Softball ready to rumble at World Champs
The senior national ladies softball team coach Bobby Khupe has said his team has no other intention than to be a force to be reckoned with at the upcoming World Championships in Japan.
The local team qualified for the games after registering an unbeaten run at the qualifiers in South Africa earlier this month. The team is currently Africa’s 1 number but 12th in the world. “I need 2/3 players going to Japan, especially infield players because that is where we had challenges during the qualifiers,” he said.
While the coach could not be specific on the positions in-field, it is said that third base position and shot stopper were the most worrisome during the qualifiers. The team has already hit the ground running in preparations for the championships and will play in a three team tournament next month. “We will be hosting South Africa and a Japanese University as part of the preparations,” Khupe said.
“This tournament will be used to further asses the players we have because as the national team ours is to brush up players’ skills, we do not deal with coaching aspects which should be dealt with at club level,” Khupe who also coaches Scramblers said in an interview.
The team is made up of five players from the team that played in the last Championships in Netherlands where they won only one game. “This time around we should win three games then we will at least go up to position 9. By then we were at position 13, now we are on 12th so we can only move forward,” he said.
Khupe says he will continue scouting for players to bolster the team. “I need more agile and flexible players who are eager to listen and act especially new ones. We are watching the games; I’m more focused on the northern part with my assistant on the south.” Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) has also revealed that they will support the team as they are also preparing for the inaugural 2020 Olympics qualifications.
Already some of the softball giants have made it to the tournament in August. The Americas will be represented by; Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, USA and Venezuela. In Asia, China, Chinese Taipei and Philippines qualified. Great Britain, Italy and Netherlands will represent the European continent. The local lasses with South Africa will represent Africa.
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AFRICA’S RECOVERY: Sports as game changer
The year 2022 witnessed unprecedented phenomena. Several Africans- Gotytom Gebreslase, Sharon Lokedi, Victor Kiplangat, Tamarit Tola and many others- swept the World’s marathons records.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting control measures implemented in several countries, led to many high-level sports competitions being cancelled or shelved, the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games was moved to 2026.
Founder and Executive Chairman, African Sports and Creative Institute, Will Mabiakop, says the inability to hold traditional and amateur sports events have had a serious effect on public health overall, including mental health, sparking a revolution whereby athletes began to talk more openly about stress, mental overload and performance anxiety.
“Africa is home to the fastest growing economies before the crisis, no longer on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). COVID-19 deepened interdependence between SDGs, making them harder to achieve, especially SDG 10 (reducing inequality) and SDG 5 (gender equality_ as the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on poorer countries, and heavier burdens (such as care work) fell to women.”
Mabiakop stresses that as policymakers contemplate actions to speed up recovery and build resilience, they must argue that sports and creative businesses should play a central feature in this effort.
“The sports economy worldwide is estimated at 5% of GDP, but only 0.5% in Africa. If exploited, Africa’s sports and creative industries can offer policymakers innovative solutions. Especially, as regards job creation, and providing employment to the 15 million people entering the job market annually.”
HOW CAN THE INDUSTRY DO THIS?
By leveraging the two-for-one concept: past studies shown that a 1% growth in the economy delivers a 2% job increment in this sector (these ratios are calculated using data from 48 African countries and adjusted to the reality of the sports economy in Africa by the authors). There are between 30 and 50 job types, in sports and creative industries, respectively. These jobs do not fade away with the first major shock.
Mabiakop indicated that policymakers can use these industries to tackle multiple crises- jobs, poverty, and climate risks. Sports diplomacy- defined as communication, representation and negotiation in or through the prism of sports- has proven effective in building inclusive and cohesive societies. Moreover, sports and the creative industry can support better mental health and well-being, both important for productivity.
“Policymakers can also be true to the game by leveraging culture and tradition to celebrate identity and reap commercial value in sports, textiles and jewelry. Creative sectors allow deeper connection with culture, are not easily copied and provide great economic potential.”
He said supporting grassroots sports has powerful distributional effects. “Fortunately, technology has made reaching wide audiences easier, generating higher rates of success when talent is discovered.”
However, Mabiakop held that potential pitfalls must be highlighted. “First avoid build it and they will come policies with infrastructures denuded from the rest of the ecosystem. Like the many sports stadiums left largely unused.”
“Policymakers must remain mindful of how these sectors move the needle in human capital development. Also, align the requisite public policies needed for progress from grassroots participation to professional sports, and even to international sporting events. They should also support investment instruments to render these sectors performant.”