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Developing elite athletes in Uganda
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Developing an athlete training and tracking system can help address many of the issues that today’s youth in Uganda are facing.

Uganda has the youngest population in the world, with about 78% of the population below the age of 30. Youthfulness is synonymous with vibrancy, limitless possibilities, and boundless energy. Many people associate youth with high potential and increased productivity, which in turn leads to economic growth.

However, the burgeoning youthful population of Uganda has become a persistent headache for the government, and is a prevalent discussion point of policy makers who are thinking of ways to “solve” this problem. Some estimates have placed youth unemployment in Uganda at about 80%. As productivity of the youth is low, those hit the hardest are marginalized groups like women or girls who are more susceptible to violence, early marriage and disease. This creates an entry to the vicious cycle of poverty that is difficult to break.

Sports in Uganda

In 2007, Uganda Tourism Board employed the tagline “Gifted by Nature” to promote tourism in the country. Uganda is also gifted by nature in sports. The weather is very conducive for outdoor sports almost all year round (we don’t experience chilly winters and harsh droughts), sports fields naturally grow with little to zero investment, and we also possess marvelous human specimens. If you tour around Uganda, it is not uncommon to find children playing football with a plastic bottle or girls playing dodgeball with a ball made from banana fibers. Sports in engrained in the social fabric of Uganda. Many Ugandan adults have childhood memories of being scolded for playing way after sunset, yet European media is awash with stories of parents struggling to get youth out of the couches.

Developing an elite pathway

Sports in Uganda requires a robust elite pathway program so that potential athletes have a clear avenue to fulfil their untapped potential. Youth unemployment or disguised unemployment is a great challenge in developing countries. However, as evidenced in many developed nations, which have invested heavily in sports, sports are an avenue for creating gainful employment both directly and indirectly. Directly by employing the athletes, coaches and support staff and indirectly can include catering services and transport services. Ugandans have the potential to play in elite leagues abroad and remittances back home can lead to economic development. Also, with an inflow of high-quality talent from the elite pathway, the quality of athletes at the national level will automatically improve.

Globally, athletes have started to use their reach and brand to tackle issues ranging from social injustice to environmental degradation, like LeBron James and Lewis Hamilton. People have a natural affinity to a sportsperson and this individual becomes a leader in the community where they are from. With the development of sports in developing economies, sports stars will emerge to inspire the next generation of sports persons. They naturally become leaders without any formal leadership training.

Sports also works to unify the population, as evidenced at the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa. South Africa was feeling the full force of the third wave of COVID and experiencing social upheaval, but the rugby tour provided a glimmer of hope and unity for the general public. Amidst the doom and gloom, the people were able to enjoy sports entertainment.

Satellite Schools Program

Rhinos Athletics Club, together with partners Sports Uganda, Teso Pedo and Golden Impact Sports Academy, launched the Satellite Schools Program. We recognized that sports’ success in Uganda was an anomaly, yet it should be a norm like other countries.

Talented youth would engage in a bit of sports at the lower levels and would later drop off due to several factors i.e., a lack of financial support, poor skills development, and a non-existent accountability system to track talent. We also recognized the love for sports is inherent to many youth in Uganda and there is an abundance of playgrounds across the nation.

Hence the Satellite Schools Program was born. Through the provision of basic sports equipment like balls, cones and jerseys, along with skills from certified trainers, we realized we can harness the untapped and abundant sports potential in Ugandan youth.

The program provides a platform for sports development and a mechanism to track outstanding talents from the junior levels all the way to elite leagues. We are aiming to make sports a viable economic or career choice in Uganda so as to tackle the problem of youth unemployment. The spillover effect of having high performing athletes can’t be underestimated. With success at global events like the Olympics and elite leagues, this creates a general positive effect on the economy.

At Rhinos Athletics Club, we believe sports is the vehicle. Children and youth are naturally attracted to sports and sporting events. We decided to use this opportunity to tackle various themes, including environmental conservation and imparting coding skills. We believe in improving the technological footprint in Uganda as to foster social and economic development.

______________________________________________________________________________­­­­­­

Paul Mukama is the Head of Operations at Rhino Athletics Clu b(RAC) in Uganda. RAC is a sports organisation in Uganda whose mission is to create social and economic transformation in Uganda through sports

Tags

Country
Uganda
South Africa
Region
Africa
Sport
Football (Soccer)
Sustainable Development Goals
4 – Quality education
Target Group
Children
Youth

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