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Cultural-Political Challenges of Coach Development in Southern Africa

So, I have been part of a team trying to support the creation of a sport coach development framework for southern Africa since 2011. The establishment of the framework has been officially mandated by the government’s sport structures and recently also been acknowledged by the Olympic movement in the region. The program has been moving in stages, and moving very slow the last couple years. However, the southern African regions’ Member States (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa (RSA), Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) are independently pushing progress according to readiness (and willingness) of the national stakeholder in sport in their respective countries. South Africa has played a leading role and launched their National Sport Coach Framework in 2013 (in fact prior to the ICCE’s ISCF). Others like Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe are also making some progress. Since I am based in Zambia I am better placed to contribute to and support the work here, but have spent quite some time over the past months reflecting on why we are failing to make significant rapid progress. Without claiming to know the answers, here are a couple of issues, obstacles and limitations that are being tossed around in my head.

What started as a technical challenge has in the process changed into a highly adaptive one. With this I mean that establishing a framework to improve the quality and recognition of coaches should be a straightforward technical issue, easily addressed by technical experts in coaching. However, few sport coach specialists have been involved in the process, and the issues around outcomes, design, content and accreditation of content has been left addressed by political and sport administrative personnel. Actually, the process became more about securing that each country had a representative rather than the competency the person brought to the team. The same team of political representatives that would meet to make decisions would also be in charge of the involvement of sport bodies home in their respective nations. Their job would be to take what they understood and “sell” the concept at home to move the process forward. However, the varied level of conceptualization and understanding made this very challenging. This was additionally challenged with a big turnover in representation to the “technical” team, ensuring more people benefitting from the allowances offered to government officials traveling abroad.

Another issue that I feel might be hampering the process is access to funding. The governing sport body in RSA is the SASCOC, a singular body representing the National Sport Council and the Olympic Committee. This construct has allowed RSA to tap into funding provided through the Olympic Solidarity, a program from IOC supporting capacity development in countries of needs. Frustratingly, the remaining countries in the Southern African region have to date not been able to benefit from this, as the relationships between the National Sport Councils/Commissions, a governments sporting arm, and the Olympic Movement has traditionally been filled with conflicts regarding power and economics over collaboration towards mutual goals. This has left the coach development framework (a government initiative), largely dependent of government support and contributions from external donors.

To end on a positive note, a regional initiative is now being developed to streamline efforts and strengthen the connection between the regions sport governing bodies (including the Olympic movement) to allow them to jointly support the initiative that will benefit sport coaching down the line. Any advice on how to better maneuver the challenge and support the process is very welcome. In the meantime, we will continue to do what we can where the climates are positive and warm, to support coaches in their efforts to elevate the sports they love.

Pelle Kvalsund is a Norwegian Coach Developer based in Zambia and a member of the 3rd NCDA Cohort. Pelle works for Sondela, an international sport development team that provide support to sport organisations, humanitarian agencies and local community development project to develop sustainable sport in Southern Africa.

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