respond.

All this however changed in a blistering 2 minutes, 57 seconds and 27 milliseconds ran by the local lads on Saturday. A bronze medal now clinched; sentiments changed. Negativity turned to positivity. Salutations and pledges suddenly poured out from all directions.

This has however raised questions as to whether this section of locals is truly behind the team. Commenting on this matter, sports administrator Game Mothibi stated that the Olympics has by far proven that Batswana’s support is conditional.

“The support from many Batswana is conditional. They disregard the level and competitiveness of championships, they do not give themselves time to understand holistic support needed by elite athletes,” she said.

For these supporters, when athletes do not win the way they expected, they are quick to show and verbalise their disappointment. This according to Mothibi is where education and sensitisation on support is important because a lot of negativity affects athletes’ performance.

“Unfortunately, it goes to some leaders and companies or potential sponsors in our countries. They support when they see results they expected, but do not contribute towards preparations,” Mothibi’s explained.

She is of the view that more can and should be done to educate Batswana on issues of support, importance of time ran in athletics, what constitutes winning in sport, and also educate on how best they can support athletes.

“There is room for more support. A lot more is needed to support our athletes, from fan base, to financial, their welfare, psychological and mental preparedness, athletes’ education on doping and safety,” she emphasised.

On the hand, Mothibi pointed out that athletes also need to understand what they need and demand from Batswana.

“The two-way relationship will in return will help athletes deliver through the right resources. In addition, Batswana need education to understand that sport that is discussed on social media and the actual work, are two different things,” she explained.

“We sometimes place a lot of pressure on athletes, they have also been affected by covid-19, they have also lost loved ones and friends due to covid-19, they also go through emotions, they face social problem, relationships issues, personal issues, they are equally human, so yes, we can do a lot better in supporting them,” Mothibi emphasised.

One most important thing that must be known is that sport is seasonal.

“We cannot only ululate when they have qualified, without being considerate of the journey to qualifications. We must know how they reach the selection process before they are taken to games, if they have continuous psychological and medical support; all these things are important to know. Let us be concerned about their wellbeing the same way we expect them to perform also let us stop insulting them for not delivering the way we expected,” worried Mothibi said.

Even though the insults and negativity go out to all athletes, for women it seems to be far worse as compared to their male counterparts.

“As for support for women, they are always bashed for not performing well but no one has come out to question and demand that girl and women in sport be given the needed support. It is not a one size fits all kind of support the women need. Their needs are totally different from men’s,” Mothibi clarified.

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