Gone seem to be the days when certain sports codes like softball, volleyball and netball were the envy of almost every aspiring young athlete. The codes used to have massive followings and sponsors were always pouring money in. The once enviable sports codes now face an uphill struggle to survive or else face the possibility of going down the drain.
Nevertheless, while there seems to be a downward spiral of the three codes, others are facing a tremendous growth. There is an emergence of the so-called elite sports codes like rugby, cricket and golf. The codes have shown tremendous growth for the past few years.
Wheels started coming off from softball about five years ago when they lost their major sponsor, the oil company, Shell. Since then softball is yet to have a league sponsor. The league is also currently running without a sponsor and tournaments are only held occasionally. Until only last year, volleyball was considered the second best followed sport in Botswana after football. Volleyball even boasted of major sponsorships from big companies like cellular giants, Mascom, diamond company, Debswana, and Top One Mageu, a product of Botswana Breweries Limited. Currently, the league does not have a sponsor with the only consolation sponsor being Debswana, which is sponsoring the ongoing tournament.
There used to be a time when netball also enjoyed massive sponsorship from big companies, like Motor Centre.
Throughout the country, playing pitches of some codes, like softball and volleyball, leave a lot to be desired. The only few available for rugby and cricket are well taken care of. Just recently the cricket Oval ground behind the National Stadium was refurbished to the tune of more than P200 000.
Currently, the netball season is erratic; sometimes it starts very late. Rugby, cricket and golf are codes that are undoubtedly gaining popularity. Recently, Botswana’s national rugby team hosted a tournament that comprised of several Southern African teams and did well. In addition to the impressive performance displayed by the team, the games were also well attended, something that was rare in Botswana.
These codes are also proving never to be short of sponsorships. Rugby, for instance, is sponsored by Kgalagadi Breweries Limited to the tune of more than P100 000 and their league is still in full swing. Cricket also never runs short of sponsorships. They enjoy the massive backing from World Group of companies that sponsors the mini cricket world cup. What is driving cricket’s growth is the fact that the code is involved in vigorous development programmes that have attracted many kids from all over the country. Just like cricket, golf is also never short of sponsorships. Golf tournaments are regularly held across the country and many people are always eager to take part. Just like cricket, golf is also involved in a massive development campaign, targeting mainly primary and secondary school children. The programme has since had a positive response because many youngsters throng golf clubs when the training clinics are held. During the school holidays the situation is bit overwhelmed because kids from many areas attend the training clinics in their numbers. Softball and netball are yet to present their youth structures while volleyball’s youth structure programme called re ba bona ha is yet to produce the results.
On the other hand, the Botswana Cricket Association development manager, Girish Ramakrishna, hailed the cordial relationship within the cricket members as the major driving factor behind cricket growth. He, however, said a lot still needs to be done and they are far from reaching their goals.
“I would not want to say we have grown the way we want to. But we are getting there. We have a great flexible committee that has the nation’s interest at heart. We told ourselves to move forward because our successors in the future can just carry on instead of starting from scratch,” he said.
Ramaskishna also said the BCA executive is too transparent on cricket matters and added that BCA even have a weekly report that is presented to affiliates.
Ramaskishna emphasised that their developmental programme is going well because more schools are coming forward.
“I am very happy at the way the response has been towards our programme. Many primary schools have shown interest and as BCA we also try to do something by sourcing out funds and buying materials for the schools. We also intend to launch a league for primary schools next month something I believe will take us somewhere,” he said.