The Sunday Mail
The Art of Sport
SCHOOL inter-house sports can be quite intense, and anyone who has ever represented their house can testify.
However, inter-hostel games are where the real battle begins.
Back in high school, I would make all manner of excuses not to be involved in inter-house athletics competitions.
Then one year, we heard a rumour that there was going to be an inter-hostel athletics contest, and we all went crazy.
Those of us who had devised injuries and all kinds of ailments to avoid running, jumping or throwing for our house suddenly got involved.
The event was never formally announced but spread through word of mouth.
Rivalries were ignited, and, by the time the event was held, everyone in the school was stoked.
Prior to this particular contest, I had never taken part in any track event, but this was in defence of my home — Hampshire Hostel.
The desire to protect our kingdom and pride ran so deep, we even arranged training sessions so we could be ready.
On the day of the event, many people, who had never even walked across the athletics fields, turned up in their sporting best and tore up the track.
It was insane.
To our surprise, our school athletics coach, Stan Madiri, was sitting at a vantage point, behind some trees, with a notebook in hand.
He looked on and uncovered nugget after nugget. I suspect the whole event was his idea.
After the event, it was a case of him sending word to each of the people he had identified to turn up for training.
Our passion had landed us in the school team. Some of us resisted the call but later agreed with a little not-so-subtle persuasion from our feared headmaster, Eric Mufambisi.
The team that was assembled that year was filled with fresh faces and yielded numerous national triallists.
It was a triumph of scouting.
Some of the athletes competed at district, provincial and, ultimately, national levels, where the national scouts would be on hand to identify the best talent.
People of a certain generation from Chitungwiza talk about how Wieslaw Grabowski, Never Gombera and other legendary figures would spend hours watching young people playing football on the pitches around Zengeza and other places.
Grabowski would make notes and send emissaries to the homes of the boys identified to invite them to join Darryn T Football Club.
DT, as the team is often referred to, holds a special place in Zimbabwean football history.
They won a famous Castle Cup in 1992, obliterating my favourite CAPS united in the final, with a team built on young players with some experienced faces.
Again, DT is a triumph for scouting.
These illustrations show what can be achieved by dedicated mentors, most of whom will stop at nothing to make sure they get the best out of the available talent.
At his inauguration last week, President Mnangagwa made reference to Government’s commitment to developing and supporting sport and the arts.
This is a statement that speaks to what many have been calling for.
I believe one of the programmes that needs to be actively pushed for is the creation of a fair and impartial talent identification and referral system for all sports.
A team of certified and resourced assessors would ensure talent from around the country is channelled through to help grow national teams, and to boost chances of the athletes extracting greater value from their skills.
There is need for development of national centres of excellence, where athletes with the physique, skill and interest levels required can then be further trained to bring them up the Olympic and World Championship levels.
This will help the country build a bigger and better sporting name.
Olympic and World title winners rarely come up randomly. They are nurtured over time, and raised through a clear and dedicated identification programme that is supported by a thorough training, dietary and psychological support programme.
It is a programme that builds the athlete, who is then sponsored into the kind of high-level competition that will enable them to test their skills and capacity against the
Madiri is now a globally respected coach, with Junior World champions among his protégés.
He was not above sitting under trees to watch a bunch of high school children show off their skills.
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