Thursday, March 4, 2021

New Era for Botswana Sports as UB High Performance Centre opens Doors

For a long time, local sports administrators and leaders had decried the lack of utilisation of the human resource at the University of Botswana.

As a centre of learning which offers physical education, UB has at its disposal all the sports science personnel needed, with their qualifications ranging from mere support staff to professors.

The university is also a home to the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital, a world class medical facility in the country.

Along with these, the university boasts a plethora of facilities, which include the UB Indoor Arena, gymnasiums and an Olympic size swimming pool.

However, with all these facilities and all the human resources, the university and the local sports bodies have always seemed reluctant to work together for the betterment of sport in Botswana.

This despite the fact that just a mere tarred road separates the UB and Botswana sports headquarters, the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC), which houses all the country’s sporting codes.

For all the proximity it has to the BNSC, the two organisations have for a long time seemed worlds apart.

As a result, local sport has not been able to benefit from all the expertise housed at the university, and local sport has suffered as a result.

This may however be a thing of the past. After a long wait, the university has finally established its own High Performance Centre (HPC) to provide local sport with all the necessary sports medicine expertise.

The HPC, which is already functional and is affiliated to the Association of Sports Performance Centres (ASPC), is expected to be formally launched in January next year.

According to the HPC coordinator and Director Dr Comfort Mokgothu, the university is working hand in hand with stakeholders like BNSC and Botswana National Olympics Committee (BNOC) to fine tune the HPC into a fully fledged facility.

Ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the facility looks set to become the hub of Botswana’s preparations, something which is expected would boost the country’s medal prospects.

“Just yesterday (Thursday) we were working with the boxing national team conducting different tests on athletes as they prepare to qualify for the Olympics,” Dr Mokgothu hinted.

He went on to intimate that so far, the BNSC had also sent national teams to the HPC for tests ahead of international games.

While the HPC is still in its formative days, Dr Mokgothu said he expects it to help close the gap between local athletes and their international competitors and give them an equal footing on which to compete.

“The HPC is a concept which is common in all countries all over the world. It is used for testing athletes ahead of preparations to ensure they are at their peak performance during competitions,” he explained.

Among others, the UB HPC coordinator said when athletes come to the HPC, they are checked on a various aspects, among others body muscle index, speed, agility, strength and a host of others.

“The data collected from each individual athlete is then collated and analysed. From the results, we then advice or prescribe on which areas to work on for that particular athlete,” he explained.

Through the establishment of the centre, Dr Mokgothu said he expects that if utilised well, it will put local athletes on par with their competitors.

Where local athletes have for a long time been going to competitions to participate, Dr Mokgothu said with the help of experts at the UB HPC, they will now be going out to compete.

He said as an institution, the University of Botswana has all the qualified and capable sports science personnel, who will be working on the HPC project.

“This project has been approved by the university and as the appointed coordinator, I report directly to the Vice Chancellor as he has commissioned the project,” he concluded.

The commissioning of the HPC has been welcome by the local sports bodies, more so the BNOC which is hard at work to qualify athletes for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Speaking in an interview, BNOC Chief Executive Officer Tuelo Serufho said the establishment of the HPC will avail best sports science to the athletes while cutting costs.

“For a long time, we have been sending our athletes to HPCs outside the country, mostly in Potchefstroom and Pretoria. With the establishment of the UB HPC, our athletes will get all the services they need here in the country,” he said.

Serufho said as an interested party, the BNOC and the BNSC had been working hand in hand with UB to help it establish its HPC.

“UB has long had all the equipment and personnel needed to become a sports performance hub. All that was needed was to bring it all together to establish it and we were happy to help as enablers,” the BNOC CEO explained.

He said as organisations which have been helping national teams to prepare for major competitions, the BNSC and BNOC were just happy to be catalysts in the establishment of Botswana’s own HPC.

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